Have your say on air quality

The city council is wanting to hear our views on air quality in Portsmouth.
The quality of the air that we breathe plays a big part in the health of our local communities. The current legal limits on ambient air quality in Portsmouth, as in many other busy cities, can sometimes be exceeded at certain locations.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Labour’s environment spokesperson, said:
“Last year the council undertook helpful studies which found that local people are really concerned about the levels of pollution in some parts of the city. Anxieties over asthma, heart problems and lung disease require urgent attention.
It is imperative the council continues to respond to this important feedback and demonstrates its commitment to good air quality.
More must be done. All residents must be able to benefit from cleaner air in our city”.
To help the city council improve air quality they have developed a draft strategy. This ten year strategy sets out the city’s aspirations for improving and maintaining healthy air quality in Portsmouth. 
The council is now inviting views on the draft strategy. Please read the draft strategy visit www.portsmouth.gov.uk/ext/environment/air-quality-in-portsmouth.aspx and to complete the survey go to www.research.net/r/PCCAIRSTRATEGY2017
The deadline for responses is 8 May 2017.

City schools deserve better from government

The government’s new schools funding formula will hit areas in greatest need the hardest. So Portsmouth Labour is calling for a rethink.
National research by the teachers unions suggests that 98% of schools are set to lose out as a result of the Conservatives’ new funding plans.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour Leader said:
“Head teachers are already speaking of the impossible job they have to balance the books and offer the best education for all children. Yet there is a risk that the worst is still to come”. 
Schools all over the country are already running into trouble – even before these damaging proposals have been introduced.
A recent report from the Education Policy Institute predicts that, for all the government’s spin about gains, every school in England will face real-terms funding cuts within a couple of years. Half will face cuts of up to 11% per pupil. This is simply horrific.
Unless Ministers allocate more money, schools and academies will see cuts rise to £3 billion a year in real terms by 2020.
Portsmouth Labour calls on the government to take immediate action. They must inject much needed money into an already overstretched system. It’s the only way to protect our children’s education. 

Research has found that further cuts to funding will lead to bigger classes, fewer staff, and fewer extra-curricular activities and resources.
At the same time, councils have said that cuts could leave local authorities unable to meet legal obligations to schools – from checking staff for criminal records, to making sure buildings are free of asbestos.
Cllr Morgan said:
“The city council’s own response to the government’s consultation proposals is clear. It identifies that under current proposals by Ministers, primary schools in the most deprived areas of Portsmouth would see a reduction in government funding”. 
The biggest losers, identified by Portsmouth City Council, would be Arundel Court Primary, The Flying Bull Academy, Ark Ayrton Primary and Ark Dickens Primary in the heart of our city. 
Cllr Morgan added:
“At a time when these schools are working so hard to improve the life chances of all pupils in challenging circumstances, this is a kick in the teeth by government to dedicated teachers and staff. 
Our schools are investing in the future of children by giving them the best possible education. It’s time for the government to better invest in our city’s schools”.
Your can view the research on proposed cuts and see how it could affect your local school visit www.schoolcuts.org.uk
To share your views with Portsmouth Labour on local school funding or join us on this campaign email teamcharlesdickens@gmail.com


City’s port is ship shape

Portsmouth’s Labour Leader has paid a visit to the city’s International Port to meet the port’s new director and tour the site.
Over the years the city council has invested heavily in new passenger facilities, and the well-designed airport style terminal – opened a few years ago – delivers a first class experience for travellers. And recent statistics show that this investment is paying off.
Latest passenger figures for ferry crossings to France reveal 2016 was a record year at the city’s port, with passenger numbers hitting a ten year high. Last year the number of passengers crossing to France from Portsmouth International Port rose by 3.7% to 1.7 million.
The amount of freight being carried from Portsmouth International to the near continent by Brittany Ferries has also risen significantly. The operator, which is based in Portsmouth, saw freight units rising by 3% to 146,199.
Cllr Stephen Morgan paid Mike Sellers the new port director a visit to catch up on the port’s performance and hear what more the city council could do to ensure future success.
FullSizeRender-22He said:
“It was great to visit the International Port today and meet Mike and his team. A successful port means jobs for local people, greater investment in our great city, and a stronger local economy.
I am pleased to learn of recent passenger numbers and Brittany Ferries continued commitment to our city. Plans to attract new cruise liners berthing in Portsmouth are exciting and have my backing.
I offered my support to the team to work with important partners – such as the Royal Navy, University and local businesses – to ensure this fantastic asset in the heart of our city continues to deliver for everyone”.
Portsmouth’s international port has been in operation since 1976. Owned and operated by the city council, the port has grown extensively over the decades.
Initially it offered just one route to France from a small section of reclaimed harbour front. It is now known as Britain’s Best Connected Port with more destinations than any other UK Port. The Port’s location on the M275 offers fast connections to London.
For more information about the port visit: www.portsmouth-port.co.uk

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This week is Down Syndrome Awareness Week

This year’s Down Syndrome Awareness Week kicked off yesterday incorporating World Down Syndrome on Tuesday 21 March. The theme is ‘Don’t just see Down’s syndrome’ and aims to encourage greater inclusion in schools, the community and working environment.
Based at the Sarah Duffen Centre (Cottage Grove School Campus), ‘Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association’ is one of the UK’s top providers of social and specialist educational services for children with Down syndrome, their families and related professionals.
The charity offer services including New Baby Support Groups, Early Intervention Sessions, Speech and Drama Therapy, and a School Advisory Service supporting the successful inclusion of our children in more than 60 mainstream schools.
They also offer regular training for school staff, parents and other health related professionals, with over 40 midwives and health care professionals attended a ‘Tell it Right Training’ at the QA Hospital recently.
Speaking in support of the charity’s awareness raising activities, Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth Labour Leader, said:
“Down Syndrome is one of the most misunderstood learning disabilities, which is why the work of Portsmouth’s association and all it does tirelessly to support people with DS, and their families, is hugely important.
When children and adults with Down Syndrome are given opportunities to participate, and are fully included, then the whole community benefits.
In this week of awareness I want to pay a special thank you to the Association for all they do in our city”.
As part of Down Syndrome Week local people are being invited to go onto Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association’s Facebook Page and give it a ‘like’. The charity helps to achieve 2,000 new likes by the end of the week!

Concerns over future of funding for schools

Portsmouth Labour has joined local headteachers and union representatives in sharing concerns over the government’s introduction of a new investment formula for allocating funding to schools.
The News reported this week that local union members have thrown their support behind headteachers saying they have ‘no choice but to make cuts as some schools could lose tens of thousands of pounds over the next few years’.
While some school leadership teams are considering cutting staff, others are looking at stopping external groups holding clubs and subjects being taken off the curriculum.
The government’s new funding formula will mean money moved from urban areas. The Department for Education, which announced the new formula in December last year, said Portsmouth should see an increase in funding under the proposed changes, but critics remain concerned.
Educational leaders have said while some schools will see extra money, others will lose out. The government is saying in cash terms there is more money but they aren’t taking into account a rise in costs for schools.
For example, national insurance has risen as have pensions for staff. Local authorities are no longer required to provide some specialist services so schools are having to pay for these themselves, meaning that there is less money to spend per pupil.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour Leader, is concerned by insufficient funding in the city and real-terms cuts to school budgets.
He said:
Schools and councils up and down the country are raising their concerns with central government about the future funding of our education system and the flaws in the new funding formula.
Schools are under huge pressure to make ends meet at a time when so much is being done to improve attendance, engagement and attainment of all young people in Portsmouth.
Cutting school funding in some of the most deprived communities in the country, where educational attainment is often more challenging, makes no sense.
Our city and our school children deserve a better deal from this government”.

Disabled people face unfair hardship

People with a disability are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people as a result of additional associated costs, and Personal Independent Payments (PIP) is a key source of income to prevent real hardship. But last week the government changed the rules on PIP.
By shifting the goal posts, the government will strip entitlements from over 160,000 disabled people and people with chronic mental health conditions, money which an independent tribunal believe is rightfully theirs.
Some claimants will not be able to access the full support they are entitled to – an effective cut worth £3.7bn.
Labour have been fighting these PIP regulations since they were sneaked out at the end of February. Now more than 30 disability charities have written to ministers urging them not to restrict access to PIP, echoing Labour’s calls not to go ahead with these draconian changes.
The government refused to listen to the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) who, like the charities and disabled people’s organisations, they failed to consult before introducing these changes.
The government disagreed with all of SSAC’s reasonable recommendations that there should be wider engagement prior to any changes and that these proposals should be tested before implemented.
Campaigners have also said people with mental health conditions need to be treated fairly and being properly supported to live full and independent lives.
These changes would create a legal distinction between mental health problems and other kinds of impairments when it comes to assessments. So much for parity of esteem.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour Leader, said:
“The government needs to know that enough is enough.
Proposals completely go against the government’s commitment to putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health.
More can, and must, be done to support disabled people to live full and independent lives.
I urge ministers to think again about these new regulations which will leave thousands of people with a disability without any financial support”.
You can show your support for this campaign by signing Labour’s petition calling on the government’s new regulations not to be implemented.

Endless winter for our NHS

The latest NHS situation reports for accident and emergency (A&E) performance have been published this week and show the crisis in the NHS winter crisis stretching into spring.
Across the country, emergency admissions in the week ending 12 March were the highest they have been so far this winter and A&E attendances in the week ending 12 March were the highest since December.
In the week ending 12 March, there were 19 temporary diverts from one A&E to another to provide temporary respite. Overall, there have been around 84 per cent more diverts this winter than last winter.
In the week ending 12 March, 34 different trusts reported serious operational pressures at some point. On average, 20 trusts each day reported serious operational pressures.
Last week, 13 trusts across the nation had average bed occupancy over 99 per cent – up from 12 in the previous week.
Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:
“Standards for NHS patients have collapsed this winter because Theresa May just hasn’t given the health service the resources and the priority it needs.
It beggars belief that such pressure is still being seen on A&E after months of crisis – it is a sign of a wider system creaking under the strain of Tory neglect’.
The situation report follows news that nearly £2m is being spent in Portsmouth as a result of bed-blocking at QA Hospital. On average, about 240 people are stuck in beds at Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, despite being medically fit for discharge.
And with the cost of a patient per bed per day around £250, on a single day the problem of bed-blocking is costing the NHS £60,000 – £1.8m a month.
1Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour Leader said:
“Our NHS is underresourced, understaffed and overstretched. We see the impact of this on a day-to-day basis on health services here in Portsmouth.
Waiting times for specialist appointments and clearing beds of people who are well enough to be discharged are key for improving the A&E services at QA.”
His comments come after latest figures from NHS England revealed Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, saw, treated or discharged only 66.7 per cent of patients within the four-hour target in January. The government target is 95 per cent.
Cllr Morgan added:
“The government needs to get a grip and make clear what action it is going to take so that patients and their families never have to suffer a winter like this ever again and the crisis we see in our NHS finally comes to an end.”

Need help looking for a job?

The Salvation Army opened the first ‘labour exchange’ to help people get back into employment in 1890.
Today the church is still supporting people find work with practical advice through informal drop ins.
So if you’re looking for work and need support, then why not come along to the Salvation Army’s Job Club known as ‘Employment Plus Local’.
Services include

  • a focus on looking for employment and gain the support needed to help find work
  • access to information and guidance on accessing training opportunities to acquire new skills or improve existing ones.
  • resources and advice to apply for jobs, including help in completing job application forms, CV writing and interview techniques.
  • a point of reference and an address for homeless jobseekers
  • a place to meet, to share job hunting tips & ideas, exchange skills, find jobs and share experiences
  • a warm, relaxed atmosphere with tea, coffee & biscuits

You’ll find the job club at The Haven, Lake Road every Wednesday morning from 9.30am to 12.30pm.
The Haven Community Centre, Lake Road, Landport, Portsmouth PO1 4HA. Telephone: 023 9229 3793

National plans do little to tackle ‘broken housing market’

The government has admitted that the nation’s housing market is ‘broken’ in a recent white paper on housing.
Whilst the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has also acknowledged the home ownership was a ‘distant dream’ for young families, government plans fail to tackle the challenges our communities face in accessing affordable, quality homes.
Challenges include:

  • The number of households who own their own home has fallen by 200,000, with the number of under-35 households owning a home down by 344,000.
  • There are over 900,000 more households renting from a private landlord than in 2010 including one in four families with dependent children, but rents have risen faster than incomes.
  • Despite 13 separate cuts to housing benefit, including the bedroom tax, the housing benefit bill is £4bn higher each year in cash terms.
  • There are 143,000 fewer council homes than in 2010, with only one home in every six sold under the right to buy replaced, despite promises of ‘one for one’ replacement. Measures in the recent housing and planning act are set to mean the loss of 23,503 council houses a year according to the housing charity Shelter.

Whilst the white paper does have some sensible ideas, such as the new two year time limit for developers to hold planning permission before construction; the vast difference between supply and demand has not been addressed.
Commenting on the detail on the content of the white paper, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing John Healey MP, said:
“The measures announced so far in Theresa May’s long-promised housing white paper are feeble beyond belief. After seven years of failure and a thousand housing announcements, the housing crisis is getting worse not better.
There are 200,000 fewer home-owners, homelessness has doubled, and affordable house-building has slumped to a 24 year low. Ministers should be setting out clear plans to deal with these problems, but all Theresa May’s Ministers have delivered so far is hot air”.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth Labour’s housing spokesperson, said:
Despite promises of more houses and starter homes to bring rising house prices under control, the government has consistently let down homeowners especially those on lower incomes.
They must do much more than is currently proposed to fix the housing crisis – by ensuring thousands more affordable homes to rent and buy are built, a charter of renters’ rights agreed and an action plan developed to finally end homelessness.
We desperately need more affordable, good quality housing for local people here in Portsmouth”.



A budget built on unfairness

Labour has responded to the Chancellor’s Spring Budget Statement presented in Parliament today stating the budget fails to address the challenges facing the country.
Overall growth has been revised down in 2018, 2019 and 2020 compared to the Autumn Statement.
There was nothing in the government’s statement to deal with the cost of living crisis, it won’t solve the state of emergency in our NHS and social care system, and it doesn’t do enough to build a fairer economy for all.
The budget failed to deal with the cost of living affecting so many people in the country:

  • real pay is still lower than before the crash with the Institute for Fiscal Studies saying “one cannot describe how dreadful that is”, and too many jobs are now insecure
  • the National Living Wage has been revised down again, in 2020. It is forecast not to hit the £9 promised by the Tories, let alone match Labour’s plan for a £10 an hour Real Living Wage
  • six million people earn less than the living wage, and four million children are in poverty – two-thirds of them in households in which at least one parent works uncertain hours.

The budget also failed to address the crisis we see in the NHS and social care service.
Labour has demanded extra funding for social care yet the government’s announcement today doesn’t make up for the fact that they have cut £4.6bn from social care in the last parliament. As the Kings Fund says, the country needs at least a £2bn injection now to stabilise social care not £2bn spread over three years.
On the NHS, there is no money to deal with the crisis facing the nation’s hospitals. The government has promised a small amount of capital spend which doesn’t compensate for the fact that in the Autumn Statement last year they cut £1.2bn from capital. The NHS is still facing capital spending cuts across the Parliament.
There is a shortfall of £5bn in NHS maintenance which hasn’t even been addressed. What they have announced today is capital spend for A&Es next winter. This simply isn’t good enough.
With other forecasts revisited, average earnings have been revised down next year and every remaining year of the Parliament.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour Leader, said:
“The Chancellor has broken his party’s manifesto pledge and chosen to hit the self-employed. These jobs are often the most precarious. Over 2.5 million people will end up paying more in national insurance as a result of these Tory plans.
With councils facing an overall social care funding gap of £5.8 billion by 2020, no where near enough is being done to tackle the crisis in our care services. Short-term pressures remain and the challenge of finding a long-term solution to the social care crisis is far from over.
The government has also failed to address the unfair challenges our country and city face. I wanted to see action to help people with everyday living costs that many households are now facing. I wanted to see help for people in Portsmouth who are working hard but struggling to make ends meet.
Sadly this government’s budget is a budget built on unfairness”.