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City MP demands meeting with Minister over Stanhope House student accommodation crisis

On 9 September, Prime Student Living (PSL), who are managing a new student development named Stanhope House on Commercial Road, failed to provide accommodation for over 250 students at the start of term. 

Since then, Stephen Morgan MP has submitted written questions to the Department for Education, written to PSL directly, written to the regulator, visited the site, met with the university, spoken out in the media, spoken directly with students affected and worked alongside Cllr Cal Corkery.

In Mr Morgan’s latest bid to bridge the gap in regulation and help affected local students, the city MP has written to the Government Minister responsible demanding an urgent meeting.

Mr Morgan Said:

“I have spoken to students impacted by this issue and I am deeply concerned about the effect that the PSL failure is having on them.

Some have been rehoused miles away from lectures and friends, others in places with no wi-fi. The opening weeks of university play a crucial role in academic life and career path, I will not allow private accommodation providers to recklessly gamble with Portsmouth students’ futures.

When I submitted parliamentary written questions to the Minister, he regrettably said that this was not a Government matter. I refuse to accept this and have written demanding a meeting so that we can work together to stop this from happening again

I look forward to continuing to work alongside Cllr Cal Corkery in standing up for Portsmouth students and ensuring they have a platform to be heard on”.

There have been widespread reports of students affected are feeling anxious about their living conditions. Many have outlined deep-set disappointment with the £150 that they have been issued which does not even cover one week’s rent.

In response to Mr Morgan’s written questions, the Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation replied:

“Higher education (HE) providers are autonomous bodies, independent from government; government plays no direct role in the provision of student residential accommodation” (full response in public domain).

Another key point raised by the Portsmouth South MP is that the taxpayer is essentially bankrolling these developments and therefore it is in the public interest to ensure they are of an acceptable standard.

Mr Morgan said:

“No matter which city you enter in the UK, you will notice an everchanging skyline continually infiltrated by new blocks of student flats.

While these are often private investments, make no mistake this funding comes from the tax payers’ purse via student maintenance loans.

Transparency, honesty, and continuity. This is not too much to ask of Government when it comes to regulating student accommodation.”

Mr Morgan and the University of Portsmouth are both in consensus that there is a clear regulatory gap exists. The Office for Students (OfS) regulates universities but has no regulatory power over private student accommodation providers. This clear gap in regulation is leaving students open to exploitation

On how he wants to see this resolved, Mr Morgan said:

“A similar problem occurred last year with Crown Place and I have seen that there have been 20 alike cases around the country this year alone.

The Government has a responsibility to our students, and it is not good enough to simply shift blame to private companies.

This is not the first time that this has happened. I want to make sure it is the last.

There is essentially inadequate regulation of purpose build student accommodation and we need to see more inclusive legislation that gives students more protection.

I look forward to the Minister responding to my meeting request so that we can get on with taking action over this matter.”

Stephen Morgan MP is in regular and constant communication with the University of Portsmouth over this matter and has vowed to submit a Westminster Hall debate on the topic if the Government Minister refuses to accommodate a meeting.

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Stephen Morgan MP calls to abolish visa fees for Commonwealth servicemen and women

The Portsmouth South MP has joined calls from The Royal British Legion for the Government to abolish visa fees for Commonwealth servicemen and women.

Currently, Commonwealth citizens serving in the UK armed forces have the right to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after four years’ service if they choose to stay in the UK. However, application costs have risen considerably in recent years, meaning it would currently cost almost £10,000 in visa fees for a service leaver to settle in the UK with a spouse and two children.

This has created a situation where Commonwealth citizens are often forced to choose between leaving the UK, a country they have sacrificed a great deal to serve, or remaining here and splitting up their family. The Royal British Legion, which has raised awareness of this issue through their ‘Stop the Service Charge’ campaign, say they have provided £36,000 in grants for visa fees last year alone.

They also coordinated a cross-party letter which called on the Home Secretary to recognise those who have served in the UK armed forces by abolishing visa costs for them and their families. This was signed by more than 130 different MPs from 8 different parties, showing the breadth of feeling on this issue.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

 

“These men and women sign up to join the UK’s Armed Forces putting their life on the line for our country, and the current visa fees charged do not reflect the nations gratitude for their service.

 

Having served the UK, Commonwealth service personnel have the right to apply to stay here without having to pay fees so high that some veterans are being pushed into poverty”

 

Charles Byrne, Director General at The Royal British Legion, said,

 

“Charging exorbitant fees to those who have sacrificed so much to serve our country is no way to thank Commonwealth service leavers. We are pleased so many people agree with our Stop the Service Charge campaign and are joining the call to have these fees waived.  We hope the Government will listen to these serious concerns.”

 

 

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City MP joins tree planting in bid to get to root of climate change

The city MP today joined climate protestors from Extinction Rebellion and environmental consultants, Rising Forests outside parliament as part of a nationwide tree planting scheme.

Stephen Morgan MP accepted a hickory tree from activists and is currently engaging with residents over where best to plant the fledgling plant.

The MP is no stranger to tree planting in his patch and has already planted 100 across Portsmouth South, a joint operation that both paid tribute to suffragettes and combatted local air pollution.

Mr Morgan said:

“Portsmouth faces an air pollution crisis that both the council and Government must do better on.

Trees will play a major role in mitigating against this problem as they absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, reduce temperatures locally and help foster biodiversity.

Portsmouth only has 8% tree coverage which is way below the national average, I am not wasting any time in proactively changing this. I have already shown leadership by planting over 100 locally with many more to come but I welcome the contribution that the council can make to this project.”

Extinction Rebellion alongside other climate activists formulated 1000 British trees in the shape of the British Isles next to Parliament square for MPs and senior bodies to collect and plant in their local areas. Mr Morgan joined them today to discuss strategy and the actions he is taking Portsmouth.

On the scheme, Mr Morgan said:

“Sadly, UK forest coverage is just 10% and we need to see a 200% increase if we are to come in line with our European neighbours, the project run today as part of XR Global Rebellion is tackling this issue head-on.

Recent studies have shown that global tree restoration is our most effective climate change solution to date, and I will continue to support and advocate for this strategy of getting out and planting trees.”

Today’s action by the Portsmouth South MP is mirrored by his party’s policy, Labour plan to plant an ‘NHS forest’ of a million trees at hospitals and firmly support tree planting as one of many solutions in tackling climate change.

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“Almost half of all women sent to prison are now homeless” – City MP vows to tackle female re-offending 

During questions in the House of Commons today, Stephen Morgan MP grilled a Government Minister over the lack of funding set aside for the rehabilitation of female offenders and what this means for homelessness.

The Portsmouth South representative subsequently applied further pressure to the link between the Government’s failure and the rising rate of homelessness amongst female offenders.

Mr Morgan said:

“We know that half of all women sent to prison are now homeless, an increase on the previous few years. I find this utterly shocking.

Reoffending costs the British tax payer £18 billion a year and the current system is clearly failing to get offenders back on their feet, preventing them from contributing to society.

The solution to this problem is to invest in alternatives to ineffective short-term prison sentences that are proven to increase reoffending and also to properly fund women’s centers. I am delighted that both notions are Labour party policy.

Under the current system everyone loses out, victims, offenders and the tax payer. This is counterproductive.”

Members of the Government’s own Advisory Board on Female Offenders have expressed their frustration at the limited funding, stating that at least £20m is required annually for community provision. However, the Government only provided a one-off two-year grant of £5m to fund the strategy.

Alongside, supporting Labour party policy to immediately provide funds to women’s centres, give £20 million to women’s justice campaigners and ruling out unjustified short sentences, Stephen Morgan MP been conducting his own work on this matter.

The Portsmouth South MP is hosting a parliamentary event in November alongside Gethin Jones from Unlocking Potential with senior representatives from the Ministry of Justice, private sector, Non-Government Organisations, and senior prison governors. The event seeks to change the narrative of criminal justice to focus more on rehabilitation and inclusive policy towards offenders.

On this action, Mr Morgan said:

Following discussions with offenders right’s organisation, Unlocking Potential I am delighted that next month I will be hosting an event that will help shift the narrative of criminal justice towards prevention and rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration and indifference.

The current system is failing, and we must work to rectify these inadequacies, I will not be wasting any time in engaging with people from all parties and perspectives so that we can get a criminal justice system that is better for offenders, taxpayers and reduces the number of victims.”

Mr Morgan has committed to continuing his campaign for a better-quality criminal justice system and has expressed that he will continue to urge the Government to match Labour’s commitments.

 

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Ahead of “Challenge Poverty Week”, City MP slams DWP Minister over Government’s ‘abysmal’ record on child hunger

Ahead of “Challenge Poverty Week”, City MP slams DWP Minister over Government’s ‘abysmal’ record on child hunger

During today’s Oral Questions to the Department for Work and Pensions in the House of Commons, Stephen Morgan MP hit out at Government over record highs in child poverty, specifically holiday hunger.

The city MP has cited his recent visit to Dadz Club in Buckland, Portsmouth as inspiration behind today’s action and has expressed thanks to members of the organisation whose discussions helped shape the narrative of his line of questioning.

The MP’s actions come as The Trussell Trust announced that it distributed nearly 600,000 emergency food parcels to children last year and as Government figures show child poverty figures are 500,000 higher than in 2010.

Mr Morgan said:

“To not make any progress in nearly 10 years on reducing child poverty would be an outrage, the fact the Government has actually created a country where child poverty has increased is a testament to their abysmal track record.

Despite the continued government rhetoric that work is the best route out of poverty, 70% of children in poverty now live in working families – up from 67% last year. To allow this problem to escalate shows both that they are not taking this issue seriously and their strategy needs reworking.

It is a shameful stain on our nation’s reputation that the welfare of our children in Portsmouth is being actively ignored by Government and these figures have been allowed to get so out of hand.”

The Portsmouth South representative followed up his initial question on child poverty with a targeted point holding the Minister to account over holiday hunger.

A recent report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger found that children were returning to school in a worse educational, health and developmental state than that in which they had left in the summer. That report found that as many as three million children face the risk of food insecurity in summer holidays.

Child poverty is the one of the most potent drivers of ill health, not just in childhood but throughout life. The fact that absolute child poverty is rising by 300,000, severe child poverty is rising by 200,000 and there are 600,000 more children in severe poverty than five years ago is putting lives at risk.

The city MP said:

“While many children from low-income families are entitled to free school meals during term time, there is currently no provision during holidays.

In Wales, the Assembly Government has taken action to ensure that all local authorities make provision for those at risk of food poverty as part of a national ‘Food and Fun’ programme. Similarly, in London, the Mayor’s Fund has launched a ‘Kitchen Social’ project this year which helps children during the holidays who would be entitled to free school meals.

It is high time that the Government takes notice of the ingenuity and leadership demonstrated by our devolved governments and local authorities and steps up to support vulnerable children. “

When hit with the question on holiday hunger, the Minister tried to shift blame on other Government departments.

This is not the first time Mr Morgan has taken action over child poverty. The city MP backed a Private Members Bill tabled by a colleague and has made previous spirited calls on Government to tackle the child poverty.

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WASPI fight goes on, vows Portsmouth MP

Responding to the judgement from the High Court today over the raising of the state pension age and the impact this had on women born in the 1950s, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This is a terrible blow for the millions of women across our country and the 9,000 women affected in Portsmouth who will have been hoping for a very different outcome today.

The decision to hike the state pension age with next to no notice didn’t just throw their retirement plans up in the air, it also left many women on lower incomes really struggling to make ends meet.

I support the equalisation of the state pension age so that men and women retire at the same age, but believe any changes should be carried out in a fair way. Portsmouth people have told me their concerns over the Government’s decision to speed up the rise in the age for women and how this has affected them. Some are now facing real hardship as a result.

Justice and the state pension that was so cruelly snatched away from so many women remains disappointingly out of reach.

Despite today’s decision women born in the 1950s will not give up their campaign to get back what they are rightly owed and nor will I. Our fight goes on to end this injustice.

Since becoming a City MP, Mr Morgan has been taking action over the Government’s unfair changes to the State Pension Age imposed on women born in the 1950s. 

The Portsmouth South MP has now called a public meeting to hear views of women affected and continue to take action:

The ‘Have your say on pensions fairness’ event is taking place on Saturday 12 October 2019, 12-1.30pm at the John Pounds Centre,23 Queen Street, Portsmouth PO1 3HN. This is a public event for the Portsmouth South constituency with Solent WASPI. To confirm your place visit www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/waspi

Encouraging women affected to attend his public meeting, Stephen Morgan MP added:

“For the sake of my own Mother, and over 9,000 women affected in Portsmouth, I will continue to work hard to end this injustice.

Please come along to this important public meeting, bring a friend and tell a neighbour. Make sure your voice is heard. Together let’s get the Government to finally act”.

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Inspiring Fratton Awards branded success following first ever ceremony

As part of the Fratton Family Festival, Stephen Morgan MP has awarded 11 upstanding members of the community with Inspiring Fratton Awards.

The awards, which were pioneered by the local-born MP and Fratton Big Local, have commended members of the community that have a long-running connection with the ward and who have gone above and beyond to enrich the local area.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“As someone who was born and raised in Fratton, I know that there are certain people in the community who go out of their way to improve their local area.

Despite the fact our communities would not be the same without them, their work often goes without recognition. These awards are about making sure they get the credit they deserve for making our communities brighter.

These are the people that make Fratton not just a place to live, but a place to call home.

While this was the first time the awards have ever been issued, I look forward to continuing to commend local members of the community who are ward-wide ambassadors and make their area a place to be proud of”.

The awards featured a variety of categories ranging from Sport and Art to Best Café and Educational Achievement and seek to showcase a cross-section of skill sets on offer in the area.

Mr Morgan said:

It is integral that the awards match the many ways that people contribute. That is why we have such a comprehensive list of classifications.

By having such a diverse array of categories and age specific commendations, I am confident that Inspiring Fratton Awards give all those who make their ward a bit brighter the opportunity to be recognised.

By having awards for both those above and under 18, we hope to ensure that those who have just started the journey for community improvement are recognised and encouraged.”

The Fratton Traders Association and Fratton Big Local worked together tirelessly to bring music, performance, children’s activities and stalls to the south end of Fratton on Sunday 15 September. 

Following the festivities, the city MP said:

“So many people just drive through Fratton, not realising the community spirit held in the ward. At the Festival they get a chance to stop and relax in the area.

From discovering the diversity of food available to seeing the many skilled barbers and hidden gems like the My Dog Sighs Mural in Cornwall road – the event offers a first-rate experience in Fratton.

Fratton is strengthened by its diversity and the importance of bringing the community together cannot be underestimated.

The fact that this event was successful paves the way for a long tradition of hosting both the festivities and the Inspiring Fratton Awards in the area”

Bob White Chair of Fratton Big Local said:

The commendations given out by Inspiring Fratton Awards to 11 outstanding members of our community, from a diverse mix of ages and skill sets, fits perfectly with the ethos of the Fratton Family Festival.

The festivities are about coming together, pride in our community and fostering a sense of unity. I believe that by commending those who are striving to achieve this, the Inspiring Fratton Awards go a long way in showcasing the depth of talent we are fortunate enough to have.

The success of Fratton Family Festival and the Inspiring Fratton Awards this year sets the tone of future celebrations. Fratton Big Local looks forward to our continued partnership with Stephen Morgan MP and others in seeking out and commending our upstanding community members.”

 

 

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“Fratton is a place to be proud of” says City MP as excitement builds before local festival

As part of the Fratton Family Festival this weekend, Stephen Morgan MP will be awarding upstanding members of the community with Inspiring Fratton Awards. 

The awards, which were pioneered by the local-born MP and Fratton Big Local, will commend members of the community that have a long-running connection with the ward and who have gone above and beyond to enrich the local area.

Mr Morgan said:

“As someone who was born and raised in Fratton, I know that there are certain people in the community who go out of their way to improve their local area.

Despite the fact our communities would not be the same without them, their work often goes without recognition. These awards are about making sure they get the credit they deserve for making our communities brighter.

These are the people that make Fratton not just a place to live, but a place to call home

I urge everyone from Fratton, and the surrounding areas, to head down and get involved. Not every community has what Fratton has, we should celebrate what it has to offer.”

The Fratton Traders Association and Fratton Big Local have worked together tirelessly to bring music, performance, children’s activities and stalls to the south end of Fratton on Sunday 15th September 11.00am – 4.30pm

The event, which features no cars, lots of family fun and this year for the first time the presentation of the Inspiring Fratton Awards by Stephen Morgan MP to 11 local people, is set to be a highly successful event.

Ahead of the festivities, the city MP said:

“So many people just drive through Fratton, not realising the community spirit held in the ward. At the Festival they get a chance to stop and relax in the area.

From discovering the diversity of food available to seeing the many skilled barbers and hidden gems like the My Dog Sighs Mural in Cornwall road – the event offers a first-rate experience in Fratton.

Fratton is strengthened by its diversity and the importance of bringing the community together cannot be underestimated.

I look forward to continuing to working with others in and around Fratton to help foster a sense of unity and pride in our area.”

Bob White Chair of Fratton Big Local said:

“The Fratton Family Festival is now a well-established part of the calendar and is a day for celebrating the life and diversity of the Fratton community.

I enjoy seeing the great cross section of ages, backgrounds and cultures mingling and enjoying the music and activities together. This year we are delighted to be presenting our first ever ‘Inspiring Fratton Awards’ to recognise those in our community who have contributed to our life together.”

Big Local is being delivered by Local Trust and a range of partners. The event seeks to bring together local talent, community members, residents and ambitious individuals with the view of making the community an even better place to live.

Big Local puts residents in 150 areas across England in the driving seat. Residents in each of these areas are provided with all the support they need to identify their priorities and plan how to invest £1 million over at least the next 10 years.

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“These young activists have shown true Pompey spirit by being the change they want to see in the community” – City MP joins young people at LifeHouse support centre

In support of a set of Southsea schoolchildren doing their best to improve their local community, Stephen Morgan MP has visited LifeHouse on Albert Road. 

The three children, Eva, Marley and Ava, all aged 11, have spent time preparing care packages for service users at the facility and were joined by the city MP while meeting those at LifeHouse.

Mr Morgan said:

“One of the things that I am most proud about the city I grew up in is the sense of community and pride in Portsmouth. These young activists have exemplified the ethos of our city by being the change they want to see and reaching out to community members who need our support.

LifeHouse does vital work in our community by providing a resource, support centre and kitchen for those who need it and I am grateful to young people Eva, Ava and Marley for showing such initiative and support for the organisation.”

The schoolchildren, who all attend schools in Southsea, have for some time been thinking about how to do their bit for the local community and cited their distress at seeing local Portsmouth people in need as the motivation for their activism.

Mr Morgan said:

“At a time when there are double the number of rough sleepers than there were in 2010 and 2017 saw a 15% rise on the previous year – community-based initiatives are integral to supporting the members of our community that need it.

These young people are doing their bit in Portsmouth, but it is up to the Government to address these major societal inequalities.

That is why I will continue to lobby the Government to ensure that local authorities receive the funding they need to provide vital services and to highlight their services failings when it comes to community support.”

Eva said:

“Just because someone is homeless doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings. Anyone could become homeless for any reason. We don’t need to be negative and judge people because of what they look like”

Ava said:

“I think there are a lot of homeless people here in Portsmouth and not everyone pays attention to them.”

Marley added:

“We want to raise awareness and encourage other people to help. Even though we are children doesn’t mean we don’t have a voice and don’t have anything to say.”

 

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“Holistic, comprehensive support for our veterans is vital – We should settle for nothing less” – City MP speaks out after visit to veterans charity 

Stephen Morgan MP has put recess time to good use and spent a day with forces charity Blind Veterans UK, a Brighton based organisation that seeks to provide holistic care and support for veterans who have suffered blindness.

The visit allowed Mr Morgan meet with veterans, or members as charity sees them, to observe first-hand the ground-breaking technology being trialled and hear feedback on the research being conducted at the centre.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The work being conducted at Blind Veterans UK is truly remarkable. It only takes a conversation with one of the many members of the charity to hear how it has touched the lives of not just them, but their families.

Organisations such as this are essential because they provide a well-rounded, comprehensive level of support. From tackling social-isolation through group-based sports activities, to providing vital skills through educational services – the centres capabilities are impressive.”

The Portsmouth South representative’s visit culminated in a demonstration of the driverless cars being tested at the facility, paving the way for potentially changing the game when it comes ensuring blind veterans remain independent.

The visit also included discussions with the centres resident doctor about the highly-advanced research being conducted at the centre, and interactive demonstrations of the way Virtual Reality is being used to support charity members.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The level of care provided to our ex-armed forces community by the Government does not go far enough, organisations such as Blind Veterans UK are pioneers when it comes to what can be achieved.

Well-being, education, fitness, medical care and support are all provided. We should strive to replicate this when it comes to how veterans are treated across the board.

For some time now, I have been calling on the Government to do more when it comes to tailored, bespoke services for our forces community. Spending time with the members at this organisation is a testament to how and why this should be achieved. “

Mr Morgan’s visit formed part of his long-running strategy for improving life for veterans. He has made repeated calls for veteran suicide to be recorded, written to the Government asking for further rights such as railcards to be extended to veterans, met with The British Legion, hosted Westminster Hall debates on veteran welfare and regularly meets local organisations such as all call signs.

City MP, Stephen Morgan said:

“Growing up in Portsmouth and having a grandfather who crossed the channel on D-Day makes it difficult to miss the immense efforts of our armed forces community.

My aim is simple, improve the services offered to ex-service and serving personnel so that the system is worthy of the men and women who use it.

Visits like this are integral to this process, if we can observe the challenges and successes faced by organisations such as Blind Veterans UK, we can use this a blueprint for change. I look forward to continuing to raise the issue of the wellbeing of our armed forces in Parliament and ensuring their voice is heard.”