Portsmouth council leader could face questioning over ‘Vermin’ tweet to rival

Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones
Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones
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THE leader of Portsmouth City Council could face questioning as part of the authority’s bullying probe after mocking a councillor on Twitter.

Councillor Donna Jones caused controversy after referring to Lib Dem Gerald Vernon-Jackson as ‘vermin’ in a Twitter comment.

Her post has been passed to solicitor Richard Lingard, who is leading the council’s inquiry into inappropriate behaviour, and who is deciding whether it warrants being looked at further.

Cllr Jones, who has been leader since June, made the comment after she came under fire for agreeing to spend £5,800 upgrading her office to become a communal area for cabinet members.

The full tweet said: ‘Previous council leader GeraldVerminJackson had an office just for his PA support!! #waste-of-public-money this won’t happen on my watch!’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said he is considering referring Cllr Jones to the council’s disciplinary panel, which is separate to the bullying inquiry, so members can decide whether she has breached the code of conduct.

‘I found it deeply offensive but also childish to be calling people names,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson said. ‘I hope I have never done that and I hope I am more grown up than that.

‘It’s very worrying when people stoop that low, and doing it across the internet to thousands of people is very offensive.’

Mr Lingard told The News: ‘I will have to look at it.

‘If what is going on is just simply robust political debate or people being short tempered that is something rather different.’

Cllr Jones insists the vermin reference was a typing error and has apologised for it. ‘I’m sorry Cllr Vernon-Jackson, it was a typo and I’m now going back to do important things on the council rather than pick fights with other politicians,’ she said.

‘The Lib Dems should be focusing their efforts on important issues in the city council and helping to put things right.

‘I am working a 50-hour plus week clearing up their mess.’

Cllr John Ferrett. Labour group leader, criticised the Lib Dems for hypocrisy as they referred to him as a ‘weasel’ in political leaflets 18 months ago.

But he said more important matters were at hand. ‘We as a Labour Party are trying our best to make sure we work on a budget to protect vital public services,’ he said.