Tories’ bid to change Portsmouth council budget plans fall through

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MAJOR changes to Portsmouth City Council, including the structure of elections and methods of income generation, were narrowly cast out at yesterday's budget meeting.

A Conservative amendment to the Lib Dem administration's proposed budget savings for next year would have seen local elections held once every four years, the reinstating of council-owned Victory Energy and a complete city-wide review of parking zones, among other plans.

Former leader of the council and Tory boss, Councillor Donna Jones, was confident the amendment would both meet the council's need to save £4m in the coming year and address important issues faced by Portsmouth residents.

Speaking at the meeting she said: 'We know the government's revenue support grant is disappearing, therefore we must ensure we are a forward thinking council with a proactive and ambitious appetite for income generation business growth and to fulfil the promise we made to the people of Portsmouth when we became the administration.'

But a vote on the amendment saw the Tories lose out, with 17 in favour and 18 against.

Although the Labour group spoke of their support for some of the plans their four attending councillors abstained from all budget votes in protest against austerity.

Labour Cllr Judith Smyth: 'We now suggest as we did last year that the council leader would save between £40-50,000 a year to move to all-out four year elections.

'Although I support the amendment I still feel it is not ambitious enough.'

Councillors then passed the original savings proposals that were put forward by the Lib Dems with 19 votes in favour and 16 against.

READ MORE: Plans for next year’s budget

The plans will see a 4.5 per cent increase in council tax in the financial year of 2019 to 2020 and a majority of savings made from income generation and service efficiencies.

When presenting the plans council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: 'It is essential to say that the level of cuts we have seen to council budgets has gone too far and is having serious effects on services here.

'There are unpleasant and difficult proposals in the papers before us, but to protect the most vulnerable in society - our children - we are having to make these tough decisions. But we have tried to do this in a way that is financial competent.

'But we have done so finding 93 per cent of the savings proposed here from efficiency savings and from increases in income. Just seven per cent of these proposals come from service reductions.'

A total of £12m savings is needed over the next three years for the council to stay in the black.

Councillors will vote on the proposed savings again in February before they can be finalised.