Christmas is a time to reach out to others

There are many reasons why the festive season can be a trying and emotional time for some.
Perhaps it will be a first Christmas without a loved family member or maybe as a result of getting older a person’s social circle has shrunk or maybe even disappeared.
If you are concerned about someone who may be lonely over Christmas, take a look at the council’s adult social care webpages
It has information on local organisations that offer opportunities for residents to get out and about and meet people. There are suggestions for getting help with transport for those who find it difficult to get around. And it also suggests ways in which someone can stay in touch with others even if they struggle to leave their house.
The web pages can also point people in the direction of specialist organisations that can offer emotional support. Some, like the Samaritans, are nationally well known and there are others which are locally focused.
Right across our great city, churches and community groups will also be doing their bit to reach out to the lonely.
This includes:

  • FoodCycle Portsmouth and Portsmouth Cathedral are jointly hosting a lunch for up to 60 people on Christmas Day. Cathedral volunteers will provide transport and one of the local churches, St Simon’s, is lending its minibus. The meal is for people who are alone on Christmas Day, or who might otherwise not get a Christmas meal. If you would like to attend, or book a place on behalf of someone, please phone Portsmouth Cathedral on 023 9282 3300 or email sarah.lovatt@portsmouthcathedral.org.uk
  • John Pounds Church in Old Portsmouth will aim to host 30 alone or isolated people living in PO1 for a four-course meal – the lunch is free, but donations will be gratefully accepted. To book call the church office on 023 9282 1101 and leave your name, postcode, contact telephone number and state if you are a vegetarian
  • The Drayton Centre will host a free lunch (with a refundable £10 deposit) for those in the Drayton/Farlington area. Transport can be provided free of charge if required. Please contact Olwen Brewster on 02392 382002.
  • St John’s Cathedral in Bishop Crispian Way is hosting a Christmas day meal – and transport may be provided. Email cozensbe@googlemail.com for more information.

All year round voluntary groups aim to reduce social isolation in our community for older people, those who live alone, those who are at risk or find themselves homeless.
If we all make the effort to try and help someone in need this festive season, whether it’s by volunteering or donating to those who work with people who need support we will probably enjoy our Christmas that little bit more.
Finally I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Night shelter for rough sleepers welcomed

News that the Society of St James are providing a safe space for people who are homeless to rest during the cold winter nights is welcomed by Portsmouth Labour.
Working in unison with the Portsmouth City Council, the Society of St James (SSJ) are providing beds for 28 rough sleepers as part of a broader Christmas Appeal to tackle homelessness in the city.
The service also hopes to create a cumulative benefit for recipients, as users of the SSJ service will be encouraged to engage with other services for the homeless in the city, in an effort to more permanently secure the health and wellbeing of these people.
The service is aiming to provide rounded care, meaning a hot shower, access to TV and breakfast will also be available to residents.
It is hoped that the service can empower its users to escape the homelessness trap by supporting people with their recovery.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth Labour Leader said:
“We believe no one should ever have to sleep rough in our city but sadly we know from experience that this occurs all too often.
During the harsh winter months, it is simply too cold and too dangerous for some of our most vulnerable people with complex needs.
The night shelter is providing a safe, warm and welcoming space for those who are forced to sleep rough in Portsmouth. I thank the SSJ for their hard work in providing this valuable local service”.
For information as to how you can refer someone to the centre visit www.ssj.org.uk

Let’s invest closer to home

The city council has bought five more properties in the last few weeks in a deal worth more than £55m.
This aims to bolster its commercial empire by spending £56.5m on business parks in Redditch, Lutterworth, Bilston, Dewsbury and Leeds.
It brings the total spent by the city council on property to £108.3m.
Last week in Full Council the Labour Group’s response to the Administration’s budget called for a “better deal” for the city to create new jobs and stimulate the local economy.
Cllr Yahiya Chowdhury speaking in support of the Labour budget amendment said the city’s investment strategy needed to more directly benefit Portsmouth.
The deal comes after The News revealed the city council used £739,982.09 from its ‘property investment fund’ – all of which has been borrowed from the banks – to pay firms which billed for their time helping the council buy property it could make money on.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour Leader said:
“Portsmouth is a great place for businesses to create jobs and to invest. We urge the city council to practice what it preaches, and start making its own investments closer to home. We are sure that it won’t be disappointed. 
 Portsmouth Labour backs our great city. We want to see the council’s administration to do the same”.


Let’s work together to tackle social isolation

More than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. 
And despite what some people think, loneliness is not a normal part of ageing. It not only makes life miserable, it can have a serious impact on physical and mental health too.
Unless we act together, our rapidly ageing population in Portsmouth means we’ll see ever greater numbers of lonely older people and, because social isolation undermines resilience, this also means more pressure on our already stretched NHS and social care services in the city.
Older people’s loneliness really matters. I believe there is more the council and other public agencies can do to prevent and tackle it.
But it can’t just be fixed by the public sector alone – we all have a role to play: by being friendly to the older people around us; making the effort to stay in touch with older relatives; or by actively supporting local voluntary groups that help older people to make new friends.
I want to draw attention to this big issue for older people, mobilising others to help prevent and alleviate it, and encouraging us all to do more.
So this Christmas please spare a thought for those socially isolated, and let’s do something about it together.


Portsmouth charities praised

Portsmouth’s Labour Leader has used the first ever nationally organised ‘Local Charities Day’ to recognise the hard work and contribution the voluntary and community sector plays in the life of the city.
Local Charities Day taking place on Friday 16 December 2016 aims to put small, local charities and community groups into the spotlight, helping them thrive and demonstrate the great work they do in their areas.
In celebration of the day Cllr Stephen Morgan, Labour Group Leader on Portsmouth City Council said:
“Pompey should be proud about the energy, commitment, expertise and the benefits local charities bring to our communities.
There are thousands of volunteers and hundreds of local groups and charities across our city doing their bit to make life better for hard working families and the vulnerable in our communities. 
I thank them for everything they do”.
Praise for the city’s charities follows Labour’s budget response at Full Council on Tuesday, when councillors had their say on Tory proposals to take £9m out of council budgets.
Cllr Morgan tabled investment plans to support charities at a time of crisis for local social care services. He said in response to these proposals:
“Voluntary organisations have a crucial role to play in finding solutions to local challenges.
They can undertake preventative work, meet local needs, address demands and are the glue that binds our communities together.
And not only do they need our support now more than ever, we need theirs”.
Action Portsmouth, a charity which supports other charities to flourish, has produced an online resource which helps identify groups and support available to local people. 
Visit:  http://actionhampshire.org/maps/portsmouth-support/ to find out more.

Today’s Local Government Settlement: my response

A statement from Cllr Stephen Morgan, Leader of the Labour Group, Portsmouth City Council
At a time when Parliament and the whole nation is discussing the crisis in social care funding – and the dreadful costs families will bear for years to come – Labour was the only party locally to offer Portsmouth an answer.
The council’s Labour Group proposed fully costed amendments to the city council budget on Tuesday. These would have secured greater funding for social care. But Labour’s plans were voted down by Conservative and UKIP councillors, while the Liberal Democrats abstained.
Cllr Stephen Morgan said:
Labour’s savings would have come from reducing money paid out to councillors and sharing ‘council business’ services with other administrations in surrounding areas. 
Yet the Tory administration, which consistently seeks to strip money from public services and has lauded Solent Devolution, rejected our plans for greater collaboration and a more frugal approach to the cost of local politics. This could be viewed simply as bitterly ironic, were it not for the very real price that local people will now have to pay.
 Projections nationally indicate council tax increases will not be enough to stave off a crisis in care, which will spread to the already over-stretched NHS as it is left to pick up the pieces. 
 Cllr Morgan added:
“Labour has a vision for a council that will work actively to improve lives. Yet again, it appears we have an administration that knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing. Portsmouth people deserve better, and we will continue to stand up for them in every way we can.” 

Labour's fairer budget put social care first

At Full Council earlier this week councillors from all parties had their say on the administration’s proposed spending limits for the Cabinet Members. 

The Tories budget proposals saw £9m taken out of the council’s budget, meaning further cuts to public services. Portsmouth’s Labour Group tabled an amendment.
Led by Cllr Stephen Morgan, Labour proposed reducing the cost of democracy, sharing services and reducing management overheads.
These changes would create enough savings to invest over £850,000 in local social care services. 

In recent weeks, commentators across the political spectrum have said such services are on the brink of financial collapse.

Cllr Stephen Morgan said: 

“The biggest service area hit in the administration’s proposals is social care. And this is our biggest concern. Not only is social care being hit locally, but it even failed to get a mention in last month’s Autumn Statement.

Council funding for adult social care has fallen by 11% on average since 2010, and as much as 30% in some areas of the country.
And we know with a break down in care, older people will end up in hospital costing the state even more.

These services for our loved ones are at breaking point. That’s why our budget put further investment in these essential frontline services”.

The Labour Group proposed:
  • using the savings identified to invest in social care services
  • unleashing the creativity of the voluntary sector to meet local demands and support the community
  • redesigning the criteria for an unspent voluntary sector fund to focus the scheme  on providing services which deliver or support social care priorities.

 Regrettably the Labour amendments were rejected by the other political groups on the city council. 

Cllr Morgan added:
“Let us move away from the squabbling, put politics to one side, and find a solution to this social care crisis”.

Portsmouth Labour proposes fairer budget so city council can improve lives

On Tuesday, Cllr Stephen Morgan gave his response to the city council budget – his first as Leader of the Labour Group.
It was a speech as memorable for passionate opposition to further service cuts as for the clarity of Labour’s alternative vision for Portsmouth.
Cllr Morgan acknowledged that, under Liberal Democrat and now Conservative administrations, Portsmouth has “weathered the biggest cuts in public spending since before the Second World War.”
He spoke of people “struggling to get by as wages remain low, welfare slashed even as food and energy bills, rents and petrol prices continue to rise.”
Damningly, he outlined the reality of life in the ward he represents, Charles Dickens: “Up to 67% of children are living in poverty. Life expectancy is 10 years less than in other parts of our city. And recently homelessness has more than doubled.”
Cllr Morgan left the council chamber in no doubt as to the reasons why “hard working families and the vulnerable are struggling.” He explained:
“The unprecedented cuts which government has foisted upon this council are not the result of overspending by any government or even of the global financial crisis. These cuts were never inevitable. They were – and are – a choice.”
Speaking of the importance of investing in skills and jobs, his message to the Conservatives running the council was clear:
“This council must and should do more than simply managing a dwindling budget. It must lobby its friends in Whitehall harder. It must seek a better deal from Government.”
As well as insisting that the council should appeal for a higher allocation of the funding distributed from London, he proposed an amendment to the new council budget.
The Labour Group budget amendment is built around three themes.
First, a reduction in the cost of local democracy, which would involve streamlining the number of Cabinet posts; cutting some of the allowances councillors gain, and moving to four-yearly ‘all out’ elections to reduce costs and bring political stability to the authority.
Second, a reduction in management overheads. This would be achieved by developing new and innovative ways to provide public services; reducing the cost of communications and admin by going ‘paperless’, and working in partnership with more neighbouring authorities to share costs in everything from management to HR and finance.
Finally, greater investment in frontline social care services. Social care is set to bear the biggest cuts in council spending under current proposals, with a risk that the NHS will come under further pressure to pick up the pieces.
Labour’s proposals include using the savings they have identified to invest in social care services; enabling the voluntary sector to be more creative in meeting local demands and supporting the community, and redesigning funding criteria to focus more on services which deliver or support social care priorities.
In conclusion, Cllr Morgan spoke of his “belief that our council can improve people’s lives and change things for the better.” He said:
“We’ll keep trying to make Portsmouth a better place for all local people and to strengthen our communities. And to make hope possible at a time when despair could otherwise be truly convincing.”


Portsmouth Labour backs homelessness campaign

Homelessness, wherever it is found is a sorry thing to behold and something we should all be concerned about.
After all the way a society cares for those in need is ultimately what speaks most about the priorities of a society as often these people have no voice other than that which is provided by those who are prepared to stand up and fight for them.
Homelessness is something that all parties should rally against and in all things work towards its elimination, especially as the Winter cold sets in. Portsmouth Labour answers this call with enthusiasm and a willingness to help.
Portsmouth Labour is firmly backing The News’ Christmas Appeal to aid those in need in our local communities.
The Labour Group is concerned that homelessness has more than doubled nationally under the Tory government – an increase we have seen in Portsmouth too.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth Labour Leader said:
“We’re joining community leaders and local faith groups in this sensible campaign.
I encourage anyone who can give this Christmas to support The News’ appeal at a time of year when the smallest gift can make the biggest difference and change a life”.

People power wins the day over former pub development

Residents in Charles Dickens ward gave a sigh of relief after plans for more homes in multiple occupation proposed for the heart of the city were refused by the planning committee this week.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth Labour Leader has been working with local residents and community groups over concerns about a planning application submitted for the former Cabman’s Rest public house on Plymouth Street in Southsea.
Developers were refused permission last year for the house of multiple occupation but came back again seeking approval for an 11-bed scheme at the pub in an area of the ward with a high number of young families and elderly people.
A public meeting was held at Ladywood House for Cllr Morgan to hear concerns, a petition led by residents with over 60 signatures submitted, and locals encouraged to have their say on the scheme with the support of volunteers from the local Labour Action Team.
The team also made a deputation at the council planning committee objecting to the plans to help ensure it got refused.
Cllr Morgan said:
“We objected to these proposals as we were concerned by the density of the development; the potential increase in traffic and parking in an area where it is already difficult to park and because we were worried about the impact the plans could have on the neighbourhood.
 Thanks to the hard work of residents and our local action team, this planning application has sensibly been refused again.
This is very welcome news in our community and is another example of local people power in action.”