Backing for inquiry into Victory Energy grows as councillor asks for review

A COUNCILLOR who backed keeping the city’s publicly-owned energy company has said the defunct firm must be subject to a ‘scrutiny review’.

Monday, 7th October 2019, 12:09 pm
Updated Monday, 7th October 2019, 11:36 pm

Labour councillor Judith Smyth spoke out after The News revealed a near-£100,000 sponsorship deal between Victory Energy and Portsmouth Football Club.

Victory is owned and run by Portsmouth City Council as a joint venture between the authority highly-paid consultants.

But it has lost the council between £3.5m and £5m after it was axed. Ruling Liberal Democrat councillors decided to cancel the scheme despite opposition from Labour and the Conservative groups.

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Victory Energy website on September 30

Calls have been made for an independent inquiry by the council’s chief auditor into the saga.

Victory was set up by Tory group leader Donna Jones when she was leader of the council. She remains a director and works for Pompey but said she stepped out of the room when the sponsorship deal was discussed.

Stephen Morgan MP, Labour group leader, had backed keeping the firm.

In February Mr Morgan, a city councillor, said it would be ‘foolish’ not to support Victory Energy with a Labour motion reinstating a £2.5m budget for the firm.

Defunct council-owned company Victory Energy sponsored Portsmouth Football Club in March 2018 in a three-year deal. A sign shown the now-closed public firm at Victory Lounge, Fratton Park, in Portsmouth.

But in May this year he said: ‘I think the Victory Energy ship has sailed now.’

Asked for his view on the sponsorship deal, signed off in March before Victory was taking on customers, Mr Morgan’s office instead asked Cllr Judith Smyth to respond instead.

‘It is particularly worrying that Cllr Jones, who is now a Conservative parliamentary candidate, remains as a director of Victory Energy while simultaneously working for a company they sponsored,’ Cllr Smyth said in a statement.

She added: ‘If other local authorities could make similar schemes work to generate much-needed income for Portsmouth’s public services and to reduce our carbon footprint, then the city council could have.

‘There has been a failure of leadership and a failure of ambition. Whilst we took advice from independent officers, there are lots of unanswered questions.

‘The obvious way to seek a resolution in the council’s constitution would be to undertake a scrutiny review.’