BANKS are to be asked to step in to help save flower baskets across Portsmouth, following a suggestion from a former Lord Mayor of the city.
Alan Burnett, now leader of Pompey Pensioners, spoke out at Portsmouth City Council’s budget-setting meeting on Tuesday.
He raised concerns over the council’s proposals, now agreed, to slash £15m from its expenditure, including cuts to adult care services.
And he also commented on plans to remove 253 flower baskets from across the city.
The council hopes the measure, which will reduce the number of baskets to 588, will save £18,000 per year.
But Mr Burnett said: ‘The baskets are one of the best things the council has done for the city. We all know the cuts being demanded by government are down to a financial crisis caused by banks, so why not get the banks to pay for the baskets? It’s the least they can do.’
Mr Burnett, who was a Portsmouth councillor from 1986, led the council from 1990-93 and was Lord Mayor in 1994-95, admitted his comments were made humorously, but they gained immediate support from current council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It’s definitely something we’ll try.
‘The banks, and other companies, should help. And they will get good publicity from sponsoring the baskets.
‘The baskets are hugely important.
‘They play a real part in improving the environment of such a built-up city as Portsmouth.
‘We are a tourist destination, and to have things which make the place look good is very important.’
Mr Burnett added: ‘It was a bit tongue in cheek, because the baskets were introduced when I was leader. But this was a budget full of cuts, which worry the community, and the hanging baskets, which have been here for the last two decades, really make a difference to the community.
‘Seven million people visit the city every year, but it’s for residents, too. Portsmouth isn’t the prettiest city, but though people who live here might not notice the baskets every day, because they’re so familiar, they would if they were taken away. I hope the four big clearing banks, the biggest in the city, will get involved.
‘It would be maybe £3,500 to £4,000 to keep them. It’s peanuts to them.’