I WILL reopen axed public toilets – that’s the pledge of the prospective new leader of Portsmouth City Council as she unveils her ideas to make the city a better place to work and live.
Councillor Donna Jones, who spearheads the Conservative group, is in the running to take charge of the council on Tuesday when its future leadership is decided at a meeting.
That’s because the Lib Dem group, which has ruled for 10 years, lost its majority in the local elections, and a Conservative-led administration has the backing of Ukip and Labour.
And Cllr Jones, the first woman to lead the Conservatives in Portsmouth, says her top priority is to reinstate nine of the council’s 25 loo blocks which were axed by the Lib Dems to save money.
She aims to do this using private sector investment. A further three toilets that were shut can’t be brought back as they have been demolished.
Cllr Jones said: ‘It’s a basic public service that people pay for and in a city that relies heavily on tourism the least we can offer people is the use of public toilets.’
Talking of other plans, Cllr Jones said: ‘I want to see Portsmouth having low unemployment, a high percentage of people owning their own homes and giving the opportunity for every child to go into higher or further education.
‘I am really determined to improve the outcomes for everybody in this city.’
Cllr Jones says she wants to help the city get its first five-star hotel, which in turn would attract top cruise liners, conference venues and better-paid jobs.
And she wants to help build up a skilled workforce and bring in new industries. I don’t believe the previous administration had a joined-up approach,’ Cllr Jones said.
‘There have been individual projects that have been done well, like the regeneration of Tipner, but we need a business person at the helm of all of this who supports the officers at the council.
‘The leader of this amazing city needs to be somebody who has the ability to promote Portsmouth in government, to secretaries of state and who will leverage more money for our city.
‘We need to ensure that we are supporting and creating industries in the city that will lead to job creation and attract people to want to come and work in Portsmouth.’
As reported, if the Conservatives get voted into power then they will have a challenge on its hands as it only has 12 of the council’s 42 seats.
While Labour and Ukip support a Tory leadership, they don’t want to enter into any coalition and will still act separately and vote on issues as they wish.
Cllr Jones said ‘everyone will have their say’ in the preparation of budgets and other key decisions.
‘One of the reasons Ukip and Labour have supported me is because we all have a desire to see openness and transparency,’ she said.
‘For a decade there have been secret meetings, budgets made behind closed doors, poor consultation and no shared vision. This will change under a Conservative-led administration.’
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Lib Dems, who helped pave the way for the Tories to claim control after announcing his resignation as council leader, said he would give Cllr Jones any support or advice she needed.
‘We need to drive up education standards’
TORY leader Donna Jones has unveiled her top priorities should she become council leader.
She said that as well as reopening public loos, she wants to launch an investigation into claims of bullying within the council, drive up education standards, stop any increases in councillors’ allowances and ensure local people get priority when council homes become available for tenancy.
Cllr Jones said to help improve education, she wants to develop a training programme for governors so they know their powers and that they can sack a headteacher should a school’s standards drop below an acceptable level.
It comes after The News launched its Get On Board campaign encouraging people to become school governors. Cllr Jones said she wants the criteria for applying for a council house changed so that people who have lived in the city for five years or more get priority over those who have only been there for two years or less.
Cllr Jones said: ‘This is so that people who are born and bred in Portsmouth and those who have lived in the city for years will be able to get a council home first, as opposed to those who have only moved here recently.’
While she doesn’t see the regeneration of South Parade Pier as important as the other aims, she intends to meet the prospective new owners of the venue, believed to be a consortium of business owners fronted by Lawrence Mendel, to see their business plan and see if government funding is needed.