Power shift at Portsmouth City Council as Lib Dems gain a councillor

PORTSMOUTH City Council has seen a shift in power after a former Tory councillor joined the administration.

Cllr Jennie Brent
Cllr Jennie Brent

Eastney and Craneswater representative, Cllr Jennie Brent, today announced her allegiance with the Lib Dems.

The move leaves the Portsmouth Lib Dems and Tories tied for members, with 17 each.

Cllr Brent, who was housing minister while the Tories were in control, resigned from the party in August this year, becoming a non-aligned independent councillor. As a result the Tories still held a majority, with 17 members over the Lib Dems' 16.

But in a public letter to the residents of her ward, Cllr Brent today said: 'As you may be aware, I decided to leave the Conservative party at the end of August.

'˜Since then, I have been thinking long and hard about how best to serve you as your local councillor, and I have come to a decision. I have joined the local Liberal Democrats.

'Whilst considering what I was going to do, I came across the introduction to the Lib Dem constitution. It says: 'The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty equality and community, and in which no-one is enslaved by ignorance poverty or conformity.'

'This so closely aligns to how I feel about being a councillor that I decided to speak to the Lib Dems and find out more about how they do things, and how they want to move our city forward.

'I do not live in the past, and always look to the future. My future is now as part of the Portsmouth Liberal Democrat team running the council.

'˜I look forward to continuing to serve all the residents of Eastney and Craneswater, whoever you have voted for in the past, and am here to help if you need me.'

Lib Dem Leader of the council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, added: 'I am delighted the Lib Dem council group have voted unanimously to welcome Cllr Jennie Brent.

'Jennie has huge experience in working with the voluntary and community sector, especially the homeless and those with special educational needs. It is clear that her values align with those of our administration, and the Lib Dems, and we very much look forward to working with her.'

Cllr Brent's departure from the Tory party was not the first in 2018. Cosham ward representative and former transport cabinet member Cllr Jim Fleming also resigned his party membership earlier this year.

The council was run by a Conservative administration between 2014 and 2018 until the shock leadership vote in May that saw the Lib Dems put into power, despite a two-member lead by the Tories.