Portsmouth City Council – a week in review by our democracy reporter

The civic offices in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth
The civic offices in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth

ON THE surface activity at Portsmouth City Council may seem to be winding down as we approach Christmas, but there were still plenty of decisions and proposals to be aware of this week.

One plan could see several safety improvements implemented at a busy city road.

After a total of 102 cyclist and pedestrian crashes on London Road, Fratton Road and Kingston Road - in the past five years, the council's cabinet member for transport, Councillor Lynne Stagg, will decide to approve or reject the installation of raised tables at several junctions along the road, as well as extending cycle paths.

The stretch of road - the A2047 - has the highest number of cycle casualties in the city.

Raised tables were previously installed along the road in 2017 at 12 junctions, including at Powerscourt Road, Chichester Road and Lucknow Street.

Chairman of Portsmouth Cycle Forum, Ian Saunders, said he approves the potential changes. ‘We welcome anything that gives more space for cyclists and makes their journeys safer in what is a highly problematic route for both them and pedestrians,’ he said.

Cllr Stagg will make the decision on Thursday next week.

A project that has been ongoing for a while is the City Centre North development.

This week Cllr Ben Dowling, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration, confirmed the £60m scheme was still on the cards. ‘We are currently working on the masterplan for the city that will be ready in June next year following public consultation,’ he said.

‘At the same time the road team will start working on the modelling of the road in a final planning application depending on the feedback.

‘The key thing is that we have a mixture of developments as part of this project, including commercial sites, leisure facilities and homes.’

The council’s public consultation on the scheme will include open events, online surveys and neighbourhood forums and will take place in the spring 2019.

Members of the public will also be more involved when it comes to that touchy subject of shared houses.

At a cabinet meeting on December 4 it was agreed that residents of houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs) could be involved in monitoring shared homes through the council’s re-established local consultation panel on HMO licensing.

The panel, which will be chaired by housing boss Cllr Darren Sanders, would also push to bring back additional licensing laws on HMOs affecting those with a minimum of three occupiers, up from the mandatory five.

Councillors welcomed the re-implementation of the panel that will also tackle issues such as noise and waste complaints. Speaking at a meeting Cllr Rob Wood said: ‘On the board you’ve got people from the council and people from the city like landlords. Is there an opportunity to invite someone on the board who would represent the people who live in HMOs out there?

‘They are your extra resource out there. They are the very people who do spend a lot of time reporting to us and having them at the centre would give you a balanced view.’

And this week we revealed that a long-standing Portsmouth councillor has moved more than 550 miles away - but claims he will continue to fulfil his duties.

Drayton and Farlington ward member and former Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Ken Ellcome, confirmed he had moved to Northern Ireland but will still attend council meetings and ‘will be back on a regular basis’ until standing down at May's election next year.

The Tory, who has been on Portsmouth City Council since 2011, said: ‘We decided to move to Northern Ireland as my wife is from there and she has family over there. She has lived in Portsmouth for 30 years and wants to go home.

‘But I will be coming back for council meetings and will be back on a regular basis until elections in May so I will still continue to fulfil my council duties.

‘I will miss the city but I will also come back to watch Pompey games, I have supported them for 65 years.’

Cllr Ellcome’s most recent three-year term will come to an end in May 2019 when he will not put himself forward for election.

Finally, the B word.

The awaited local government funding settlement that was due to be revealed on Thursday (December 6) was postponed due to Brexit.

It was announced that the settlement will not be made known until after next week’s Brexit deal vote in Parliament.

For council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson this had a number of implications. ‘This delay is disappointing,’ he said.

‘We’re having our budget meeting on Tuesday and it would have been useful to have had the knowledge at the same time.

‘Any delay in making decisions to get a proper budget through means we could have to make more cuts and potentially more people could lose their jobs.’