Balance of power in Portsmouth City Council to be decided next week

THE future of how Portsmouth City Council is run will be announced next week.

Wednesday, 9th May 2018, 6:56 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 12:08 am

At the first full meeting since before elections councillors will decide the make-up of certain committees and panels, as well as revealing any party alliances that may alter the dynamics of the council.

After the elections last week the council’s previous administration, the Tories, were left with 19 seats - one less than before. The Lib Dems strengthened their position, adding one seat which gave them a total of 16.

Labour won three seats, the biggest gain, leaving them with five. One independent, Cllr Claire Udy, was elected on the night and will be the only independent councillor after Cllr John Ferrett joined Renew. Ukip lost all of its two seats.

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These results mean that the Tories’ grip on the city has been weakened and could be under threat if other parties decide to work together. However, this will not be certain until the meeting on Tuesday.

Leader of the Lib Dems, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘We don’t know yet what will happen, but we will know on Tuesday.

‘I think what is clear is that people in the city want a change from how the council was being run and I hope that is possible to do.’

Portsmouth South MP and Charles Dickens councillor Stephen Morgan added: ‘Last week Portsmouth Labour gained three councillors taking seats from both the Tories and Lib Dems - including in a ward we have never won in before. It is clear that people in a large part of our city voted for change last week, by voting Labour.’

Speaking on election night the council and Tory leader, Cllr Donna Jones, was confident her party would remain strong. She said: ‘The Conservatives were still the most successful party this morning and we will remain the largest party in the council.

‘The result gives me the mandate to continue to run the council. We will have to work in partnership with other parties but we have done that for the last four years and I am more than happy to have a conversation with Labour and the Lib Dems to see if we have common interests.’

A couple of shock results in the early hours of Friday morning brought the council’s make-up into question. First-time candidate Cllr Judith Smyth won in St Jude, a ward that has never been Labour before and replaced Tory culture boss Linda Symes.

More controversial was independent Cllr Claire Udy’s win in Charles Dickens. Cllr Udy was a Labour candidate until six days before the election when she resigned from the party amid an anti-semitism row. However, the ballot paper still listed her as Labour as did the postal vote. Questions were raised as to whether residents voted for her or for the Labour party.

It remains to be seen if councillors decide a by-election for Charles Dickens is in order.

At the council’s annual general meeting on Tuesday councillors will also elect the city’s lord mayor and appoint its deputy mayor.