Labour criticised for turning down Portsmouth City Council committee seats

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THE Labour group on Portsmouth City Council has come under fire for turning down positions on two influential council committees.

Following the recent local elections – in which they increased the number of seats they hold from two to four – the party has decided not to sit on the council’s licensing or planning committees.

Instead it has opted to concentrate on providing opposition spokesmen for all the council’s 10 cabinet posts, to monitor and hopefully influence important decisions.

But the leader of the council’s Conservative group, Cllr Simon Bosher, said that Labour were turning down seats on two of the only committees where they could vote on decisions in favour of roles which carried no powers.

‘The truth is with the cabinet system opposition spokesmen have next to no impact at all,’ he said.

‘When I used to be spokesman for Planning, Redevelopment and Economic Development, which is Mike Hancock’s portfolio, it would take me longer to walk across Guildhall Square than to sit through the meetings.

‘If the Labour group want to take the extra money for having those roles but are happy to give up their seats on the two committees where their voices actually count then I think that is absolutely dreadful.

‘Having got themselves elected they don’t seem to want to take any decisions.’

But Labour leader Cllr Jim Patey said they had not ruled out taking seats on the licensing or planning committees in the future and branded Cllr Bosher’s comments ‘mischief making’.

‘We didn’t do planning or licensing last year either because they are time consuming,’ he said.

‘Between us we are taking on 10 portfolios and we are also going to go to health, employment and scrutiny management meetings.

‘It is not as though we are looking for a way out, it is just the work load.

‘We don’t need to take up 10 portfolios but we are so we are aware of what’s going on in the council.’

He added: ‘You can influence what decisions are being made by the portfolio holder.

‘You attend a meeting behind closed doors and can get quite a bit of input. You can try to persuade the portfolio holder that it would be sensible to go down a certain route. I see that as having a big effect.’

The Conservative group has now been offered one extra planning committee seat and two extra seats on the licensing committee.