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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”.

 

City MP calls on new PM to be a statesman and apologise to Portsmouth people 

In 2007, then Mayoral candidate and education spokesman Boris Johnson was chauffeur-driven to Portsmouth where he made ill-informed and inaccurate claims about the city.

Today, Stephen Morgan MP demanded an apology.

The new appointed Prime Minister claimed that [Portsmouth is] “too full of drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs.”

On the premier day of the Prime Minister’s leadership, local-born MP, Stephen Morgan has written to him outlining the cuts his city has faced under the Conservative and Lib Dem regime of austerity and demanding an apology for his previous insults.

Stephen Morgan MP said:
“Under the Tories, Hampshire has lost over 1000 police officers. Portsmouth’s schools are losing £3.7 million. Our local authority has seen the local services we all rely on slashed by 48 percent since 2011, equating to £73m.
To say such things about Portsmouth, when representing a party that has consistently done everything in its power to rip the heart out of the community, is highly offensive to our great city.
Mr Johnson hasn’t won the support of our country nor will he win the support of our city. To earn respect, he needs to demonstrate he’s a statesman with his words and his deeds.
I have demanded an apology for Portsmouth and now that Mr Johnson is in a position of power with the privilege of high office, urged him to show leadership and transform lives by investing in Portsmouth and its people.
Will he do this? I am not so confident.”
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Labour to revolutionise local services putting people at the heart

Decades of forced outsourcing of local services have hollowed out councils and left communities with little control over key public services says Stephen Morgan MP.

Backing a commitment to reverse the trend of public services being outsourced to private providers and bring these services back ‘in house’, to be delivered by the public sector city MP Stephen Morgan has backed announcements by Labour to revolutionise local public services.

Criticising the “scandal” of “rip off” outsourcing of key public services the Shadow Chancellor and Shadow Communities Secretary are committing Labour to ‘insourcing’ the delivery of key public services to improve services, save taxpayers’ money and increase democratic accountability of public services.

Labour’s plans will roll back decades of orthodoxy that have seen local councils forced into outsourcing the delivery of key public services to private companies, including construction and maintenance work, bin collections, cleaning, school dinners, playing field maintenance and the management of local leisure centres.

Announcing the plans, Labour have also criticised the legacy of decades of outsourcing in local government, with private companies failing to uphold their contracts to deliver services, standards deteriorating and the taxpayer picking up the bill.

Under the new plans, Labour will:

  • Legislate to ensure that local authorities review all service contracts when they expire;
  • Legislate to create a presumption that service contracts will be brought back inhouse and delivered by the public sector unless certain conditions and exemptions are met;
  • Empower citizens and community groups by giving them the right to request information from councils showing that any outsourcing decision is consistent with these criteria;
  • Transform the legislative framework around outsourcing contacts by making them subject to the Human Rights Act and the Freedom of Information Act and introducing a new set of minimum standards in contracts where outsourcing has to continue, including a fair wage clause, trade union recognition, support local labour and supply chains, annual gender pay audits and time-limited contracts;
  • Support local government in delivering these changes by providing a model contract (to save councils time and resources), access to the Government Legal Department for contract management and greater support for collaboration amongst councillors.

Democratising Local Public Services: A Plan for Twenty-First Century Insourcing – Labour’s blueprint for a radical overhaul of local government – was announced at an event in London held by Labour’s Community Wealth Building Unit, a network of councillors and experts working together to rebuild local economies, renew faith in local services and deliver a renaissance of local government in communities across Britain in the face of austerity.

Newly appointed Shadow Communities Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Decades of forced outsourcing of local services have hollowed out councils and left communities with little control over key public services.

The current law is stacked against councils taking back control and heavily tilted in favour of outsourcing.

Yet across our country Labour councils are leading the way in taking back control of local services, and showing that inhouse delivery improves service delivery while saving money.

That’s why I back my party’s pledge to see an end to the privatisation circus and put the power with the people proven to be most effective: local communities”.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP said:

“After year upon year of failures the public has rightly lost confidence in the privatisation of our public services and the carve up of the public realm for private profit.

The government’s ideological pursuit of privatisation and outsourcing has seen the public pay the price as fat cat bosses count their profits.

It’s time to end the outsourcing scandal which has seen private companies rip off the taxpayer, degrade our public services and put people at risk whilst remaining wholly unaccountable to the people who rely on and fund these services.”

Labour’s Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Andrew Gwynne MP said:

“Labour will end this racket and ensure that our vital public services are delivered in the interests of the people our local authorities are here to serve, not in the interest of outsourcing firms’ profit margins and wealthy shareholders.

People are more important than profit, and our public services belong to local people.

Labour will set out in law that inhouse delivery of public services delivered by the public sector will be the default option for councils.

In government, Labour will boost local economies by spending taxpayers’ money on local suppliers and local workers, and we will support councils as they deliver radical change and give power back to our communities.

Our plan is a plan for public services run for the many, not the private interests of the few.”

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Newly appointed Shadow Minister for Communities pays thanks to all council officers

Stephen Morgan MP, who was appointed to a Shadow Ministerial position within the Communities and Local Government team earlier this week, has made his agenda clear by sending an open letter to all council officers.

The letter expressed gratitude to the local authority workers, explicitly thanking them for their often-unrecognised services to the nation.

Mr Morgan said:

“Council workers are the unsung heroes who keep our communities safe.

From making sure the food we eat in restaurants is acceptable to keeping our neighbourhoods clean and maintained – their often-invisible work is the lifeblood of our nation.

I wanted to ensure that in my first move as Shadow Minister, I send out a clear message that their vital work is appreciated.”

Mr Morgan, who prior to becoming an MP spent 15 years working in local Government, cited his experience in play and leisure, community involvement, strategy and performance and other departments as his motivation for sending out the letter.

The Portsmouth South MP said:

“When I was first elected, I asked a council manager what advice he could give. His answer was plain and simple. Take notice of the vital work conducted by council officers.

With less money, less resources and more responsibility, councils across our great nation continue to deliver the much-needed services, day in, day out from cradle to grave.

Without this vital cohesive element, our communities would fall apart. It is an understatement to say that they are the glue that holds society together.”

Mr Morgan’s first act as Shadow Minister is an indication of where his priorities lie and demonstrates his commitment to ensuring that recognition is given to those who work at local authority level. While the letter expressed gratitude, it also included pledges upheld by his party.

Mr Morgan pledged:

“From Portsmouth to Penrith, up and down our country, council officers keep our communities running.

In this new role, I will work hard to give more money, more power and more support to councils across the country. “

Mr Morgan joins the Communities and Local Government team headed by Shadow Secretary Andrew Gwynne MP where he will work alongside Shadow Minister for Devolution and Finance, Jim McMahon and Shadow Minister for Planning Roberta Blackman-Woods.

 

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City MP calls for ambition in wake of Portsmouth’s failed Future High Streets bid

News has broken that Portsmouth’s bid for £50 million as part of the Government’s future High Streets Fund has failed.

The fund, designed to support local areas’ plans to make their high streets and town centres fit for the future, would have been welcome as the city has faced major high street closures in recent times.

Stephen Morgan MP 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.

Only this weekend we saw Knight & Lee and Portsmouth say good bye, with Debenhams set to go next and other stores in our city under threat.

We need a bold and ambitious plan to revitalise our city’s shopping centres, which is why Portsmouth Labour submitted positive budget proposals to get to the heart of the problem. Sadly, the Tories and Lib Dems voted it down, and continue to neglect our communities.

Raising the issue directly with the Prime Minister, hosting a roundtable with businesses to find solutions, calling for business rate reform, submitting parliamentary questions and writing to the Council Leader, I will continue to put pressure on the Government to invest and the Council to show leadership, to sort this pressing issue for Portsmouth once and for all”.

Portsmouth’s high streets have faced trying times, losing a number of major retail pillars and leaving the flourishing independent shopping scene vulnerable now that there is less footfall.

The Portsmouth MP has backed Labour’s five-point plan to reinvigorate the high street, including a major overhaul of the current business rates system.

Mr Morgan said:

“A major contributing factor to the decline of the high streets is the outdated and broken business rates system, we need to bring the current system into the 21st century.

That is why I proudly support Labour’s 5-point plan which would see a major overhaul and an end to retailers being hit unfair and unsustainable fees.”

Labours 5-point plan also includes free bus travel for all under 25s, free WIFI in city centres, an end to ATM charges and would establish a register of landlords of empty shops in each local authority.