‘The culture of this council must change’

The Civic Offices in Portsmouth
The Civic Offices in Portsmouth
Hampshire police and crime commissioner Michael Lane 

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A COUNCILLOR who quit her role on Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet has told of a controlling and aggressive culture at the authority.

Cllr Eleanor Scott said resigning from her role on the cabinet was the only way she felt her voice could be heard.

She quit on Friday after the Lib Dem group voted to retain Mike Hancock as a cabinet member despite allegations that he acted inappropriately towards a constituent.

Cllr Scott, who represents Fratton ward and was the most senior female Lib Dem on the council, said: ‘It is controlling. It is not just men that do it, it is women.

‘There are ways and means of getting power and exercising it and sometimes people’s lives and feelings get thrown aside because people want to get one up on them.’

Cllr Scott said she was upset that after 12 years in cabinet, her voice was not taken seriously and she questioned the number of women in top roles.

Cllr Scott said: ‘A third of the whole group is female, so that means there should be three on the cabinet and now there are none. Over the last two years, I was the only one.’

She also said it was a catalogue of incidents over the last 12 years that had driven her to take the action, not solely the decision to let Cllr Hancock stay.

Cllr Scott said she believed that despite this culture, the decisions made had been the right ones, but they had not been arrived at in the right way.

Cllr Scott said she had evidence of raising concerns for the last two years and said there is a wider problem, stretching all the way up to the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg – though she remains a member of the Lib Dem party.

‘The reason I remain a member is that I am determined to fight this,’ she said. ‘I want to fix it. I want to be part of the solution. I am not a problem. People who stereotype women like me who speak out as the problem are wrong. We are part of the solution and if Nick Clegg doesn’t get it then I’m sure [Lib Dem president] Tim Farron will.’

Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘I take a fairly different view to Eleanor and it may be because I am a man and she is a woman.

‘She is right, meetings in this city are very aggressive, and can be really unpleasant. This has been the same for decades in Portsmouth. Local government can be quite nasty. I hope I have never been involved in that. At times I will vigorously debate with my colleagues and I hope I am never rude or bullying.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said he had spoken to Cllr Scott on several occasions about her concerns and said the cabinet wasn’t there to favour men. ‘I keep asking women to put themselves forward to join the cabinet and they keep saying no,’ he said.