Portsmouth council boss hits back at ‘culture of secrecy’ concerns

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THE leader of Portsmouth City Council has hit back at claims her main political rival needed to use the Freedom of Information Act to expose the authority’s financial affairs.

Councillor Donna Jones has dismissed any suggestion her administration has bred a ‘culture of secrecy’ and says she is open about the way taxpayers’ money is spent.

Gerald has never asked me either verbally or in writing how many times I have met with the owners of South Parade Pier, if he had I would have told him four times.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council

It comes after Lib Dem leader, and former council boss, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, raised concerns he had to submit requests under the FOI Act for information related to the Emirates Spinnaker Tower sponsorship deal, meetings with South Parade Pier bosses and a property developer, as well as the replacement of an aviary at College Park, Copnor.

Cllr Jones has responded to the allegations in full.

Concerning South Parade Pier, she said: ‘Gerald has never asked me either verbally or in writing how many times I have met with the owners of South Parade Pier. If he had, I would have told him four times. Once before they purchased the pier, once when they came into the civic offices to meet with local interested parties and the planning and listed building team. Once to view and inspect work on the pier 12 months ago, and in November, to inspect the work carried out on the outside of the building following the £50,000 award from the Costal Community Fund through The Department for Communities and Local Government.

‘There have also been periodic telephone conversations with the owner and their surveyor.’

Cllr Jones said she meets with investors ‘monthly’.

She said: ‘These meetings include the council’s head of planning. The meetings often take place in my office, although the head of planning and myself have travelled to London twice and have occasional meetings on site as and when required.

‘It’s fair to say that anyone considering spending a large amount of money in the city, especially on developments, will want to talk to the council, and invariably that includes me as the leader.’

Cllr Jones confirmed she features in an interview on Emirates flights promoting the city.

She said: ‘I have had very positive feedback from a resident who heard it on a flight and was very impressed.’