THE leader of Portsmouth City Council been criticised for spending almost £6,000 on a new office.
Councillor Donna Jones gave her approval for her old office and the one used by her personal assistant next door to be smashed through into one large communal working area.
She said it was value for money even in light of looming public cuts as both were not fit for use – and the Civic Offices where she is based needs to be kept up to a high standard.
But the Lib Dems have blasted the leader for splashing out when £13m has to be saved next year and 100 council workers are at threat of losing their jobs.
Former Lib Dem council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said it was a waste of money.
‘At a time when the council is consulting on cuts to youth services, buses, theatres and social services, the leader should not be wasting taxpayers’ money on things that are not a priority,’ he said.
‘For 10 years I used the old office with no problem.
‘She could have spent that money on a bonfire for Cosham if she wanted to, but she felt it was more important to have a flash new office.’
Cllr Jones said the money was allocated in this year’s budget by the Lib Dems as part of a programme to improve the council’s members area.
Asked why the expenditure was approved despite upcoming cuts, she said: ‘When the council came to me and said we need to be upgrading your office, I said “no, I don’t want to, and I will give it up and make it a meeting room instead”. ‘This is now a facility which I share with the deputy leader, Cllr Luke Stubbs and where the cabinet members can have meetings,’ she said.
‘In austere times we should not be wasting money. I’ve not had to allocate any new money. I’m working 50-plus hours a week in that building, Cllr Vernon-Jackson was hardly in the office that he had.’
She said £1,000 of the amount was used to soundproof the room – and was told that was a requirement since other strategic leaders have that to hold private meetings.
But Cllr Colin Galloway, Ukip group leader, does not think Cllr Jones has done anything wrong.
‘I have been in her old office and I was uncomfortable because of the size and heat of it,’ she said. ‘It was needed quite frankly.’
Cllr John Ferrett, Labour group leader, said: ‘We will question the work being done but we feel it is hypocrisy on the part of the former council leader.’