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“The closure of Lynx House will be a disaster for Portsmouth” – City MP grills Government over implications of HMRC closures under no-deal

Today, during questions in the House of Commons, Stephen Morgan MP continued to apply pressure to Government over the proposed plans to close the HMRC centre, Lynx House in Portsmouth.

Mr Morgan’s chief concern raised today was that if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal, the HMRC workload is set to increase from 55 million customs declarations to 270 million according the National Audit Office.

Mr Morgan said:

“The fact that Government is planning to shut Lynx House, which provides vital employment to nearly 1000 members of the community, at a time when the HMRC workload is set to increase by nearly five times demonstrates their poor foresight and lack of planning.

A no-deal Brexit will be disastrous for Portsmouth and this nation anyway, the added implications of Government cuts to HMRC and staffing and resource levels down 17 per cent since 2010, is a recipe for disaster”.

Mr Morgan has been fighting alongside the trade unions to retain Lynx House since becoming MP in 2017 and has already brought the Shadow Treasury Minister responsible to the site to see for herself the issues faced by staff as part of a long-running campaign against closure.

Mr Morgan said:

“Anyone who watches the International Trade Secretary’s response to my serious question about Portsmouth will see that it is both vague and lacking in substance. No robust plans are offered in response to how HMRC will deal with the increased workload and I am deeply concerned that adequate planning is not taking place.

Portsmouth needs urgent action from this Government. That is why I have written to the Chief Secretary in a bid to get the Government to take notice of the people at the coal-face raising alarms about HMRC closures at Lynx House.

I have urged the Chief Secretary to rapidly respond by paying a visit to Portsmouth and to see for himself the issues faced here.”

Stephen Morgan MP has so far met with local HMRC staff, spoken with the unions, raised the issue in parliament, supported council motions and brought frontbench colleagues to visit the site and written to the Minister responsible.

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Responding to the DfT announcement of £400,000 for Portsmouth International Port today, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Whilst today’s announcement is long-overdue, and helps provide much needed support for Portsmouth International Port at this time of huge uncertainty, the allocation is a mere drop in the ocean for the challenges that the city will face under a no-deal Brexit.

With no-deal preparations costing the nation £170,000 per hour, that’s money better spent on our city’s schools and hospitals.

The city council has said relations with the Department of Transport had been ‘highly problematical’. We had high hopes the Transport Secretary had listened to Portsmouth when he finally visited the Port last week to hear how the council and its partners had been spending taxpayer’s money preparing for a no-deal Brexit and trying to avoid traffic chaos and congestion in our city. It now seems this may not be the case.

I’ll keep lobbying for Portsmouth to push this Government to invest in our city. The port’s success is our city’s success. Our economy and the public services we all rely on depend on it”.

It has been confirmed that £400,000 has been allocated towards a gate camera and vehicle booking system for Portsmouth. The Port was hoping for double that amount of funding and may need to find other ways to meet the shortfall.

 

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“It rests on all of our shoulders to speak up for Portsmouth Port” – City MP joins Port representatives in Westminster 

Stephen Morgan MP has joined local representatives from Portsmouth in a bid to promote the interests of one of the city’s most valued assets – Portsmouth International Port.

The local-born MP met with key figures at the event in Westminster and where discussions took place about value of the port for the city’s economy, importance of keeping it at the forefront of the Government agenda and the positive effect it has on local services as well as highlighting no-deal concerns.

Mr Morgan said:

“Portsmouth international Port is a vital employer, an essential financial asset to our local economy and a gateway where products needed by our nation first land in the UK.

But it also so much more. It is part of our identity and the namesake of our city.

From 2017-18, the Port’s total gross value-added contribution to the local economy is nearly £190 million and for every £1 million the Port contributed in the region, this generated another £400,000”.

Following the event, Mr Morgan stressed the need to adequately fund the port at this time of uncertainty and the need for the Government to take heed of warnings in the case of a ‘catastrophic’ no-deal.

Mr Morgan said:

“No-deal would be utterly catastrophic for Portsmouth and the Government has done nowhere near enough when it comes to offering support to the Port.

No-deal likely to turn our city into a congested lorry park and could see supermarket shelves in the Channel Islands stripped bear of fresh produce in just days.

No-deal preparations are costing the city council around £4 m and no indication of how and when this funding will be reimbursed has been offered by the Government.

That is why I have written countless letters to the Department for Transport, MHCLG and Brexit Department asking for detailed analysis on no-deal preparations and information about when funding can be allocated.”

The Port, which is owned by Portsmouth City Council, brings in finances which are then used to fund vital local services. Something that Mr Morgan praised during his speech.

The city MP said:

“From helping our schools get the resources they need to providing funding for adult social care – the money generated by the Port for council coffers is intrinsic to our community’s wellbeing.

At a time when local authorities have lost 60 pence out of every pound they previously received from Government – these funds could not be more integral to the running of our city.”

Experts have warned that municipal ports such as the one in Portsmouth have not received the correct levels of funding and planning due to problems with Government calculations. This has given rise to claims that ports such as Dover are receiving disproportionate amounts of government attention. 

In relation to municipal Ports, Mr Morgan said:

“In 2017, the Port handled a staggering 3.9 million tonnes of goods, making it the 25th largest UK port in terms of cargo volume. Solidifying our city on the map as a regional power house and a formidable trading post.

As it stands, we see a conversation saturated by talks about Dover, while these talks are essential, we must all work together to ensure that Portsmouth International Port and others have their voice heard.

So far I have written to three Government departments countless times to raise this point and I will ensure that I continue to act as a voice for the city’s Port in Parliament.”