Cllr Donna Jones is the Leader of Portsmouth City Council.
Portsmouth is not only home to the Royal Navy. It is also the most densely populated city in the UK outside of London, often referred to as the ‘northern city on the south coast’. It is one of only three Conservative-controlled cities in the UK. After 23 years in opposition, in June 2014 – with less than a third of the councillors on the city council (a unitary authority) – the Conservatives managed to put together a minority administration with 12 councillors out of a possible 42. This was the year before a General Election.
This made me the first woman to hold the position of Leader of the City Council and the youngest woman to lead a Conservative council in the UK; this is both a privilege and a pleasure.
Over the last 23 months the Conservative Party in Portsmouth has gone from strength to strength. People often ask me how we have managed to achieve the things we have in such tricky circumstances, and my answer is always, “through sheer hard work and determination”. We have set about re-branding the city.
Having worked for a major bank in the UK, I was determined to introduce a business-minded approach to the running of the council. I set about raising over £2 million of new income to mitigate the reduction in council formula grant; this meant fewer cuts to services. In June 2015 we secured the largest commercial deal the council has ever signed, bringing in £700,000 per year by selling the naming rights to our iconic Spinnaker Tower. Emirates Airline signed a five year deal worth in excess of £3.5 million. This allowed us to protect vital public services.
After 12 months in power we went from 12 councillors to 19, and now we are one of the top target councils for the party across the UK approaching the local elections 2016.
I am hopeful that in May we will secure three new seats and form the first proper Conservative ‘majority’ council in 25 years. We are working hard to achieve this goal.