Lib Dems retain control over Portsmouth and vow to ramp up green agenda plans

LIBERAL Democrats have vowed to ramp up their plans to make Portsmouth a ‘greener city’ after they fended off a vote of no confidence to retain control of the council.

By Tom Cotterill
Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 3:18 pm

The party clashed with Portsmouth Conservatives today during a power struggle after last week’s local election left no one party with enough seats to rule the city council unchallenged.

The Tory party came away from the election with 16 seats, while the Liberal Democrats saw their numbers reduce to 15. But neither were able to bag the 22 needed to claim majority control.

And with the increased numbers, newly-elected Conservative group leader Councillor Matt Atkins had attempted to overthrow the Lib Dem administration with a vote of no confidence.

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Local elections Portsmouth. Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson leader of Portsmouth City Council. Picture: Stuart Martin (220421-7042)

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But his effort proved in vain after he was unable to secure any alliances with other parties, which instead sided with Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson.

During a passionate speech to councillors in Portsmouth’s Guildhall, Cllr Vernon-Jackson accused the Tories of being the party that ‘pay the well off’ while ‘saddling the poor with debt’.

The political veteran – who is now marking his 14th year as leader of the council – said there was a ‘clear choice’ between the two parties.

‘Either councillors can back the Conservatives with their record of attacking families on low incomes, their record of failing to support the LGBTQ+ community, and their choice of tax bribes over social housing,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson said.

‘Or they can choose a Lib Dem-run city which puts climate change at the centre of our work, who want a city where everyone is respected, where children with special needs, the elderly and frail get the services they need and who are prepared to invest in social housing.

‘It is not a choice where I feel people can have no view and abstain. Either we have a forward-looking and inclusive city or we let Matthew Atkins and the Conservatives take us backwards.’

But Cllr Atkins cast doubt on the Lib Dems’ ability to capitalise on funding opportunities available from central government and questioned the party’s ability to handle the council’s multimillion-pound budget.

He told councillors: ‘A Conservative vision for Portsmouth is a vision of a city where people are free to live their own lives in the way that they choose, where they are free to keep their own money, to spend on their own priorities and where they have suitable links around the city for transport, where they have a city that is making the most of the opportunities of Brexit and the economic growth that is forecast to come in the next year or so.

‘We believe that Conservatives are the only group that can manage the city finances in a way that delivers all the primary services as efficiently as possible but also finds room and time to work on the development of the city and take advantage of economic growth and prosperity of the future as well as the city’s great opportunity to develop its tourism infrastructure and popularity as a destination city… we are the party to take this city forward.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson insisted his party was the only credible one to help carry on the city’s drive to become the most environmentally friendly.

Speaking to The News Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘There’s an awful lot of work to do but we are ready to take on the challenge.’

Cllr Atkins vowed to hold the Lib Dems to ‘account as a strong opposition’ and keep a ‘close eye’ on the administration.

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