New Portsmouth City Council leader puts domestic violence and low pay at top of priorities list
THE newly-appointed leader of Portsmouth City Council has called for rival parties to work together in a more '˜open and transparent' way - and says he wants to work on reducing domestic violence and improving the lot of the lowest-paid at the authority.
Lib Dem Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson spoke about his hopes for cross-party co-operation under his leadership which came after a shock vote last Tuesday saw Tory boss Cllr Donna Jones booted from the top spot.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson is a veteran leader, having held the post for 10 years before the Tory administration took over in 2014, but now he wants to see councillors from all parties working together.
He said: ‘I want to make sure that key areas are not just looked at by one party any more. We need to recognise that all parties have got good ideas and skills. If we can work collaboratively it will benefit everyone.
‘It is important that people understand the council is not run by one person and that every councillor will have ideas.
‘Overall I want to make sure we have much more cross party involvement because no one group has a monopoly on all ideas. And we have to run the council in a much more open and transparent way.’
Today Cllr Vernon-Jackson will meet the government minister for policing, MP Nick Hurd, for funding to tackle crime in the city.
‘I want to use the money to help deter kids from crime. We have had successful projects for this in the past that give them positive things to do to keep them away from drugs and violence,’ he said.
‘We need to make sure we are pushing down on domestic violence. Half of violent crime in Portsmouth is in people’s homes. The council has got better at encouraging people to report it. But we can do something to help people manage their anger so that it doesn’t lead to violence.’
Specific areas for concern for the new leader also cited included the lack of affordable housing, homelessness, the sea defences at Southsea and paying a fair wage to council workers.
He said: ‘We need to get housing built that is affordable for local families whether to rent or part-rent, part-buy. There is derelict land at Tipner that has got planning permission for a housing association to build 80 flats on, we should make use of that.
‘And I have been getting very worrying reports that people who are homeless won’t use the night shelters in the city because they are too dangerous and too run-down. We need to find a way to tackle homelessness.
‘I also believe the council should sort out the wages for the lowest paid people who work for it. For example, care workers are some of the lowest paid people and look at what they are expected to do. They should be paid the national living wage at least.’