Portsmouth Labour chief accuses Liberal Democrat leader of 'gutter politics'
PORTSMOUTH’S council boss has been accused of making ‘underhanded comments’ about his political rivals in a move that has angered the city’s Labour leader.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson has come under fire following his speech yesterday at Portsmouth City Council’s annual general meeting.
The Lib Dem chief overcame a vote of no confidence from the city’s new Conservative leader, Cllr Matt Atkins, to be re-elected as the head of the city council after scoring an alliance with the Labour party.
But during his speech to councillors in Portsmouth’s Guildhall, the Lib Dem took a swipe at his political allies for failing to back plans to invest £3.5m to build new classrooms in Portsmouth and snubbing a £2.8m boost in adult social care budgets.
The comments outraged Labour leader Cllr George Fielding, who accused Cllr Vernon-Jackson of ‘gutter politics’.
Speaking to The News following the meeting, Cllr Fielding said: ‘Labour councillors acted in our city’s best interests. We prevented the Tories from running the council, instead voting in favour of the Liberal Democrats. However, we are incredibly disappointed that the Liberal Democrats refused to agree to cross-party working on a number of key issues that residents told us were important to them.
‘To make matters worse, during Gerald Vernon-Jackson’s speech for leader, underhanded comments were made about Labour. This went against our wishes, and that of the public, for less gutter politics and more collaborative working in the interests of our city.
‘Despite this, Portsmouth Labour councillors will continue to push the Liberal Democrat administration to be bolder on the big issues. We will continue to work with residents, businesses, community groups and trade unions to secure a greener, more sustainable and equal future for Portsmouth.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson stood by his comments and said: ‘I think they’re embarrassed that they voted against putting £3.5m into building classroom for children with special educational needs and embarrassed that they voted for a £2.8m cut to adult social services funding and all the carers who would have lost their jobs because of that.
‘It might well be that when they voted on the budget in February they made a mistake. But that’s the public record of how they voted and I think it’s absolutely right that members of the public know how there elected members voted on important decisions.
‘It may well be that the Labour councillors are embarrassed by how they voted and know that was the wrong thing to do. In which case say so. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron