Balance of power shifts at council as politician quits party

Cllr Jennie Brent
Cllr Jennie Brent
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THE balance of power at Portsmouth City Council is on a knife edge after a second Conservative politician resigned from the party’s group.

Councillor Jennie Brent, a former housing cabinet member when the Tories ran the council, yesterday became a non-aligned independent.

Her resignation – which sees her remain as a ward councillor for Eastney and Craneswater – leaves her party with 17 councillors.

Her departure is the latest to hit the Conservatives, with Cosham ward representative and former transport cabinet member Cllr Jim Fleming having resigned his party membership.

The News has attempted to contact Cllr Brent, who is also chief executive of the Beneficial Foundation – a training centre for disadvantaged adults in the city.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of the Tory party in Portsmouth, said: ‘The overall political balance of the council has been close since May.

‘After the elections the Conservatives remained the largest party and that is still the case. We have achieved so much by working with other parties. 

‘Jennie took on the role of cabinet member for housing under the Conservative administration and sat on various committees.

‘It can be tricky when people are juggling full time work while being a serving member of the council.

‘The Conservative Group look forward to continuing to work closely with Jennie to serve the city as best we can.

‘I don’t think people will notice any difference as all councillors work together on the majority issues anyway.’ 

The Liberal Democrats’ minority administration runs the council with 16 councillors. There are now four independents and five Labour members.

Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘A lot of what councillors do is not party political and there are some people who are very open to working cross-party and Jennie has always been a councillor who was happy to work across all parties to do the things that are right for the city.

‘That’s a good basis upon which she’s worked and maybe that’s reflected in her decision.’

As reported, Cllr Fleming left the Conservative Party, and said Brexit was a ‘symptom’ of differing views.

He had said his ‘views and values remained the same, while those of others within the Conservative Party have either diverged from those or perhaps weren't even there in the first place’.

Cllr Claire Udy stepped down from the Labour party in April.