City council leader joins protest against government

The leader of Portsmouth City Council Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson
The leader of Portsmouth City Council Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson

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THE leader of Portsmouth City Council has joined more than 90 other leading Liberal Democrat councillors to criticise the speed of government cuts.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson is one of 18 local authority leaders who has signed a letter to The Times newspaper warning that cuts will have ‘an undoubted impact on all frontline council services, including care services to the vulnerable’.

He said that in criticising a coalition government in which his own party is a partner, he was expressing a view held by all three of the major parties in Portsmouth that the cuts were too fast and deep.

‘There has been a long term worry about what the government is doing to local government finance,’ he said. ‘And it is not just the Liberal Democrats who think this.

‘The consensus among all the parties is that there is too much front loading, and that is a view we are now seeing expressed around the country.’

Cllr Vernon Jackson said a key problem was that the relationship between local authorities and the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, had broken down.

He said: ‘My concern is that for the first time in 29 years we have a local government secretary who does not believe in local government.’

Mr Pickles has praised councils who try to protect frontline services by making cuts elsewhere, by Cllr Vernon-Jackson said he was making their jobs almost impossible.

‘Mr Pickles wants us to fail,’ he said. ‘Because then he can put all the blame for cuts onto local authorities.’

Other signatories to the letter include the leaders of Newcastle, Milton Keynes and Hull city councils.