A FRESH political row has erupted over Portsmouth City Council’s plans to borrow £20m to spend on properties to generate money for public services.
Critics say the administration should ‘back Portsmouth’ and stop putting so much emphasis on spending cash on industrial plots outside Hampshire and instead boost the city’s economy.
It comes after the Tory cabinet spent £22m on a warehouse in Gloucestershire and a Waitrose in Somerset after it set up a property investment fund earlier this year to spend on commercial units.
Lib Dem culture spokesman Lee Hunt says it shows the council has ‘no confidence’ in Portsmouth given no sites in the city have been identified as having potential.
But the Tories said their rivals – and Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson in particular – were advocating building more supermarkets and other major developments in an already heavily-congested city.
Cllr Hunt said: ‘This money should be spent on our city, we should not be giving hundreds of thousands of pounds away to benefit other people.
‘The city would benefit from the building of a Sherlock Holmes exhibition, something which would pull in tourists from across the globe.
‘This money should be used to expand Portsmouth’s economy and create jobs.’
Tory resources boss Lee Mason accused the Lib Dems of hypocrisy as they campaigned against the building of the new Fratton Park Tesco store.
‘The clear plan going forward is, we need to make more money – every penny we make is another penny we don’t have to cut,’ he said.
‘We are hearing from the leader of the Lib Dems that he wants another supermarket in Portsmouth. Is he saying, another store on Southsea Common? Cosham? North End?’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the Tories had ‘twisted’ his words.
He said: ‘We are looking for an investment strategy which is a balanced strategy, which sees investment here in Portsmouth as well. It’s essential that we as a council, which is responsible for economic development, shows its confidence in this city and is prepared to invest here. At the moment; that is not so.’
The majority of the council – 26 – agreed by way of a vote that the authority’s finance boss Chris Ward should seek to borrow the extra £20m.
Fareham Borough Council has several premises in a property portfolio, which leader Sean Woodward says has kept down council tax in recent years. A manufacturing base in Segensworth, a Sainsbury’s in Eastbourne and in Streatham, London, and a Specsavers in Weymouth.