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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.

 

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Rallying cries of ‘’the fight will go on” resonate from standing room only WASPI event hosted by city MP

Stephen Morgan MP has hosted a heavily oversubscribed event in Portsmouth offering a platform for discussion to women affected by state pension inequality.

The greatly successful event came in the wake of news that the High Court would not rule in favour of WASPI women and consisted of the MP’s renewed declaration of support for the cause, an open discussion and a Q&A session.

Mr Morgan said:

The resilience and determination demonstrated by WASPI women is an inspiration to grass roots movements across the nation.

The high attendance, passionate discussion and innovative ideas coming from the event that I was proud to host on Saturday is a testament to the fight left in this movement.

I consider it a privilege to have hosted numerous events and parliamentary activities alongside WASPI women and will continue to work shoulder to shoulder with members until we see a positive solution to this injustice.

Some women have been forced into homelessness and destitution, others have lost up to £47,000. They have all been grossly mistreated by Government and I will continue to act as a strong voice for them in Parliament.”

The event allowed WASPI women direct access to their MP and subsequently resulted in Mr Morgan taking a number of immediate actions.

One action that arose was that many women had written to the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) to complain about the issue, however, they had been told they must wait for the High Court ruling before getting a response. Many of the women are still awaiting feedback.

In response to this, Mr Morgan has written out to the PHSO urging swift response and requesting a time frame for response.

In his letter, the Mr Morgan wrote:

Now that the High Court has ruled their decision, I am writing to request a date by which women affected by these state pension changes will receive a response to their letters of complaint. Please, could you (PHSO) provide this information as a matter of urgency?”

Other actions taken by the MP following the open consultation include lobbying his frontbench Labour colleagues to include clear manifesto pledges in favour of WASPI women.

Mr Morgan’s support for the WASPI cause predate his premiership as an MP and over the years has seen him speak at events, host members in parliament, meet people affected in Portsmouth and submit written questions to the Minister responsible. Mr Morgan is set to host WASPI women again on Wednesday 16 October. 

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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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“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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“A stain on our society” City MP brands new figures showing 80% rise in homeless children

New national analysis on the number of children in temporary accommodation has highlighted the complete failure of the Tory Government to deal with this important issue despite the Conservatives saying their success will be judged by how ‘we care for the weakest and most vulnerable at home.’

Figures buried in the website of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that since the Tories took office the number of children in temporary accommodation accepted by local authorities has increased by 80%.

The latest figures also reveal that the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by 74% from 2010 to 2018.

City MP Stephen Morgan has contacted the Local Authority in a bid to find out exactly how many have been affected in his patch.

Mr Morgan, commenting on these figures, said:

“When this Conservative Government ends, the national shame of rising homelessness will be on its political tombstone.

Homelessness fell at an unprecedented rate under Labour, but under the Tories even more children will be homeless this Christmas.

This is a direct result of Conservative decisions to slash investment for affordable homes, cut back housing benefit, reduce funding for homelessness services, and deny protection to private renters.

I hope the city council shares with me the detailed city-wide data so that we can see the extent of the problem locally and draw up plans to hold the Government to account over their neglect.

The fact that we have homeless children is stain on our society. It must be addressed.”

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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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Portsmouth MP hits out at Government as generation locked out of home ownership

Nearly 900,000 fewer under 45s are owning their own home at a time when more and more are turning to the bank of mum and dad to buy a property, city MP says.

Official government figures analysed by Labour show that in 2009-10 there were 4.46 million under 45s that either owned their own home outright or with a mortgage. In 2017-18 that fell to just 3.59 million. A drop of 870,000 households.

At a time when fewer young people are able to buy a property. More and more households are turning to the bank of mum and dad to help buy a house.

New analysis of the Government’s English Housing Survey shows that in 2010-11, 1.12 million households used a gift, loan or inherited money from family or friends to help finance the purchase of a home. In 2017-18 this rose to 1.78 million households. A rise of 630,000 households.

The failure to build the new homes needed has hit the hopes of local people too. In Portsmouth, there have been 354 homes built on average over the last five years. This compares to 810 in the year before the financial crisis.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This analysis confirms a generation locked out of homeownership over the last decade and shows the scale of Conservative failure on housing. This is affecting Portsmouth people and it is simply not good enough.

The Tories are failing young people on ordinary incomes to realise their dream of homeownership. Five years ago, Conservative ministers promised to build 200,000 ‘starter homes’ but not a single one has been built, while the number of new low-cost homes to buy like shared ownership almost has halved since 2010.

The country needs a new plan to fix the housing crisis, not a new Tory leader. Labour will back first-time buyers with 100,000 discounted FirstBuy Homes, help curb renting costs and give first dibs on new homes for local people.”