Budgets, booze and flood defences, here's everything that went on at Portsmouth City Council this week

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson

COUNCILLORS from local authorities across the country waited eagerly to see what cash would be available following Philip Hammond's Budget announcement on Monday.

Among the allocations were £20.5bn for the NHS over the next five years, £2bn a year for mental health services, a one-off £400m for schools and £420m to repair potholes.

But leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, slammed the fact that Mr Hammond had not considered stopping the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Instead the Chancellor announced an extra £1.5bn over five years for its implementation and for work allowances under Universal Credit to increase by £1,000 per year.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘I don’t think this is enough to be able to meet the real difficulties faced by people on Universal Credit in Portsmouth. The council is having to do a lot of work with people to make sure they get their applications right.

‘I’ve been talking to a lot of people with mental health difficulties and for them the online application system is too hard and they have to give up. I wonder if they have deliberately made it more difficult to deter people from applying.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘The reality is that funding for services in Portsmouth has been going down. Giving out little bits of money like this is not hugely useful.’

On the same day as the Budget announcement the council's housing boss, Cllr Darren Sanders, approved the construction of a £430,000 home for one Portsmouth family.

In total the decision will cost £670,000 as the council will buy the family's current home and adapt it for disabled tenants as well as building the new specially adapted five-bedroom home.

Details of the case were not publicly available due to the exceptional needs of the family but speaking outside of the meeting Cllr Sanders explained the decision. He said: ‘After looking at the costs of all the options that were available. Aside from it being the right thing to do as far as the family is concerned it is also the most cost effective thing to do.

 ‘The other option – the refurbishment of their house would have taken longer and cost more.

‘Also with this there is a capital cost up front but we’re going to get rent coming back and that will cover things like the costs of borrowing. It will mean that we gain extra properties in the long run.'

It was then down to Cllr Sanders again alongside Cllr Gemma New and Cllr Tom Coles to decide whether to approve longer opening hours for Southsea venue Gisors Restaurant on Wednesday.

Despite concerns from a resident living on the flat above the site, they unanimously agreed to grant the amended licence which means it will now stay open until 10pm on Sundays and 11pm all other evenings.

Speaking on behalf of Gisors' owner, Charles Tourres, solicitor Jon Wallsgrove explained that the application came from a need to make money.

‘Mr Tourres is running a business now that is on the brink,’ he said.

‘He is doing this so he can continue to employ the people he does and to be an asset to Portsmouth, rather than have another empty business on the street.

‘He took the restaurant on from his sister as she was struggling financially.’

And there was good news for keen cyclists in the city as part of a popular route in Tipner will open soon.

The pathway between the Mountbatten Centre and the Hilsea allotments had been closed while sea defence construction was underway. However, with that section completed the waterside route will be accessible again.

Portsmouth City Council’s head of environment, Cllr Dave Ashmore, said:  ‘It’s fantastic to see the progress that is being made on the North Portsea Island Scheme.

‘I recently took a tour of the Tipner Lake site and was impressed with the new landscaping features and the quality of the work that’s been carried out.’

Public consultations on the North Portsea Island Scheme will begin on Monday, 5 November from 1pm to 5.30pm at Anchorage Park Community Centre.