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Emergency action needed to protect renters say Labour

The official opposition are today setting out a five-point emergency action plan to prevent people from being forced from their homes as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Current measures set out by the Government in the Coronavirus Act fall well short of adequately protecting people from homelessness when they cannot pay their rent. Shelter reports an estimated 1.7 million people living in rented accommodation expect to lose their jobs in the next three months due to the coronavirus crisis.

Most people in rented accommodation have no savings and when the current freeze on evictions expires in June, an estimated 2.6 million people are likely to be in rent arrears, according to Citizens Advice.

Labour’s measures would use temporary legislation to protect people from bankruptcy and homelessness due to rent arrears, providing the kind of protection to people living in rented homes that is already in place for commercial tenants and owner-occupiers.

Labour’s five-point plan to protect people from eviction:

  1. Extend the temporary ban on evictions for six months or however long is needed to implement the legal changes below.
  2. Give residential tenants the same protections as commercial tenants, by protecting them from being made bankrupt by their landlords for non-payment of rent.
  3. Bring forward the government’s proposal to scrap Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and outlaw evictions on the grounds of rent arrears if the arrears were accrued because of hardship caused by the coronavirus crisis.
  4. Once evictions are prevented, grant renters at least two years to pay back any arrears accrued during this period.
  5. Speed up and improve the provision of Universal Credit, as Labour recently called for, and consider a temporary increase to the Local Housing Allowance to help prevent risk of homelessness.

Responding to the plan, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

Labour wants to make sure people are not made homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of the coronavirus.

That is why we have urged the government to make temporary changes to the Universal Credit system which would help more people, and to the system of government assistance under the furlough and self-employed support schemes and we want them to make further temporary changes to the laws on eviction to protect people who struggle with rent.

The five point plan announced today, if adopted by Government, will help protect Portsmouth people during this time of crisis”.

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, added:

“Current protections for people renting their homes are woefully inadequate. Unless the Government acts now, many thousands of tenants will be at risk of losing their homes.

The Government has paused evictions for three months and answered Labour’s call to increase the Local Housing Allowance. Both are welcome, but do not go far enough. It will take time for people to recover from this crisis and they need all the support we can give them to prevent what would be an unprecedented and devastating spike in homelessness.

In the long term we need to fix the housing crisis – with stronger rent regulations and much more affordable and social housing – so that everyone has a home that is safe, secure, environmentally sustainable, and that they can afford to live in. What we need right now is an emergency package to set us on that path.

Every Thursday we clap for key workers but many of them live in homes that are overcrowded, unsafe or expensive. When we emerge from this public health crisis, we cannot go back to business as usual.”

 

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City MP encourages Portsmouth’s small business community to engage with government’s Covid-19 support packages  

With the city council processing 82% of all business grant applications there is concern that over 1,000 businesses are yet to apply for support during the coronavirus crisis

As a result, city MP Stephen Morgan is backing calls by the council to encourage businesses to check if they are eligible for the support in this way.

The Portsmouth South representative said:

“It is vitally important that the coronavirus economic schemes are effective so that we can protect people’s incomes, jobs and businesses and prevent a deeper and longer-lasting recession. That is why I have been working constructively with Ministers to ensure the best possible package to protect businesses in Portsmouth.

The Government has announced two schemes to provide grants to small businesses, these are the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.

These grants are being provided via local authorities such as Portsmouth City Council who are liaising with businesses eligible to administer the funds.

Small businesses in Portsmouth can be supported through this crisis and can be offered hope and a future for themselves, their families and their staff. I urge any city business who have not looked at these grant opportunities to do so”.

£20m has so far been paid out to Portsmouth’s businesses according to the city council, who are administering the local grants scheme.  

The city MP has vowed to continue the pressure on the Government to close any gaps in support and will be lobbying the Chancellor again this week on behalf of businesses in Portsmouth.

For more information about business support from the city council call 023 9284 1641 or for details of how to apply visit www.portsmouth.gov.uk/businessfunding

 

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Covid-19: City MP continues stand up for Portsmouth’s self-employed

As a direct response to the Chancellor’s statement made on 26 March, Stephen Morgan MP has lobbied the Government again over protections for all of Portsmouth’s self-employed as gaps in the proposals announced last night emerge.

While the Portsmouth South representative has welcomed steps made by government to provide support to this group, he has vowed to scrutinise the detail to help the self-employed in the city.

Listening to further concerns expressed by constituents he has this evening lobbied the Chancellor for further improvements to the package of support being proposed.

Self-employed people in the city have already shared issues over the impact that lengthy waiting times for financial aid will have, the lack of coverage for the newly self-employed and overall lack of detail of the proposals.

In relation to when payments will be made, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Chancellor’s statement announced yesterday was a step in the right direction and did cover some of the requests that I put to him last week. However, there are measures that still need to be taken.

News that self-employed people will have to wait until June before seeing any financial respite is deeply concerning. Frankly, it will be too little too late for many and could force some into continuing to work, which could have dangerous implications for the spread of Covid-19.

I have asked the Government to urgently reconsider this decision and pay these hard-working people promptly. They are a crucial part of Portsmouth’s economy; if we are all in this together we cannot afford for some to go under.”

The Chancellor yesterday announced that tax returns from the 2019 financial year would be used to project earnings covered under the scheme. This means that those who recently transitioned to self-employed status will miss out and have to claim Universal Credit.

On more encompassing support, Mr Morgan said:

“Constituents are increasingly contacting me to exemplify the gaps in the Chancellor’s proposals. One constituent has made me aware that he became a sole trader during the 2018-2019 tax year. He transitioned from a PAYE employee to self-employed towards the end of that tax year, and therefore the 2019 tax assessment is not an accurate indication of his earnings.

He will be left heavily out of pocket under the government’s current proposals. I have therefore requested that the potential option of using April 2020 tax returns is explored so that a fairer, more accurate package of support can be offered.

Comprehensive support must be offered to all, not a select few. We cannot leave people behind at this time of emergency.”

The city MP has vowed to continue relaying constituents concerns to the highest level in a bid to ensure ‘nobody is left behind’ and assist  the Government in securing comparable support for the self-employed.

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“The devil will be in the detail” says City MP over proposed support for self-employed

Responding to the Chancellor’s much-anticipated support package for the self-employed announced tonight, Portsmouth South’s MP Stephen Morgan has vowed to keep a ‘close eye on the details’ of the proposals as concerns are raised by constituents.

The MP has previously said it would be ‘perverse’ to leave out the self-employed from Government support being put in place to help those whose livelihoods are increasingly disrupted by the events of recent weeks. Hundreds have shared views with the Portsmouth South MP who has been taking their case to HM Treasury.

With as many as 7,100 self-employed people in the constituency facing uncertainty, progress in finding a solution was cautiously welcomed this evening by the city MP who has vowed to continue to scrutinise the detail.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Research by the IFS has shown that the pockets of the self-employed have been hit hard as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s why I’ve been calling for proper protection for Portsmouth’s self-employed. Taking action, I’ve been listening to local concerns and lobbying the Government, joining calls from the Federation of Small Business for action, and writing an urgent letter to the Chancellor directly.

After days of delay and uncertainty, the Government’s new measures announced tonight can be cautiously welcomed”.

Specifically, on the proposals announced by the Government this evening, the Portsmouth South representative added:

“While I am relieved that the Chancellor is listening, as always with big announcements by this Government, the devil will be in the detail.

Asking people to rely on Universal Credit when more than 130,000 people are queuing online will be worrying to many people. There is a real risk that without support until a few months’ time, the self-employed will feel they have to keep working, putting their own and others’ health at risk.

My concern is that if people cannot get access to the protection scheme until June, it will simply be too late for millions. People need support in the coming days and over the next fortnight. Our city’s self-employed need security now, it is not feasible to wait until June.

Tonight’s announcement deserves robust scrutiny to ensure they are up to the mark. I will continue to keep a close eye on the detail of these proposals from HM Treasury to make sure the self-employed in Portsmouth have comparable protections during this economic crisis”.

The MP has vowed to continue to work constructively with Government, and lobbying Ministers for action, to protect Portsmouth people and to ensure the best possible response to the coronavirus crisis.

If any self-employed people or small business requires help, support is available from the FSB at www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19

Information about the government’s support can be found at www.businesssupport.gov.uk

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Chancellor must go further and protect self-employed

Responding to new measures announced by the Chancellor to deal with the coronavirus and economic crisis, Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, is calling on the Government to go further as 7,100 self-employed people in the constituency face uncertainty, and protect councils and charities on the frontline.

Following the statement made by the Chancellor last night, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“After much lobbying, the Government has finally shifted direction. I welcome a number of the measures the Chancellor is now making to help protect people during this public health emergency and economic crisis.

The Chancellor keeps saying he would ‘do whatever it takes’. To show these aren’t just empty words, he can and should go further.

That means giving security for people who are self-employed and it means easing the strain on councils and charities who are on the front line of defence in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

It would be perverse to leave the self-employed out of the new support being put in place to help those whose livelihoods are increasing disrupted by the events of recent weeks.

I will continue to work constructively with Government, and lobbying Ministers for action, to protect Portsmouth people and to ensure the best possible response to the coronavirus crisis”.

The self-employed already lack all of the legal protections of redundancy and other rights already in place to help protect employees, including those they employ themselves, from a sudden lack of income.

The self-employed are also the most likely section of the workforce to suffer from a disability or health condition.

If any self-employed or small businesses in the constituency is looking for help, support is available from the FSB at www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.

 

 

 

 

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Portsmouth MP backs Bill to reduce cost of school uniform

A proposed new law that will reduce the cost of school uniforms for hard-pressed families has won the backing of Stephen Morgan MP.

The MP for Portsmouth South has pledged his support for the Bill, introduced by fellow Labour MP Mike Amesbury, that would aim to strengthen existing guidance encouraging schools to keep down costs.

The Bill is gaining cross-party support and has won the backing of the government.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“According to research by the Children’s Society, families are spending an average of around £337 per year on uniform for each child at secondary school, while parents of primary school children spent £315 on average.

This is having a hugely detrimental impact on many of my constituents and I really hope that we can get this bill passed into law and alleviate what has become a financial burden for so many families.”

Mike Amesbury MP added:

“I’m delighted to receive the support of Stephen Morgan MP.

His backing is crucial if this bill is to become law and I firmly believe it will have a hugely beneficial impact not only to those people in both of our constituencies, but to families right across the country too.”

Mr Morgan was present in the House of Commons today as the bill had its second reading. It now must gain the support of MPs if it is to become law.

The Bill is progressing as the Children’s Society today launched the latest in their ‘The Wrong Blazer’  series of reports, making the case for action to tackle the cost of school uniform.  The organisation supports the Bill.

The Portsmouth South MP added:

“School is a place where young people should be able to aim high, work hard and achieve. They should be able to pursue their goals free from any additional pressure around uniform.

I know many Portsmouth families work relentlessly to support their children in their academic endeavours but when 1 in 8 families get into debt trying to keep up with uniform costs, change needs to happen.

I will continue to support legislation that works to this end.”

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Guidance on Coronavirus

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.

Stephen Morgan MP has taken action to support constituents by asking government questions in parliament, meeting with Portsmouth Hospital Trusts Chief Executive and attending statements and meetings in parliament to ensure public services are prepared.

How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus

Do

  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds

  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work

  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available

  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze

  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterward

  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

Don’t

  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, call 111.

You can see what Portsmouth City Council has said here:  https://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/ext/news/coronavirus-covid-19

Government recently moved from the ‘containment’ to the ‘delay’ phase. You can find out more about this here: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

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After a ‘decade of decline’ Budget brings more disappointment for Portsmouth people

Today (Wednesday 11 March 2020) the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered this Government’s first Budget. Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has slammed the Government’s budget for not ensuring an end to austerity and no real investment for the city.

Mr Morgan unpicked the Chancellor’s fiscal plans and called out the fact Portsmouth and the South East continue to be neglected with no robust plans to redress the inequality caused by Tory austerity.

Mr Morgan said:

“Over the last ten years we have seen a decade of decline. Cuts to public services we all rely on as we pay more, but get less, and infrastructure holding our city and our region back.

In today’s budget I know Portsmouth people were hoping for real investment for the city and an end to austerity.

Instead we saw a political panto in the House of Commons, with soundbites with no serious consideration of the challenges our city faces.

We now risk another five more years of more disappointment for Portsmouth”.

The IFS have said that cuts to funding from the government have led to a 17% fall in councils spending on local services since 2010. This has pushed local government to become reliant on local taxes for revenues, in particular council tax.

The Government’s financial plans also received heavy criticism on their failure to address national issues. No real solutions have been put forward to address the climate crisis through infrastructure projects, austerity has not ended and the NHS is creaking ahead of a potential coronavirus strain.

On the national picture, Mr Morgan said:

“In recent weeks, Government has utterly failed to provide leadership in response to storms, flooding, and the coronavirus outbreak.

Is this the budget that will combat issues of international significance such as Coronavirus, the Social Emergency, and Climate Change?  Regrettably there is no evidence to suggest it will.

It seems yet again Mr Johnson has delivered on nothing but empty promises and left the people of Britain to deal with the consequences.

The city MP has long been lobbying for a fairer funding formula for Hampshire Constabulary, calling out government cuts to city schools, championing the need for proper investment in Portsmouth Naval Base, calling for a solution to the social care crisis and the need for the black hole in Ministry of Defence funding to be addressed. The Budget today made no effort to combat these issues.

 

 

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Stephen Morgan backs positive plan for small business

Stephen Morgan has backed his party’s small business pledge which seeks to support local organisations through Green investment, upgrading essential infrastructure, reforming the business rates system and stamping out late payments.

This commitment comes as Labour launches 20 pledges to help small businesses and rejuvenate Britain’s high streets. The Federation of Small Businesses has said that “the business support landscape is complex, with a patchwork of public and private sector initiatives at both local and national levels” which Labour has sought to address with the pledges.

Stephen Morgan said:

“We need a Government that both invests in small business and works to foster an environment that encourages their success

Unfortunately, in recent times we have seen periodic hikes in business rates that can make life impossible for SMEs, and there has been made no serious attempt to stop big business making late payments to smaller enterprises – which we know can fatally undermine a struggling company.

Labour is the true party of small business. This is Labour’s plan to end that unfairness, and level the business playing field in Portsmouth South and across the country. That’s real change for small businesses.”

• £19 billion investment for Labour’s Green Transformation Fund
• Upgrade the region’s infrastructure by connecting 3.9 million households and businesses to full-fibre Broadband including and South Coast rail capacity improvements
• 393 Post Banks in the South East providing face-to-face, relationship banking,
• Stamp out late payments
• Scrap quarterly reporting for the smallest businesses
• Fundamentally reform business rates

Stephen Morgan has a record of delivery when it comes to standing up for small business. He has created a support local campaign, worked closely with others over the crisis on our high streets, hosted roundtable action meetings with other SMEs, created local awards for business, backed Labour’s 5 point plan for the highstreets and regularly meets with business leaders.

Additional pledges in the 20-point plan include:

· A £250 billion UK National Investment Bank and network of Regional and National Development Banks to give small businesses and the industries of the future the funding they need.

· Stamping out late payments that hit smaller businesses.

· Providing free full fibre broadband to every business premises.

· Giving SMEs access to funding for training raised through the Apprenticeship Levy.

·Scraping quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of under £85,000.

· Using government procurement to support SMEs and economic growth.

· Fundamentally reforming the outdated business rates system, including switching to annual valuations.

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City MP and University of Portsmouth continue actions over Stanhope House crisis

In his latest in a series of actions to assist students affected by the accommodation crisis at Stanhope House, working alongside the university the city MP is demanding more answers from Prime Student Living (PSL), the provider in question.

Today’s letter follows a string of actions taken by the MP with local ward councillor Cal Corkery, student campaigners and in consultation with the vice-chancellor of the university.  So far including demanding an urgent meeting with the Government Minister responsible, hitting out at PSL, speaking with students affected, meeting with the university and visiting the site to see the problem first hand.

On his latest action Mr Morgan said:

“While dealing with the provider in question directly is just one of many ways to address this issue, I hope that the stern letter sent to PSL asking them to outline responses to my concerns will shed light on what the provider is doing to assist students affected.

PSL have in some instances been vague about certain aspects of their response to the situation, including reimbursement mechanisms, transparency about when they knew the project would not be finished and what support was offered, if any, to the 54 students who had their contracts torn up.

I will not leave any stone left un-turned when it comes to students’ academic futures, the Portsmouth community and the tax payers’ purse.”

Mr Morgan has advocated for an encompassing approach to this issue and has suggested that the problem lies with a regulatory gap that falls short when dealing with the private sector.

This is an issue he is addressing in Parliament after submitting a series of written questions and writing to the minister by urging Government to act and close the gap.

The Portsmouth South representative said:

“While individual private accommodation providers are at the surface level of the problem, this issue is much bigger.

The problem is this. The Office for Students (OfS) regulates universities but has no regulatory power over private student accommodation providers. There is a clear gap that needs closing.

A similar, albeit less severe, problem occurred last year with Crown Place and my information is that there are over 20 similar problems around the country this year.  We need to do more to protect students.

So far, I have spoken with students affected, met with the university, written to the regulator, corresponded multiple times with PSL, written to the relevant Minister and raised the issue through parliamentary questions. I will continue to take action until a solution is found to the wider problem.”

Mr Morgan’s letter today is in response to a letter sent to the MP on 4 October 2019 and was written with the support of the University of Portsmouth.