THE leadership at Portsmouth City Council remains unchanged following today’s full council meeting despite a close call on votes – leaving supporters to admit the Victory Energy ‘ship has sailed.’
In the first meeting since local elections councillors re-elected Liberal Democrat boss Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson by just one vote. His party will run the council for the next year even though they do not hold an overall majority.
The veteran politician said he was ‘delighted’ to hold on to his leadership. ‘It’s a great privilege to carry on leading the council,’ he said.
‘I didn’t know what would happen. You can never be certain.’
Although there had been speculation that the structure of the council could be changed from cabinet to committee style this turned out to not be the case. However, a shake-up has led to slightly different portfolios for members to manage.
In line with the climate emergency that was declared earlier this year the environment and community safety portfolio has been changed to environment and climate change. Community safety will be tackled as a separate issue.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We wanted to make sure that the climate emergency was given proper consideration, which is something we all agreed on in March.
‘Cllr Dave Ashmore can now focus 100 per cent on climate change.
‘The amount of cross-party work that goes on is down to the other parties and what their group spokespeople do within the portfolios.’
For former council leader and Conservative boss Cllr Donna Jones her failed leadership bid was ‘disappointing.’
She said: ‘I am disappointed to have lost by one vote. Hopefully this time next year I will be back at the helm.’
It also meant there was no hope of restarting Victory Energy – the controversial council owned energy company that was scrapped last year.
Cllr Jones added: ‘It could have brought in an extra £2m a year to help fund things that we really need like support for disabled people and adult services.
‘I am worried about the finances of the council under the Lib Dem rule like the increased debt in adult and childen’s services and the empty houses in Leamington and Horatia House.'
Labour party leader Cllr Stephen Morgan, who was also in favour of saving Victory Energy last year, said: ‘I think the Victory Energy ship has sailed now.’
His group abstained from the vote this year, compared to last year when they voted in favour of Cllr Vernon-Jackson in a move that lost Cllr Jones her top spot.
He said: ‘We will always vote on a case by case basis. Usually we do vote with the Lib Dems but we vote for what we think is the best way to deliver for our city.
‘After 10 years of Tory austerity in Portsmouth there’s no chance we could vote for them.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson received 18 votes – 17 from the Lib Dems and one from independent Cllr Claire Udy. Cllr Donna Jones got 17 – 16 from her group and one from independent Cllr John Ferrett.