City needs more ship repair work

Portsmouth’s Labour Leader has called for more ship repair work to be undertaken in the city to secure the industry and protect local jobs in the Dockyard.
The call follows news that HMS Lancaster a type 23 frigate, is to be towed to Devonport in Plymouth for a refit and not its home port of Portsmouth this summer.
HMS Lancaster was originally built on the Clyde and joined the Royal Navy’s Fleet in 1992. The multi-role ship has been deployed on drug-busting or maritime security patrols around the world. She has been laid up in the Dockyard since the end of 2015.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, who represents Charles Dickens ward where the Dockyard is based said:
“What people in the industry who rely on these jobs tell me is that what is key for the Dockyard’s future is securing more ship repair work in our city. Sadly more and seems to be going to Plymouth and elsewhere.
We have the skills and expertise in Portsmouth. It’s time our city is prioritised for these jobs”.
Naval shipbuilding and repair operations started in the city when the first dock was built in 1194. The world’s first dry dock was constructed in 1495.
Last week a union leader said it was important for Portsmouth to seize the opportunity when the tenders are invited by government to create new naval supply ships in the pipeline for construction.
GMB want the new breed of Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships built as soon as possible to replace three fleet solid support vessels.
Plans for the new ships were confirmed in 2015’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Cllr Morgan added:
“It is hugely important for our local economy that the city becomes an international shipbuilding location once again.
Whilst building new ships in Portsmouth will help achieve this, there is much more the city’s workforce can offer to repair and maintain the Navy’s existing fleet. Their skills are vital.

I call on our local MPs to now act.  We must work together to secure the Dockyard’s future in Portsmouth and these important repair jobs in our great city”.
Her Majesty’s Naval Base in the city is the home port to 60% of the Royal Navy’s surface ships. The port is controlled and operated by the Royal Navy in cooperation with BAE Systems Surface Ships (previously known as BVT Surface Fleet).

New plan for business rates to address growing fears

Labour is responding to fears about the impact of looming business rate hikes for some businesses by calling on the government to set up an emergency ‘transitional relief fund’ and take a series of measures to ease the business rate burden for business.
Business rates revaluation due to come into effect on 1 April have caused uproar as it has emerged that the average small shop will be hit by an extra £3,663 in rates over the next 5 years, while many large online retailers will see their rates cut.
The big four superstores – Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons – will see a 5.9% reduction in Rateable Value, while online retailer, ASOS, will see their rates bill fall from £1.17million to £1.14million, despite reporting UK retail sales growth of 18%.
The changes have led to calls from businesses to reform the business rates system so that it better reflects changing shopping patterns.
Labour have developed a five point plan to help business survive the revaluation and develop a system of business taxation suitable for the 21st century.
The plan includes setting up an emergency transitional relief fund for businesses facing “cliff edge” increases in their rates, and revise the appeals process to ensure businesses get a swift and fair hearing; bringing forward CPI indexation so that businesses aren’t paying more because of how inflation is measured; excluding new investment in plant and machinery from future business rates valuation; and; introducing more regular valuations in law to stop businesses facing periodic, unmanageable hikes.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour leader said:
“Fundamental reform of the business rates system is much over due. The government must ease the burden on our high streets and town centres in the age of online shopping; support the traditional fabric of our communities, including community pubs to protect them from closure; and create a fairer system of business taxation.
Too often we hear of pubs, shops and restaurants in our great city of ours at risk of closure. It cannot be right for small businesses to be facing massive hikes while international online retailers have their business rates cut.
The government have mishandled the new process, and should provide immediate emergency relief to stop thousands of businesses going under”.
Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said:
“Business rates are an outdated tax. FSB is keen for all political parties to help those small firms hardest hit by the current revaluation, and to start to focus on fundamental longer-term reform of business rates to make sure it’s fair for small firms.
It is incredibly important to support small businesses and the self-employed so they don’t face shock tax rises, so we are delighted to take part in the roundtable.”
Andrew Silvester, Head of Campaigns and Deputy Director of Policy at the Institute of Directors said:
“It’s hugely important that politicians on all sides look for constructive ways to reform business rates. This is a 20th century system and in a 21st century economy it looks painfully out of date.”


Council funding freeze ‘may mean further cuts to essential services’

The Local Government Association – an umbrella body representing councils – has joined voices across local government in issuing a warning to government after the latest funding settlement offered no additional money for authorities in 2017/18.
Even the Tories’ Gary Porter, head of the LGA, has now shared his “huge disappointment” about the decision not to increase funding, warning that while councils would impose tax rises, the money would not be enough to prevent services, including social care, from being hit.
Issuing a statement this week Porter said: “Social care faces a funding gap of £2.6bn by 2020… It cannot be left to council taxpayers alone to try and fix this”.
Councils, the NHS, charities and care providers are increasingly united around the need for new government funding for social care. By continuing to ignore the warnings, social care remains in crisis and councils and the NHS continue to be pushed to the financial brink.
Concerns follow the government’s publication of the final Local Government Settlement on Monday without any notification to the media.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour Leader, has been calling on the government to provide a fairer deal for local government and better deal for Portsmouth.
In the city’s budget debate in the council chamber last week he said:
“We know that areas with greater needs or a low council tax base have been consistently hit harder by government, and that residents here have suffered more as a result.
Our evidence also shows there will be no let-up in the government’s determination to punish our city.
The government’s funding distribution continues to penalise Portsmouth, and that as far as the government is concerned, we are on our own. Portsmouth people deserve better”.
Predictions suggest councils across the country will face an overall £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020.
This will push councils perilously close to the financial edge over the next few years and force them to consider further reductions to the local services communities rely on to plug growing funding gaps.
Cllr Morgan added:
“Our role must be to oppose this government’s approach while continuing to grow the city and provide services to the public that we can be proud of.
We must be at the forefront of what local government is doing, and can achieve, in the most challenging of circumstances.
Everyone in this city should know my group is doing everything it can to help people get through the difficult times, and ensure this city has the foundations it needs to build a fairer future”.

City's learning disability champion makes a difference

Over the weekend Cllr Stephen Morgan had the pleasure to meet with the city’s learning disability champion to find out about his work in the city and offer support.
untitledJohn Attrill (pictured) is the city’s first learning disability champion.
He is supported by Portsmouth City Council to raise awareness of the needs and aspirations of people with a learning disability across the city and promote their rights and support fair access to all public services in Portsmouth.
As the city’s champion John also supports strategic planning and the development and commissioning of local services, representing views at relevant meetings and engages with employers (in the voluntary, public and private sectors) to develop and support access to work opportunities.
Cllr Stephen Morgan said:
“It was great to catch up with John and hear the things he has been up to on behalf of people with a learning disability.
I was very impressed to hear the positive partnership working in place with South West Trains supporting station staff and providing opportunities for people with a learning disability to learn new skills and gain experience for the world of work. I am pleased to learn there are plans to roll this initiative out to other stations in the city.
John is passionate about his role as the city’s learning disability and I congratulate him for all his hard work on behalf of the community”.
If you would like to know more about how the learning disability champion can help you, or would like him to attend meetings to represent people with a learning disability, you can contact him in the following ways:
John Attrill, Kestrel Centre, St James Hospital, Locksway Road, Portsmouth PO4 8LD. Tel: 023 9268 4600 or email: john.attrill@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Investing in the city’s infrastructure: The Hard takes shape

The Hard in Portsea is hugely important to Portsmouth as a transport interchange. It is a site where bus, train and boat services come together and for many people it is the first thing they see when arriving in the city.
The interchange is currently part of a £7m scheme to improve the city’s infrastructure with a completion date expected in May.
Work began to make the interchange more efficient and more welcoming in Autumn 2015 as the old interchange was not suitable for modern transport requirements. Extensive work was required to the concrete deck and supporting structure as the site is on a pier.
The project cost at around £7million includes £2million from the city council and £4.8million from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). 
This weekend Cllr Stephen Morgan, ward councillor for the area, paid a follow up visit to the site to review progress made since last summer.
Receiving a tour from council officers running the capital project he said:
“The Hard Interchange project is exactly the investment Portsmouth needs. A project which has created jobs, improved the infrastructure of the city and enhanced our built environment therefore supporting the wider local economy.
It has been excellent to take a tour of the site again, meet with the project team and hear how they are working with the community to mitigate the disruption. I’m looking forward to the scheme completing and for local people to benefit from the investment”.
The visit follows Portsmouth Labour’s response to the city’s revenue and capital budget discussed at Full Council. The Labour Group called for a better deal for local people from central government and the council to invest in Portsmouth.
Speaking in the budget debate on Tuesday Cllr Morgan said:
“More must be done to get residents into work and to continue the vital regeneration across our city and to help local businesses grow and prosper.
Most must be done to build the right infrastructure and to tackle congestion so to create an economy where local people have the skills to take advantage of Portsmouth jobs.
Improving the area for everyone who lives here and building the foundations of a brighter future for everyone in Portsmouth”.
For more information about The Hard project click here


It’s time to make the heart of Portsmouth beat again

Plans have been announced by the city council to redevelop the city centre after years of delay, setbacks and lack of investment.
Funding for new city centre roads as part of Portsmouth’s local plan were agreed as part of a package of proposals in the council’s capital budget on Tuesday by councillors of all parties.
A new plan is being put together proposing 2,600 homes and 9,700 permanent jobs as part of a high-level master-plan for the regeneration scheme.
If the new roads go ahead it will open up large parts of land between Princess Royal Road and Cascades Shopping Centre for development.
Research tells us that congestion costs the city’s businesses £10m a year in lost productivity. At the same time, the city centre has some of the highest levels of air pollution in the country.

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On a site visit in Commercial Road

Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth Labour Leader said:
“Congestion and air pollution are a massive burden on local people. I hope these new roads will address residents’ concerns and get Portsmouth moving again.”
The new road scheme forms part of a wider city centre development plan being drawn up with more residential housing, new shopping opportunities and a leisure offer.
On the new ideas for the city centre Cllr Morgan said:
“I’m committed to securing a prosperous future for our city. To do that Portsmouth needs to attract more private sector investment to help create the good quality jobs that local people need.  With it we must ensure that there is more affordable housing for local people”.
Portsmouth Labour wants to make sure that the city gets the best deal possible to regenerate our tired city centre, and create something for future generations to be proud of. 
Cllr Morgan added:
“It is hugely important the council listens to the views of the community in developing these ideas into concrete proposals.
In my opinion a mixed use development with much needed new homes for local people – complementing a better retail offer in the city centre – should be a key part of the plan.
It’s time the heart of our city gets its beat back and is a destination once again”.

Borrowed time to save social care for elderly argues charity

Age UK has backed the need for urgent action and funding from central government following publication of a comprehensive report this week.
As pressures on elderly social care increase due to more complexity care needs, the well-respected charity agrees with increasing amounts of evidence showing that health and social care services in the UK are struggling.
Earlier this week social care in Portsmouth came under the spotlight in the Labour Group’s response to the city council’s budget for 2017/18 set at Full Council on Tuesday.
The city faces huge challenges after cuts and lack of funding from central government to fund vital local social care services.
Portsmouth Labour proposed a fairer budget to protect social care, finding savings by reducing the cost of democracy and management overheads to invest in services for our loved ones.
The local Labour leader, Cllr Stephen Morgan said at the council debate “the government’s funding distribution continues to penalise Portsmouth, and that as far as the government is concerned, we are on our own.”

The government has said it will allow local authorities to raise council tax with the social care precept used only for adult social care.
Cllr Morgan added: “This is a drop in the ocean, a sticking plaster on a gaping wound. At the proposed 3% it brings in about £2m a year for this city, set against an overall package of budget reductions which will see spending cut this year and next year and the next year, with no end in sight”.
The government’s approach shifts the responsibility of funding social care from national government to local residents, breaking decades of convention about the responsibilities of the state.
Responding to the Age UK’s research he added:
“In light of the report it’s clear that little time is left to protect these services. Portsmouth is not on its own. Local councils are taking action to reduce the harm of Tory cuts to social care budgets.
The government must now listen and must now act. But until then, we should continue to find creative ways to tackle this most pressing of issues facing our communities”.

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Trade union work in Portsmouth recognised

As part of ‘Heartunions week’ (8-14 February 2017) Portsmouth Labour took the opportunity to recognise the hard work done by union representatives in the workplace across our city and celebrate the unions’ contribution to Portsmouth. 

Following the Tory administration’s decision to cut funding to support city council employees via the unions, Portsmouth’s Labour Group called on the council at its budget meeting on 14 February to agree proposals brought forward by local unions.

These included changing the way they work to help bring about more realistic savings and protect important services.

Cllr Stephen Morgan in the budget debate said:


The heartunions stall in Guildhall Square run by union representatives

“At a time when we need the trade unions more than ever, this administration is cutting the support they provide to employees.

In December we were the only political group arguing for trade union facility time to stay the same.

I said it then, and I will say it again.  This is nothing more than an ideological attack on the trade union movement. These proposals will end up costing this authority more.

For this reason, we have continued to actively engage the unions which represent the city’s workforce at this council.

Therefore their proposals for change are our proposals before you today”.

Frank Minal of GMB said: 

“I thank the Labour Group on the council for fighting on behalf of employees across our city to help get this bad decision by the administration reversed.

We know from other areas the approach the council has agreed won’t work. We’ll continue our campaign so all staff in our city are given the support they need”.

Cllr Morgan added:

“Like thousands of council employees who rely on their support, in this week of recognition for their work, we remind ourselves we love the trade unions”.

For more information about trade unions and the ‘heartunions’ initiative visit http://heartunions.org/

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Labour proposes fairer budget to protect care, schools and job security

The city’s Labour leader, Cllr Stephen Morgan (Charles Dickens ward) spoke up passionately for Portsmouth at this week’s full council meeting.

Debating the council’s proposed council tax increase, revenue and capital budgets, he made it clear that Labour wants to see more done to improve the city for all who live here.

 He said:

“I believe with every bone in my body that Portsmouth City Council can make things better. We can make a material difference through the services we provide, but just as importantly through the leadership we give to the rest of our society.”

He then put forward an amendment from the Labour Group, and a response to the budgets before Full Council for decision, to encourage safeguarding and creation of jobs, reorganising and reforming the way the council works, and protecting frontline services in social care. 

Other priorities for Labour in Portsmouth include investment in roads, pavements, schools and the city centre; increasing recycling rates; building homes for local people; working to prevent homelessness; and tackling anti-social behaviour.

Cllr Morgan pointed out that “the government’s funding distribution continues to penalise Portsmouth, and that as far as the government is concerned we are on our own.”

He established that the Labour budget amendment would cut the cost of democracy by streamlining the structures of the council; reducing management overheads by investing in technology, buying more smartly, and lowering the number of council managers; and investing in social care at a time when services are in crisis.

Cllr Morgan noted that these suggestions were informed by feedback received from residents, voluntary groups and trade unions. 

He said, “I want local people to have a much greater say on what services this council provides to them, and on how we provide them.”

Businesses and jobs were another key theme of the Labour Group speech, as he spoke about the desire to help local business grow and prosper, create more training and apprenticeship opportunities, and reduce unemployment while ensuring that work always pays fairly.

On social care, Cllr Morgan stated that Labour would support the proposed increase in council tax to cover some of the government’s cuts to the social care budget. But he noted that the Liberal Democrats had ignored Labour’s calls to increase council tax during their time running the council.

Cllr Morgan pointed out that they “chose short term political gain over sustainable investment in the city’s future. If they had made that decision, the city would now have an extra £6m per annum to spend on vital services.”

In conclusion, Cllr Morgan noted that “this council’s budget should be about real people, their day-to-day lives and their future.” He said:

“There is hope. Things can be better.

And everyone in this city should know my group is doing everything it can to help people get through the difficult times, and ensure we have the foundations we need to build a fairer future. 

It is not easy, it is not comfortable, but it is vital if we are to achieve a fairer and more just city.

We are on the side of the people of Portsmouth. This budget amendment is a step along this journey.”



Plans for Arundel Court Primary get go ahead

Portsmouth City Council has agreed plans to provide much needed investment to support capital improvements at a popular primary school in the heart of the city.

£1.9m will be allocated to Arundel Court Primary School on Northam Street, Landport to increase pupil places and improve the school’s buildings. 

Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour Leader and ward councillor for the area the school serves is a former chair of governors at Arundel Court.

In support of the council’s decision he said:

“A few years ago I had the privilege to be the chair of governors at the former junior school on this site. I therefore understand both the ambitions and challenges the school has faced in securing funding for capital works. 

Improving the school’s buildings will only enhance the learning environment for all pupils.

Arundel Court is a fantastic school with dedicated staff and hard working pupils in a very special part of Portsmouth. The school community deserves this investment”.


Miss Karen Stocks with Cllr Morgan on a visit to the school last year

Miss Karen Stocks, headteacher of the school thanked Cllr Morgan for his support and lobbying of the council.

She added:

“As the head of the school I only want what is best for the children, staff, parents and governors.

All we ask is for an amazing school building, fit for purpose and one which has the wow factor and a visual presence in the community.”

The decision comes at a time when Portsmouth Labour has been campaigning for more to be done to tackle child poverty in the city. 

In Charles Dickens ward alone, 44% of 0-19 year olds live in poverty.

Educational attainment is seen as a key way to help children improve their life chances later in life.