Serious bullying culture is rife in Portsmouth City Council says MP Penny Mordaunt

The Civic Offices in Portsmouth
The Civic Offices in Portsmouth

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CALLS have been made to end a ‘serious bullying culture’ at Portsmouth City Council.

MP Penny Mordaunt says she has a ‘thick file’ of complaints from distressed council officers, charities and other organisations about the intimidating and abusive behaviour of councillors they have had contact with.

It comes after Councillor Eleanor Scott raised concerns earlier in the year about the misogynistic attitude of members of the Lib Dem group, causing her to resign her cabinet role but stay with the party nationally.

Ms Mordaunt has now written to its chief executive David Williams raising her concerns because she feels the situation has gone on long enough.

While not making reference to specific incidents or parties, Ms Mordaunt – who represents Portsmouth North – wrote: ‘I do think there is a serious bullying culture.

‘I know that some of your colleagues can be challenging individuals, but it is clear to me that Portsmouth does not enjoy the clear boundaries, behavioural and procedural protocols that are good practice and the norm elsewhere.’

Ms Mordaunt said complaints range from ‘screaming and abusive’ behaviour’ to ‘orchestrated campaigns’ to intimidate and undermine people, and that ‘good people have chosen not to work with the city’ as a result.

Support networks such as Community Action Hampshire have failed to resolve the issue.

Ms Mordaunt told The News: ‘The council clearly has a complaints procedure but this is not tackling this problem and the behaviour has been allowed to go unchallenged for a considerable amount of time.’

Cllr John Ferrett, leader of the Labour group, said: ‘It’s concerning that this is the way the council is doing business.

‘It will have a profoundly damaging impact on the council’s reputation and have an effect on businesses coming to the city.

Cllr Donna Jones, leader of the Conservatives, said: ‘I’m appalled that this administration has been allowed to create this culture of bullying.’

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem leader and leader of the council, said: ‘All of us are upset that every single councillor is being accused of something with no evidence. It points the finger at John, Donna and me, it points the finger at everybody, and it’s like saying we have heard that MPs are bullies but don’t provide evidence.’

Mr Williams said while he did not know of any outstanding complaints against members, he will discuss the situation with group leaders on June 9.

Councillor quit over ‘aggressive’ politics

COUNCILLOR Eleanor Scott quit the Lib Dem group and cabinet on the basis there was an aggressive culture at the city council.

Her resignation in January came on the same day that the Lib Dem group voted to retain Mike Hancock as a cabinet member despite allegations that he acted inappropriately towards a constituent.

He later quit the cabinet after the Portsmouth Lib Dem executive agreed it would not stand a candidate against him in the Fratton ward at the local elections, which take place on Thursday.

Cllr Scott has since taken up her issues with the national Lib Dem party.