‘We’re the victims of political battle’ says charity boss

Portsmouth City Council's Civic Offices
Portsmouth City Council's Civic Offices

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A WAR of words between city council bosses has sparked fury from the head of a mental health charity who claims his organisation has been the victim of a political tussle.

Roger Batterbury is the chairman of Portsmouth Mind, which will be closing at the end of the month due to a lack of funding.

He said the group had become embroiled in a political tug-of-war between Portsmouth’s current council boss, Tory councillor Donna Jones, and former leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson.

It comes amid a clash between the two councillors over how cash has been used from the authority’s £500,000 voluntary and community sector transition fund which is meant to help charities in the city.

Mr Batterbury claims he had applied for some money from the funding pot but was refused by the city council.

He said: ‘It’s most unfortunate and reprehensible of Donna to play politics with something like this. I am really shocked by her behaviour.

‘It does feel like we have been caught in the middle of a political fight.

‘This is people’s lives we are dealing with; this is not a spreadsheet.’

Lib Dem Cllr Vernon-Jackson claimed in the seven months since the fund was launched, not a penny has been used.

Calling on the council to be ‘more flexible’, he said: ‘I think this is a very poor decision.

‘If a group is struggling and is going to get money from outside Portsmouth it is always worth getting some money to them to get them over the hump.’

However, Cllr Jones said the funding pot was designed to last for three years and ‘wouldn’t have all been spent in seven months’.

She argued there was ‘no war of words’ and that she was merely trying ‘to explain the facts’ behind the funding process.

‘It was the Liberal Democrats who cut the £23,000-a-year grant funding back in 2013,’ Cllr Jones added.

‘Portsmouth Mind were then given a one-off transitional grant of £20,000 to help them develop their future funding for the long-term in 2014.

‘And in 2015 the Clinical Commissioning Group provided them £20,000 to develop a business case.’

Cllr Jones said the city council had ‘worked very hard’ to support the charity in finding a new base.

She added she was ‘confident’ the city had ‘adequate’ professional help for those with mental health issues, which included some 10 facilities and a £223,000 contract with Solent Mind.