Accusations fly as council puts plan for new Portsmouth library on hold

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PLANS for a new library in Drayton have been put on hold until Portsmouth City Council can find cash to fund one, it has been decided.

The authority’s executive committee this week agreed that the proposal to create a new service in the Drayton shopping area should wait until an affordable funding model is identified.

It was also agreed that a full public consultation should be carried out in Cosham, Wymering and West Drayton over potential plans for libraries in the area.

Communities will have the chance to express their opinions about whether the authority should keep Cosham library in Spur Road, move it to Portsmouth Road, or to continue to seek a suitable site in the Cosham area.

Cllr Steve Wemyss, of the Portsmouth Conservative group, issued an e-mail to the committee pointing out that leaflets issued by the city’s Lib Dems before the local elections this year said the administration was ‘committed to opening new libraries across the city’.

He said: ‘Yet again we see in Portsmouth Liberal Democrat leaflets making announcements that are not matched by action.

‘Is it any wonder that politicians are held in such low esteem when they so brazenly make promises before an election that they fail to deliver on after it?

‘To argue that the finances will not permit it is not acceptable either, as the council’s budget has not changed in any material way between then and now.’

Cllr Lee Hunt, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, hit back, saying: ‘It’s not a case of not wanting to do it – it’s a question of money.

‘I guess we have to cut our cloth according to our means.

‘We have seen a very harsh reduction and have to be pragmatic about the budget. Reasonable people in Drayton and Farlington will look at what we are proposing in Cosham and say that’s probably a better use with the money that is available.

‘I will continue to look at every opportunity to deliver a library in Drayton in the future.’

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he hopedCosham library could replicate the success of the one in Southsea.

He said: ‘We have looked at many sites on the high street, including bidding for one, which we were outbid.’