THE leader of Portsmouth City Council faces investigation over her involvement in the authority’s senior management restructure, The News can reveal.
Tory councillor Donna Jones will be questioned about her conduct during the cost-cutting exercise after it was claimed she sacked employees she ‘didn’t like’ and created new positions for others she approved of.
She allegedly told former Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Lynne Stagg, who would be appointed to new roles prior to interviews – saying then head of transport Simon Moon would be kicked out because they ‘didn’t get along’.
Mr Moon’s position has been phased out and a new director of transport role has been filled by former corporate assets boss Alan Cufley, though there is no suggestion Mr Moon left because Cllr Jones wanted him to.
A panel of councillors has referred the allegations about Cllr Jones – made by Lib Dem councillor Stagg – to an independent assessor who will determine whether she has breached the council’s code of conduct.
And a senior council source says the ramifications of Cllr Jones’ actions, if proven true, would be ‘significant’ and could result in the senior management reshuffle – which saved the authority more than £500,000 a year – having to be done again.
She is making up some very, very serious allegations in terms of suggesting I had a hit list of people that I wanted to get rid of.Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council
But Cllr Jones says the claims are ‘100 per cent politically motivated’ and insists she has done nothing wrong.
Cllr Stagg said: ‘I have reported Cllr Jones regarding the reorganisation of senior management. The jobs have been made for individuals.
‘You don’t create jobs for certain individuals and then get rid of people because you don’t like them.
‘This isn’t politically motivated. I would have done the same if it was someone from my party. I would have said it was completely out of order.
She added: ‘It was just the way it was done. It was totally unacceptable.
‘She was on the interview panel who decided who would be in what job.’
Cllr Jones has hit back at the claims.
‘The allegations against me are 100 per cent politically motivated, and yet another example of Lib Dems using people’s jobs and lives as a tool to attack opposition politicians,’ she said.
‘My job as a strong leader is to save money from the public purse, and I saved £500,000 by getting rid of six senior jobs at the top of the council which the Lib Dems had created.’
Cllr Jones added: ‘I don’t need to defend myself, I have done nothing wrong.
‘I have done my job of spending taxpayers’ money wisely.
‘She is making up some very, very serious allegations in terms of suggesting I had a hit list of people that I wanted to get rid of.’
Tory councillor Simon Bosher, head of the complaints panel which referred Cllr Jones for investigation, would only confirm a probe will be held into the council leader’s actions.
The complaints about Cllr Jones went before the council prior to the general election.
But The News understands an agreement was made to delay the investigation until after May 7 as Cllr Jones is a senior politician, and rival parties could have used it to their advantage in political leaflets.