Portsmouth council boss hits out after city is allocated half as much Brexit port funding as Southampton

THE leader of city council has said he is 'disappointed’ but ‘not surprised’ after it was revealed Portsmouth will get half as much funding as Southampton to combat Brexit port pressures.

Thursday, 21st February 2019, 6:33 am
Updated Thursday, 21st February 2019, 7:39 am
Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, right, with Sir Vince Cable when the MP visited Portsmouth International Port in January. Picture: Malcolm Wells (190108-1821)

The £136,362 allocated to Portsmouth by government yesterday will be spent on combating the immediate impact of withdrawing from the European Union. 

But a statement from the secretary of state for Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, MP James Brokenshire, shows Southampton will receive £272,724 – with the cash set to be equally spent on the Hampshire city’s general and container ports. 

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson has hit out at the allocation – saying the neighbouring city will not face any instant kickback from Brexit. 

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Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, right, with Sir Vince Cable when the MP visited Portsmouth International Port in January. Picture: Malcolm Wells (190108-1821)

‘Despite repeated calls from all agencies across the region about the importance of Portsmouth International Port as a major gateway for trade, I am shocked to find out that we have received less funding than Southampton, which has no immediate issues,' he said. 

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‘While no-one disputes the importance of Southampton’s container port, a potential no-deal scenario would immediately affect Portsmouth.

‘The HIOW Local Resilience Forum has prioritised Portsmouth as the biggest potential issue in a no-deal scenario. We have consistently felt let down by the government who are unable to do the same – from a serious lack of engagement from the Department of Transport, to a significant lack of concern from MPs.

‘I’m really grateful that Penny Mordaunt MP secured just over three per cent of the £4m funding required to prevent huge queues on our network, when Southampton received double the amount.’ 

He added: ‘Yet again I am disappointed but not surprised in the disregard of our residents and the failure of local MPs to make sure Portsmouth is seen as a priority.’ 

Cities like Portsmouth and Southampton were initially lined up to receive less than was announced on Wednesday, but the government inflated its funding for ports from £1.5m to £3.14m. 

The cash comes from a government kitty of £56.5m which will be paid to councils across the country to help them prepare for Brexit. 

Cllr Vernon-Jackson believes the money allocated yesterday – on top of previously allocated funds – will help achieve just a fraction of what Portsmouth needs to. 

He said: ‘The council will have to spend millions to prepare our roads and port, but so far we have only received just over £300,000 in total.’

Mr Brokenshire said: ‘I retained £10 million for allocation during 2019/20 to respond to specific local costs that may only become evident in the months after we exit the EU.

‘I will look carefully at any pressures which should be funded, including any emerging pressures relating to port functions or wider impacts on port areas.’

Portsmouth North MP, Penny Mordaunt, has responded to the situation.

Ms Mordaunt said: ‘This is an ongoing issue. There have and continue to be  discussions between the council and the Department for Transport and I would urge they continue.  ‘In particular they have been discussing traffic modelling resulting from, in effect 2 extra crossings.  ‘Following a meeting I held last week with the council CEO and the transport manager, my most recent asks to the DfT were for the council to be able to better understand what the triggers were for Brittany Ferries to start selling additional ferry space and precisely when diversions from Dover might start to head towards Portsmouth. Clarity of timelines are absolutely key to things going smoothly.  ‘The funds are for signage and other preparations and I’m glad we’ve secured them. We have asked that further funds are realised if the Department wishes the port to create a separate parking area - which it currently does not.  ‘Of course we all hope to avoid a scenario where any of this becomes necessary, by securing a deal. And I’d urge all parties to continue to work together so we are best prepared for any situation.’