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Bringing our high streets back from the brink: announcement welcomed

Welcoming news that Portsmouth has now been shortlisted for the Government’s ‘Future High Streets’ funding, city MP Stephen Morgan, who has long been campaigning for investment in the city’s shopping areas, said:
“I have long argued that the Government needs to do better, and the council do more, to bring our city’s high streets back from the brink. It’s a big issue affecting Portsmouth’s economy and our city’s communities which hundreds of people and local businesses have raised with me.
Last month we saw Knight & Lee say good bye to Portsmouth. With Debenhams closing, smaller stores in our city are also set to go. The area has already seen 1,600 shop closures in recent years affecting hundreds of local jobs.
I raised Portsmouth concerns in Parliament, lobbied senior Ministers and supported the submission of this bid for essential funding. I’m pleased these actions may be starting to pay off.
Today’s news is a step in the right direction, but investment is long overdue. With our city too often forgotten by Government what we need next is reform of the outdated and broken business rates system, and a government-led strategy to bring all our high streets back to the brink”.
A bid developed by council officers for Fratton and Commercial Road shopping areas has been shortlisted with detailed business cases now required by Government.
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Library services stay open despite Tory cuts – Shadow Minister books in visit to Bristol Council

Newly appointed Shadow Communities Minister, Stephen Morgan MP has visited Labour-run Bristol Council to hear about the ground-breaking work they have been conducting to safeguard their libraries.

Guided by Mayor Marvin Rees, the Portsmouth South MP was shown exactly how under Labour leadership the council has been relying on fresh, innovate ideas to overcome national Tory austerity

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Since 2010, under the Tories, nationally some 100 libraries have closed each year. Here in Bristol, Mayor Marvin Rees’ Labour administration have kept every single library open and are investing in the service.

“Labour councils are facing budget cuts from the Government which are three-times worse than those faced by Tory authorities.

As I saw first-hand in Bristol, despite the continuing ideological austerity, Labour-run councils are protecting people’s services.”

Since the Tories came to power, 817 Libraries have been shut or handed to volunteers, leaving 3,660 struggling on as councils try to balance the books.

The latest figures show that more than 100 libraries a year are closing because of government cuts and a quarter of the budget for them has been axed in the past eight years, going from £1billion in 2010 to £741million last year.

Mr Morgan said:

“For some, libraries are a quiet haven to escape to. For others, they are a learning environment that could be the key to unlocking their potential.

From refugees trying to learn English upon arrival to this country to school children reading their first book on their own, the untold value that libraries hold in our communities and plethora of ways they enrich our society are unprecedented.

The vital work being conducted by Labour-led Bristol Council, that I have been fortunate to visit, is an example of local authorities standing in the face of Tory austerity and winning.

The fact that every library has remained open despite these savage cuts means that we must learn best-practice from the dedicated individuals responsible.”

Labour Mayor, Marvin Rees who accompanied the Shadow Minister said:

“I was delighted to welcome Stephen back to our city today, sharing how our Labour council is delivering for Bristol.

Working with local communities, we are proud to have protected each and every one of Bristol’s local libraries – extending opening hours and safeguarding them from central Government cuts.

“This is testament to our hard work to turn around the dire council finances which we inherited, and to our commitment to protecting frontline council services while cutting a million pounds a year out of council senior management.”

The Portsmouth South MP, who returned to his university stomping ground to observe these progressive strides, has expressed a commitment and preference for getting out and meeting people on the front line of service delivery.

In his first month on the frontbenches Mr Morgan has already visited two pioneering Labour councils, setting the precedent for an active time in office.

Commenting further on his visit, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“It’s great to be in Bristol – a city that is thinking big about the challenges it faces. In Marvin and his team the city has strong local leadership and an ambitious plan for the future.

After nearly ten years of Tory austerity, £5.9 billion being stripped from local government by 2020, it’s good to see how despite challenging circumstances and inheriting a huge budget deficit, the Labour Mayor and Labour Council are delivering for Bristol’s communities and proactively working with others to create a fair, healthy and sustainable city.

Bristol is a special place for me, the city where I was the first in my family to go to university. It’s been really inspiring to see how through the One City Plan, Bristol is encouraging young people from often forgotten communities to aim high and give them the helping hand to achieve”.

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Hundreds flock to City MP’s bus bolstering local roadshow

Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, has held a public consultation alongside First Bus for Portsmouth residents so that community members share their views. The event comes at a time when across the country people voice concerns over dwindling routes, soaring fares and reduced access.

The roadshow, which took place on Commercial Road, involved a static bus where residents could meet with the Portsmouth South representative and senior members of the First Bus team and saw people attend in their hundreds.

Mr Morgan said:

“Bus services are a vital lifeline for many within our community here in Portsmouth. Whether it is helping elderly people visit friends and family or providing those who live with a disability with independence – buses play a crucial role in connecting communities and fending off social isolation and loneliness.

This roadshow gave the people who use the services a platform to speak on the matters that concern them and ensured their voice is heard. As someone who does not drive and uses either buses or bicycle to get around our city, I know how important this is.”

Mr Morgan’s action on bus access comes at a time when the sector is under strain. Across the country over 3,000 bus routes have been cut or withdrawn while fares have risen at over twice the rate of wages, hitting the poorest hardest and particularly affecting the young, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The local MP said:

“This event was as useful to me as it was for my fellow community members. Not only did it provide them with the means to relay feedback, it has produced vital information on the key themes affecting local residents with regard to buses.

I am committed to ensuring that this feedback is utilised by First Bus and is taken back to Westminster where it will feed into correspondence with the Department for Transport and help influence my work as Shadow Communities Minister.

Portsmouth has seen 17% less bus journeys in the space of just one year making it the second worst affected city in the UK. I am a firm believer in getting out and speaking to people, that is the best way to address a community issue.”

At a time when the Conservatives have seen 3,000 routes cut, Labour has expressed a will to subsidise non-profitable but socially important bus routes, simplify ticketing options and make all bus travel free for under 25s.

Mr Morgan said:

“Our city has an issue with air quality, congestion and environmental degradation. Sustainable travel offers a viable solution to these problems.

I am committed to ensuring that access to buses for Portsmouth peoples remains high on the Labour agenda both in our city and in Parliament.”

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City MP hosts event in bid to boost bus usage

Stephen Morgan MP, alongside one of Britain’s largest bus operators First Bus, are hosting a roadshow to take place on the 20 August on Commercial Road, Portsmouth.

The event, which will take place on board a static bus, will provide constituents with the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns on the current state of bus access and reliability in the city.

The Shadow Communities Minister and city MP will be joined by senior members of staff from First Bus to take on board feedback and to share ideas on improvements.

Stephen Morgan MP said:
“Greater use of public transport reduces congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. Buses are crucial to the economic prosperity and social wellbeing of cities like Portsmouth and are a lifeline for our city’s communities.
I know from my discussions with people on the doorstep and through chatting to my family and friends in the area, there is room for improvement in our great city. This event is an opportunity for Portsmouth people to have their say on what works, what needs to be improved and what changes would make a difference to their everyday life. I want to hear from you.”
The consultation will take place on board a static First Bus on Tuesday 20 August, by the fountain in Commercial Road from 10:00 until 12:00.

The company often talks to the public about its services, but this event brings a new dimension with the Portsmouth South representative hosting.

The event follows the city MP writing out to hundreds of local people who may use buses to get round Portsmouth to hear their views on current services and to help identify areas of improvement.

He added:
“The sheer numbers of people who contact me about bus related issues indicate that this will be a well-attended event. I look forward to seeing many familiar and new faces on 20 August and to hearing ideas on how their can be better, easier and more widespread bus usage”.
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Power to revive Portsmouth’s high streets welcomed

Today Labour has set out new plans to give councils the power to reopen abandoned shops to “revive Britain’s struggling high streets.” The plan has been backed by Shadow Communities Minister and Portsmouth MP Stephen Morgan.

The policy comes as latest figures show that over 10% of town centre shops are empty.

Under Labour’s proposals, Local Authorities will be able to turn “the blight of empty shops into the heart of the high street” by giving them over to start-ups, co-operative businesses and community projects.

Labour’s plans, which would apply to property left vacant for 12 months, would rejuvenate Britain’s high streets by bringing back into use some of the estimated 29,000 physical retail units which have been abandoned for more than 12 months.

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Gwynne MP, said:

“Under this Government, our high streets have suffered a retail apocalypse. High street closures are at a historic high, leaving too many of our once thriving towns abandoned and awash with boarded up shop fronts.

Labour’s radical plan will turn around the mess that the Tories have created and will give local authorities the power to make our high streets the pride of our communities that they once were.”

New Shadow Communities Minister, city MP Stephen Morgan, added:

“I have long argued that the Government needs to do better to bring our high streets back from the brink, but sadly, their record is one of failure. Thankfully Labour is showing leadership and taking action.

This is a positive step in the right direction – and welcome news for communities across the nation that are too often forgotten”.

Commenting on the impact of inaction by Government on Portsmouth, the city MP added:

“Hampshire alone has lost over 1,600 shops in recent years, and with that, hundreds of local jobs.

I have been raising the issue of our city’s declining high streets in the House of Commons, hosting a roundtable with businesses to find solutions, calling for business rate reform, submitting parliamentary questions and writing to the City Council Leader.

The Government must  invest time, effort and resources to finally sort this pressing issue in Portsmouth once and for all”.

Locally Portsmouth Labour proposed a £2.5m rescue package to rebuild the city’s communities and help bring back our high streets from the brink in February’s council budget meeting.

The positive plan for the city would help rescue the city’s shopping areas with dedicated support and resources, alongside a better integrated transport network. Sadly the Tories and Lib Dems voted down the plans.

Today’s announcement builds on Labour’s five point plan for Britain’s high streets, which includes a register of landlords of empty properties.

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City MP asks are you Portsmouth’s Best Small Shop?

Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, is calling on Portsmouth’s small shopkeepers to enter the Best Small Shops competition, celebrating the creativity of small shops and the central role they play in their local community.

The Best Small Shops Competition is open to any small shop operating in the UK. The competition is free to enter and all shops who enter will also be promoted to consumers through an online Indie Retail Directory.

Shopkeepers can nominate their businesses until Monday 9 September via www.bestsmallshops.co.uk. A shortlist of 25 of the most impressive applications will be shortlisted by a panel made up of established representatives from the independent retail industry.

The judges will be looking for evidence of a small shops’ entrepreneurial spirit, ways that they have been innovative in their business and what they have done to have a lasting positive impact on their community.

The shortlisted small shops will be invited to a Parliamentary Reception in November to meet their Member of Parliament and find out who will be crowned the Best Small Shop for 2019.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Small and independent shops are such an important part of our communities, both in Portsmouth and across the country.

That’s why, shortly after being elected as MP, I set up the ‘Support Local’ campaign to raise the profile of the value of small business to Portsmouth’s economy. For every £1 spent in a local shop or business, 63p goes back into the city’s economy.

I’m assured that at a time when our high streets are on the brink and anchor stores are pulling out of our city, that the British Independent Retailers Association reports a growing number of independent shop openings across the country. But we cannot be complacent and must continue to support small business to flourish.

I look forward to seeing numerous familiar Portsmouth businesses on the shortlist for Best Small Shop. Lets put our city’s shops on a national map!”

Submit your entry

The entries for 2019’s Best Small Shop competition are now open. Submit your entry at www.bestsmallshops.co.uk

Entries close on Monday 9 September 2019.

Photo of Stephen Morgan MP and the Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer MP visiting Southsea Deli

 

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City MP calls on ASDA to think again over threatening thousands with the sack

Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South calls on ASDA to think again over forced contract changes that will see staff in the Fratton Asda store lose out.

The issue over these controversial new contracts has been rumbling on for some months but it is due to come to a head in the coming weeks as staff across the country are forced by Asda bosses to sign changes to their contracts.  These changes will see them lose out on flexibility and holidays.

Many thousands of ASDA workers simply won’t be flexible in the way that ASDA bosses demand and imposing a new contract won’t change workers’ childcare, caring, studying, family and other outside work commitments.

One member of staff told their union that I haven’t signed up to Contract Six because I look after my disabled mum when I’m off work.”  This member is not alone, in response to a recent consultative ballot, 93% of respondents told GMB Union that they did not agree with the contract changes which were being forced on them.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I have met with employees affected, liaised with trade unions and visited the store at Fratton to speak with staff and managers.

It is deeply concerning that such a large employer in our city is leaving their staff with no choice other than to accept these new contracts or risk losing their job.  

Many Asda workers with caring commitments are going to be severely hit by any loss in flexibility – this is an awful position for the company to put dedicated staff in. Shoppers would be horrified to know Asda are leaving staff with no real choice. Asda should think again.

I understand some improvements to the original contract proposed have been won by GMB members in Asda but I’ll be calling on Asda to work constructively with the union, its members and workers in Asda to seek a better deal and secure a decent future for Asda workers in Portsmouth”.

The city MP has vowed to write to senior national bosses at Asda to continue his support to local employees.

For more details on support and advice, Asda workers should contact their local rep and visit https://www.gmb.org.uk/asda-update

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We need proper funding for the NHS in Portsmouth

Responding to the Government’s announcement on the NHS, city MP Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Tories have spent nine years running down the NHS, imposing the biggest funding squeeze in its history.

A&E is overstretched and overcrowded, increasing numbers of people are waiting too long for operations, and key performance targets are being missed month after month.

In the last two years Ministers have announced 145 separate schemes promising upgrades, new beds and equipment totalling £2.5 billion but thanks to sadly only £100 million has been delivered.

As the Health Foundation has said, the £1bn given to hospitals for capital is cash that hospitals and other NHS trusts have already been awarded but have been forbidden to spend. They rightly point out that there remains a major risk to the quality of patient care posed by deteriorating facilities, out of date infrastructure and a shortage of equipment.

With this track record from Government and Ministers refusing to guarantee key standards means more patients in Portsmouth on the waiting list, and people being forced to wait longer and longer for treatment and care.

It’s little wonder the top adviser to Boris Johnson says the Tories just don’t care about our NHS.

I’ll keep fighting in Parliament for proper funding for our NHS in Portsmouth”.

 

 

 

Councils leading the way in support to LGBT+ communities says new Shadow Communities Minister

Newly appointed Shadow Minister for Communities, Stephen Morgan MP will this weekend be joining the thousands who flock to Brighton for Pride, one of the UK’s largest LGBT+ events.

Ahead of the celebrations, the Shadow Minister has praised the contributions councils make to support the community – highlighting a number of areas as good practice.

Mr Morgan, a Portsmouth MP, will be joining parliamentary colleagues from Brighton in attending the festivities with LGBT+ Labour representatives.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Pride is not just a celebration, it is a call to action and display of strength. The actions of those brave people 50 years ago during the Stonewall riots still resonate today and have come to shape the modern fight for equal rights.

Local authorities are on the front-line day in day out, from Portsmouth to Penrith providing vital support and services to the LGBT+ community.

In my own patch our 4U project has clinched a public sector organisation of the year award for its important targeted youth work. In Manchester the city council has pioneered an LGBT+ Extra Care Scheme to support older members of the LGBT community with care needs and in Lambeththe borough has set up the world’s first social impact bond to improve HIV diagnosis and treatment.

These are just a few examples from across our nation showing that local authorities are leading the way in supporting the LGBT+ community”.

The Portsmouth South representative has raised hate crime against the LGBT+ community multiple times in Parliament, set up a pledge card for the Home Secretary urging action over safeguarding, corresponded with Hampshire Police, sponsored his city’s own Pride events and made rallying speeches at events calling for more support to be given to LGBT+ people.

Responding to the appointment of a new Prime Minister and Cabinet, the MP said:

“We have a Prime Minister who has used homophobic language. We have a Home Secretary who voted against same-sex marriage. We have a Foreign Secretary who has said he wants to make it harder for people to change their gender. We have a cabinet where 16 out of 22 didn’t even bother to show up to the landmark vote on legalising same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Now more than ever, in the face of this Government’s lack of interest in justice we must unite and fight for what is right – equality for all. I will continue to champion the work of local authorities across our country to help make that happen”.

Portsmouth MP demands ‘detailed and robust’ funding plans for Portsmouth International Port

In a bid to cut through the constant onslaught of soundbites and vague half-pledges emanating from the newly formed Government, Mr Morgan has demanded clarity from the Brexit Secretary when it comes to what and how much will be given to Portsmouth with regard to no deal preparations.

Mr Morgan’s forceful letter to the Brexit Secretary comes following fresh claims from Government frontbenchers this week that, “No deal is now a very real prospect” and Chancellor Sajid Javid’s comments that there would be “significant extra funding” for 500 new Border Force officers and “possible” improved infrastructure at British ports.

Mr Morgan said:

“For many months now, I have been working with Portsmouth International Port, the Local Resilience Forum and local community leaders in a bid to get to the bottom of the implications of a no deal for our city.

I have written countless letters to the Department for Transport, the Brexit Department and the Ministry of Housing, communities and Local Government.

The answers have been chaotic, disorganised and inconsistent and have demonstrated a complete lack of understanding for Portsmouth’s unique situation.

Today I have asked for an end to this regime of uncertainty. I have demanded information on what reimbursement mechanism to recover the future costs of no deal Brexit is in place, which department will be reimbursing our city and how much we will be getting. We need answers to these questions now.”

Mr Morgan has consistently said that no deal would be disastrous for the city, agreeing with major employers such as Airbus and with comments made by the CBI that uncertainty surrounding Brexit is ‘crippling UK business investment’.

As a result, Mr Morgan has maintained pressure on the Government to provide funding for these preparations so that the people of Portsmouth do not bear the brunt of poor planning.

Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan said:

“No deal Brexit poses significant risks, as identified by the Local Resilience Forum, to our city in terms of congestion arising in and around PIP. To demonstrate this point, in March Portsmouth City Council hosted briefing discussions where BAE said that they were so concerned about the impact of congestion that they were rescheduling their maintenance plans for the Royal Navy fleet.

Portsmouth City Council has spent £1m in set-up costs for W4 at Tipner as part of the Operation Transmission. In the event of a no-deal, there will considerable additional cost.

I want to see Government funding given to our city so that our council coffers are not decimated by poor planning and a refusal to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of a no deal for Portsmouth”.