Council’s Tory leader ‘should sack himself over budget failure’

Councillor Steve Wemyss
Councillor Steve Wemyss

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A LEADING Portsmouth politician has been called upon to ‘sack himself’ after his group failed to present budget proposals.

Richard Cole, who was leader of Portsmouth City Council’s Lib Dem group when it was in opposition in the late 1990s, has criticised the current head of the council’s Tories, Councillor Steve Wemyss.

Cllr Wemyss and his colleagues didn’t present an alternative to the Lib Dem group’s budget at last week’s full council meeting. The proposals included 184 job cuts, and £15m in savings.

Mr Cole said: ‘I was appalled Cllr Wemyss failed to put forward an opposition budget. Group leaders of the past from all parties put forward plans and were happy to debate them. Conservative leaders had the strength of personality to argue their case to anyone. Perhaps Steve Wemyss should sack himself.’

At the meeting, Cllr Wemyss said he decided not to present an alternative budget because Lib Dems would misrepresent it, and then ‘steal’ ideas to use themselves.

But Mr Cole said: ‘The idea is the electorate can see viewpoints and alternatives to choose between. If good ideas are taken up by another party that’s all for the good.

‘A leader worth their position would make sure he or she got the credit for them. I’d have shouted from the rooftops. When I led the Lib Dem group, we’d present our budget, as would Labour and the Tories. Whoever led the council would give the others a hard time, but that’s politics. It meant people would know what each group stood for.

‘The excuses are pathetic, and the decision was damaging to democracy in the city.’

Current Lib Dem Councillor Mike Hancock said: ‘I’ve been on the council for 40 years and I only remember an opposition group once not making an alternative budget. That was Ian Gibson, also a Tory, who later admitted he had no ideas.

‘The Tories are just saying what we shouldn’t be doing, without bothering to say what to do instead.’

Cllr Wemyss said: ‘We have ideas, and we will present them ourselves, directly to the electorate, through our election literature in the run-up to May’s council elections.

‘We didn’t want the Lib Dems’ spin to be put on our budget proposals. We know there are ways to make the way the council is run better, and we will present them clearly and understandably to voters, without outside interference.’