Portsmouth City Council leader criticised for giving roles in move that 'reeked of nepotism'

APPOINTMENTS made by the city council to organisations across the area will be reviewed after critics said they 'reeked of nepotism'.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 5:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th September 2021, 11:15 pm
PCC leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson. Picture: Habibur Rahman

At a special meeting of the council's scrutiny management panel on Wednesday, Conservative councillors accused the Liberal Democrat administration of breaching rules by giving roles to former councillors.

Council leader, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said those chosen were 'the best people for the job' but that they would be 'looked at again'.

The council has representatives on a range of organisations across the city from arts trusts and community associations to the regional flood committee.

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In June, its cabinet confirmed appointments to dozens of these roles.

Although most are voluntary, some of the roles, including the two Portsmouth Naval Base Properties Trust positions, receive an allowance.

And Conservative councillors said the decision to give these, and positions at the King's Theatre Trust to former Liberal Democrat councillors breached the council's constitution, which includes rules on political proportionality.

They called in the decision, prompting the meeting.

'The cabinet's decisions were defective in two ways,' councillor Daniel Wemyss said at the meeting. 'Firstly they are in breach of...the protocol and secondly, cabinet failed to consider the protocol when making these appointments.

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'The decisions to appoint Steve Pitt and Terry Hall to the Portsmouth Naval Base Properties Trust and the decisions to appoint councillors Hugh Mason and Rob Wood to the King's Theatre Trust are in breach of said protocol.

'This is because the appointments should be in accordance with the proportionality rules where two or more appointments are to be made. They are also in breach of rule six which says they should be Portsmouth city councillors.'

He said the choices of two other former Lib Dem councillors, David Fuller and Matthew Winnington, to the Fratton and Eastney community associations respectively also broke rules which say they should be ward councillors.

'I fail to understand how the administration missed this and question whether the administration thought it could make these decisions without members raising concerns later,' Cllr Wemyss added.

'These appointments are wrong. They reek of nepotism - rewarding those who have served the administration loyally - and putting people in positions of influence where they can fly the party's standard in elections to come. They are nothing more than jobs for the boys.'

Responding to the concerns, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the appointments would be reviewed.

'I am happy for this to go back to cabinet and be looked at again but I don't accept the reasons presented by Cllr Wemyss,' he said. 'The people we appointed were the best to be able to do those jobs.

'This has followed a precedent which was followed by the Conservative administration, supported by Labour and Ukip, and we have followed exactly in the steps that they took.'

He said the appointments would be looked at again, at the next meeting of the council's cabinet which is due to take place on September 27.

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