National call to tackle affordable housing crisis welcomed in Portsmouth

An umbrella organisation representing local authorities has said this week that councils should be given the opportunity to resume their “historic role” as house builders to ease the country’s affordable housing crisis.
Millions of working people will no longer be able to afford somewhere decent to live by 2024 and will need access to some type of affordable housing, new research published by the Local Government Association (LGA) warns.
The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, set up a Housing Commission last year to explore how a renewed investment in the different new homes that people need can deliver significant wider benefits for communities. It is now calling on new government ministers to take urgent steps so councils can help.
The number of first-time buyers in England have fallen by a third in a decade. Research has also found that:

  • a minimum of 3.98 million people of working age will still need access to affordable housing options by 2024 even if the country is able to achieve full employment by upskilling 3.5 million people to take higher paid jobs the economy has been projected to create.
  • around 5.4 million people of working age will need access to affordable housing by 2024 if qualification levels do not increase. Overall demand will be higher should the economy not create the jobs projected.
  • the likely demand of affordable homes for working age people will range from 2.25 million to 3.07 million, compared with 2.87 million in 2011. Overall demand will be much greater when taking into account those not working, such as pensioners.
  • affordable is defined as someone who has to spend 30 per cent or more of their household income on their housing costs.

The LGA is calling for the government to allow councils to:

  • borrow to invest in housing in the same way that they are able to borrow to invest in other projects
  • keep 100 per cent of the receipts from properties sold through ‘right to buy’ to build new homes
  • combine right to buy receipts with other funding, to use receipts to build through housing companies, and to count the value of council land in building replacements.

Cllr Stephen Morgan, Labour’s spokesperson on housing said:


Cllr Stephen Morgan

“I welcome this national research from the LGA and the practical recommendations this report offers.
More and more families will be affected by the housing crisis every year. People working hard will no longer be able to find an affordable and decent place to live if councils across the land don’t get on with the job of building the new homes that people in our communities desperately need.
People raise their concerns about how difficult it is to get their own home with me all the time so I am assured that Portsmouth City Council understands the need identified in this LGA report.
I welcome the fact that our council is already taking steps to tackle the local shortage, and I will press for further action and innovative solutions so we have more genuinely affordable housing in our great city for the benefit of local people and families”.

Local people rally together over redevelopment of their homes

Residents of Wilmcote House got together on Thursday 28 July 2016 to voice their concerns over the impact of a redevelopment project managed by Portsmouth City Council.
Frustrated by inaction over their living conditions during the building work, residents turned to Cllr Stephen Morgan, the newest Charles Dickens ward councillor for help. Stephen hosted a public meeting for residents to investigate what could be done to help them.
Wilmcote House in north Somerstown is currently undergoing major refurbishment to communal areas and individual flats. The scheme started back in December 2013, but has been hit by a series of serious problems, flooding of homes and delays which have led to mounting dissatisfaction among residents.
Questions were put to the Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Steve Wemyss, at March’s council meeting on behalf of residents, where the Cabinet Member said that the council would not undertake public meetings with residents as they would end up being “raucous and uncontrollable”.
Concerned that residents were being left in the dark and uninformed about these delays, problems with work already undertaken and the possibility of compensation for the disruption, Cllr Morgan has worked with residents to set up a forum for neighbours to meet and have their say. The second meeting took place on Thursday night at the Omega Centre, a short walk from Wilmcote House.


Well attended residents’ meeting

Stephen said:
“Residents have been let down time and time again by this development and rightly want answers.
The meeting gave us the chance to meet to share issues, agree a way forward and seek better engagement with the council.
This scheme is meant to be improving people’s lives, not making their lives worse. Local people deserve better, a rent rebate for the disruption and an end date in sight for the works”.
Chris Evans, a resident of Wilmcote House who has suffered a series of problems as a result of the works said:
“We’re all very frustrated. This scheme has been hit with problem after problem. It is hugely inconvenient for families living here and our lives have been turned upside down. We are grateful the meetings have been established and for Stephen’s actions”.
The council have previously stated it was “robustly managing its contract” with construction company Keepmoat and that the scheme will be completed by January 2017. Concerns over the delivery of the project remain.

Views invited on responding to EU referendum to ensure city prospers 

Cllr Stephen Morgan is seeking views from local businesses, voluntary organisations and other local partners

In an open letter Cllr Stephen Morgan, Charles Dickens ward councillor and Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, invites views on how best the city of Portsmouth can respond to the recent EU referendum. 
With the people of the United Kingdom having voted in the recent referendum to leave the European Union (EU), the new national government has made it clear they want to negotiate the best deal for the UK as we leave the EU and forge a new role for ourselves on the world stage. Detailed negotiations are expected in the months and years ahead, led by Westminster.
In response Cllr Morgan has invited local businesses, voluntary groups and other local partners across his ward to share their views in support of the city’s economy and job creation.
In the letter, Cllr Morgan writes:
“Whatever the future holds, it is important that locally we all work together in Portsmouth to make sure that our great city prospers.  
I want, and am committed to working with local businesses, voluntary organisations and the wider public sector to help our city grow, create new jobs and secure much needed investment so that our economy benefits everyone, not just the few.
As your ward councillor, your views are important to me. Brexit is such an important issue for all of us; I am keen to understand your views so that I can reflect them within the city council and beyond”.

Cllr Morgan is also inviting views on how the referendum’s outcome may affect local companies or organisations.
He added:
“I am particularly keen to hear about any immediate issues or opportunities that you would want to make me aware of. Please get in touch”.

Portsmouth’s events build prestige and bring communities together

This weekend’s America’s Cup brings prestige, press and people to Portsmouth. 
It’s another in a growing line-up of events that are attracting visitors to our great city and boosting the local economy – from Victorious Festival, to the Great South Run.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, the Labour Group’s spokesperson for culture, leisure and sport, welcomes these events for the benefits they bring to the city, both local people and local business.
He says:
“Big events with media coverage are great for raising Portsmouth’s profile, both at home and around the world. This will also help Portsmouth attract the new investment needed to create jobs and prosperity across our city.”
Cllr Morgan says it is also important to remember the power of events to bring the community together:
“Whether it’s a group outing to a festival or a street party for the Queen’s birthday, events great and small can be a brilliant way for friends, families and neighbours to create and strengthen bonds.”
When Cllr Morgan recently gave his maiden speech to the council chamber, he chose to focus on community cohesion. It is a subject close to his heart.
He said: “Our diverse and cohesive communities… have more in common than divides us, and that’s Portsmouth’s strength.”
Today, reflecting on Portsmouth’s agenda for growing events provision – particularly in the north of the city – he comments:
“I welcome this move. I think we can and should do more to encourage events in the city to be accessible and affordable for all. I’d also like to see the council help make it easier for communities to host their own events for others.”

Council consults residents on Council Tax support

The city council is seeking residents’ views on the future of its council tax support scheme.

A range of options have been prepared for public consultation on how much discount should be given to households with low incomes, following decisions made at the council’s budget meeting in February.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, deputy leader of the Labour Group on the city council said:
“This is a very important consultation – the outcome of which is at risk of affecting the vulnerable and those families in need across our communities. 
It is crucial everyone has their say. I urge you to do so”.
The consultation runs until 29 September 2016.
To have your say follow the link here to complete the residents’ survey: www.research.net/r/PCCCTS2016

Councillor makes maiden speech on city's cohesion 

Labour’s newest councillor, Stephen Morgan, took no time in making his maiden speech in the council chamber on Tuesday 12 July 2016 at Full Council. 
He spoke in support of a motion which received cross-party backing.

The motion, condemning racism and xenophobia, received support from all councillors across the political spectrum with a number of speeches saying such behaviours are not acceptable in the city.
The previous Lib Dem councillor for the area never spoke on behalf of residents in the council chamber despite representing the ward for twelve years.
Cllr Stephen Morgan said:
“Racism and xenophobia will not be tolerated in our great city. I wanted to speak in the chamber as soon as I could and to use this important motion to stand up and speak up for our diverse and cohesive communities. We have more in common than divides us, and that’s Portsmouth’s strength”.
Full council is webcast live and any member of the public is welcome to attend in the public gallery.
The full text of Stephen’s maiden speech is below:
“My Lord Mayor, I want to say a few words in the spirit of this motion and the importance of Portsmouth being a cohesive, diverse place to live.

And as my first speech in this council chamber, I promise to keep it brief unlike my Group Leader!
For centuries, as a port city, Portsmouth has welcomed people coming to our shores for trade. 
Today our internationalism and outward looking approach to commerce strengthens our local economy, by creating jobs and prosperity for all, positions us as a strong and vibrant city, and as a gateway for our nation.
We have more in common, than what divides us.
In every part of our city, Pompey people with different backgrounds, nationalities and religions live cheek by jowl, and in harmony.
We don’t just tolerate our differences, we welcome them. 
And whilst that hasn’t changed in the past few weeks, if people have concerns about relations between communities, they should let the police know as colleagues have said earlier.
We don’t stand by for division. 
Pompey people do what is right – defending our city’s fantastic mix of diversity and tolerance and standing together against racism and xenophobia which risks hurting and dividing people living side-by-side.
This is an issue above and beyond party politics. 
For this very reason, I support this motion.”


Plans agreed to improve waste collection in the city

Labour’s spokesperson for the environment and community safety in the city, Cllr Stephen Morgan, has backed council plans to introduce a time-limited and area-limited pilot of wheeled bins for refuse.
The cabinet member agreed to trial the new approach at a decision-making meeting last Wednesday. Stephen backed the plans.
Disposing of waste in the refuse, rather than recycling it, costs the Portsmouth taxpayer. If all of the potential recyclables currently going into the city’s black bag refuse stream were diverted to recycling, it is estimated that up to £500,000 per annum could be saved.
The pilot will take place in Cosham ward and it is hoped not only will the scheme improve waste management services for residents but also impact on street cleansing and litter as it is known that black bags can be split before or during collection, leaving litter on the highway.
Speaking in support of the proposals Cllr Stephen Morgan said:
“I welcome this new approach by the council. A number of residents have raised concerns with me about refuse collection and I hope the council can learn lots from this pilot to inform any roll out in other parts of Portsmouth.
After numerous challenges when the previous administration rolled out the recycling bin scheme across the city, I urged at the decision-making meeting that officers do everything they can to ensure residents are properly communicated and consulted on this change to an important local service.
I’ll be keeping a close eye on developments”.
The operation of collecting household waste is currently undertaken on behalf of the council by Biffa. The new wheeled bins will be trialled for refuse for six months.

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Councillor opens new community orchard

Local people across Landport and Buckland came together this Sunday (3 July 2016) to officially open a new community orchard in the heart of the city.
An orchard with apple trees surrounded by a wild meadow, picnic benches and raised flower beds has been installed by local volunteers to enhance local life for residents in and around the Cornwallis Crescent area of the city.
The project has come about with the support of Heartlands Community Voice, a local community group and the council’s Residents’ Development Team.
Local ward councillors including Stephen Morgan attended the family fun day that marked the opening of the community garden organised by fellow local residents.
A barbeque was organised with children treated to free activities including face painting, a disco, necklace making and bag decoration.
IMG_6160Cllr Morgan said:
“I am delighted to open the new community orchard in the heart of Portsmouth. Thanks to volunteers the unused and neglected piece of land is helping to address the shortfall of allotments, promote community production of fruit and help us rediscover the pleasure of growing fruit grown close to home. I’m looking forward to trying some of the first produce grown!”
Community orchards such as this also help to green the urban environment and create habitats for wildlife and increasing the city’s biodiversity.
Cllr Morgan added:
“Most importantly of all projects like these bring residents together to do something fun and make life better in our community. I’ll be working with other residents to encourage more things like this in the future”.
Residents are encouraged to get involved in the project. Volunteers are being sought with further information available on Facebook by searching ‘Cornwallis Crescent Community Orchard’ and local businesses encouraged to help sustain the project by helping with the funding for further equipment.