Calls made for an investigation into ‘bully’ allegations at Portsmouth City Council

Guildhall Square in Portsmouth
Guildhall Square in Portsmouth
Claire Udy has come under fire for comments she made on Twitter in 2013 Photo: Keith Woodland

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CITY leaders have backed calls for an independent inquiry to be held into the conduct of councillors accused of bullying.

Councillor Eleanor Scott has called for an investigation to be held into the behaviour of members of Portsmouth party members.

Cllr Scott, who quit the city’s Lib Dem group earlier this year because of issues she had with its aggressive politics, said she would give evidence as part of the probe because of her experience.

In a letter to the city council’s chief executive David Williams, she said: ‘I am writing to request that you commission as a matter of priority an independent inquiry into some senior councillors’ behaviour and the (in my view) now-toxic culture which exists, particularly with regard to some members of the administration during recent years.’

It comes after city MP Penny Mordaunt wrote to political party leaders and Mr Williams about a ‘thick file’ of complaints she had received from various organisations about the abusive and intimidating behaviour of councillors.

Cllr Scott said she was disappointed with the timing of the letter since it was near the local elections, and didn’t want people to mistake what is a serious situation as a ‘political stunt’.

While Ms Mordaunt made no reference to any individual or party, she has now agreed to show evidence.

Ms Mordaunt said: ‘I’m quite prepared to sit down with any of the group leaders and the chief executive and give examples of where I think there have been breaches in the code of conduct.

‘It may be that an independent person could be brought in to look at how things are run and try to change the organisation.

‘The council needs to think about why this is happening.’

She insisted she hadn’t written the letter as a ‘PR stunt’ and had wanted it to be kept private and dealt with among leaders.

Labour group leader Cllr John Ferrett said he would support an inquiry if specific allegations amounted to anything serious.

Conservative group leader Cllr Donna Jones said she backs Cllr Scott ‘100 per cent’ and would consider giving evidence.

And council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he would need to seek legal advice on the matter before agreeing to anything.

‘I don’t think it’s right to make a decision without asking the council’s lawyer what the right thing to do is,’ he said.