Resignation ‘will harm Lib Dems’ says Portsmouth politician

QUITTING Cllr John Ireland
QUITTING Cllr John Ireland

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A LETTER leaked to The News reveals the leader of Portsmouth City Council’s anger at a colleague’s resignation.

In it, Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ in Cllr John Ireland’s decision to step down as children’s services boss.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson

And he said it had ‘given ammunition’ to rival parties at next month’s elections.

In March, Cllr Ireland gave an interview to The News in which he said he intended to resign from his role on May 17, because of his frustration at budget cuts.

Portsmouth City Council has made almost £2m of cuts in services to the city’s under fives.

In a letter to him, Cllr Vernon-Jackson says: ‘I have to write formally to say how extremely disappointed I am. You have given ammunition to our opponents.’

The letter claims many Lib Dem colleagues had not been told by Cllr Ireland about his resignation from his cabinet post, and instead found out in The News.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘The interview has the ability to hurt us and make it more likely the Conservatives will win control of the city council.

‘I believe the people of Portsmouth are better served by the Conservatives not running this city.

‘In the article you say you are unhappy about having to make the cuts in children’s services, as everyone is.

‘The reality is that there is not enough money to fund services the way they have been in the past.

‘My thanks to you for all the hard work you put into... the portfolio.

‘I am disappointed your time in the cabinet will cease with this unfortunate episode.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson refused to speak to The News about the letter, while Cllr Ireland failed to respond to several telephone calls.

Yesterday both released a joint statement.

It said: ‘In the article Cllr John Ireland said that he was standing down from the cabinet as he did not come into politics to cut services to children.

‘The day before the article the cabinet had – with regret – agreed with Cllr Ireland on cuts to children’s services that had been forced on the city council by the Conservative Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles and the Conservative Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove.’

The statement went on to say that Cllr Ireland had a new job outside the city so would not have time to carry on doing the demanding job as a cabinet member.

It added: ‘Cllr Ireland has been a successful and dedicated champion for children and will hand this role over to his successor.’