Former council boss' FOIs spark fresh row over Portsmouth spending priorities

A row has erupted over claims Portsmouth City Council is reluctant to reveal its financial affairs.

Monday, 16th January 2017, 6:00 am
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson

Former council boss Gerald Vernon-Jackson says he’s been forced to find out details of deals including Emirates’ sponsorship of the Spinnaker Tower via the Freedom of Information Act.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson, pictured, claims there is a ‘culture of secrecy’ in the council camp.

While campaigners say it is ‘too difficult’ for people to find out how taxpayers’ cash is spent.

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Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘I am worried there appears to be a culture of secrecy in the council.

‘If councillors are not to be told things by officers, what hope have citizens of finding out what is going on?’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson asked under FOI for copies of all the advertising of Portsmouth produced for free by Emirates as part of the deal to sponsor the tower, and its value.

The council said it ‘recorded an audio feature’ for Emirates, which was edited for use on flights.

Cllr Jones said: ‘When this administration was formed, we promised to be the most open and transparent in the history of this city and we have kept that promise.

‘Council meetings are now broadcast live, the budget is released a month in advance rather than a week and we have been working closely with those other parties that behave responsibly – regrettably that does not include the Liberal Democrats.’

Harry Davis, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘It is still incumbent on council bosses to provide as much information as possible to the public so residents and journalists can scrutinise and decide for themselves whether they are making sensible decisions on spending.’

Southsea resident Jerry Brown, who monitors the council’s activities, said: ‘The reporting of council expenditure is inadequate.

‘It’s too difficult to find out where money is spent.’

Council deputy chief executive, Michael Lawther, said: ‘Council officers always work to support the needs of all of our councillors as best they can.’