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Portsmouth MP blasts government’s ‘decade of decline’ as analysis reveals over 7,000 local homeowners trapped in leasehold system

Stephen Morgan MP has blasted the government’s ‘decade of decline’ for local homeowners as new analysis reveals 7,262 homes have been sold as leasehold in the local MP’s constituency of Portsmouth South since 2010.

It comes as the Ground Rents Bill has its second reading today in the House of commons, ending ground rents for future leases but offering little for those already trapped in the scandal of spiralling ground rents.

The analysis from the House of Commons Library of Land Registry data shows the scale of the leasehold scandal over the last 10 years. This is when people buy a house, without also owning the freehold, meaning they often face unexpected, unfair costs with no right of challenge or recourse.

Homeowners across the country have been trapped in the feudal leasehold system since 2010, despite the Government promising for years to reform this arcane system. Labour has accused the Conservatives of being the “party of developers”, who use homeowners as cash cows and donate millions to the Tory Party.

New legislation to reduce ground rents to zero will only apply to new homes, meaning all those who have been sold leasehold homes since the Conservatives came to power will continue to be trapped in this feudal system, and developers will continue to make profit off leaseholders’ ground rents for years into the future.

Ground rent is the practice where some house buyers are forced to pay thousands of pounds each year to a company which owns the land their property is on, with usually nothing in return. Leaseholders face escalating ground rent charges attached to the ground on which their property sits. Often, they were unaware of this hidden cost at point of purchase.

The CMA has recently taken enforcement action against four developers Countryside, Taylor Wimpey, Barratt and Persimmon – which it believes may have broken consumer protection law by writing terms into their leases where ground rents double every 10 to 15 years. This has left many leaseholders clobbered by spiralling hidden costs and trapped in unsellable homes.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said: 

“Homeowners in Portsmouth and across the country have been trapped in our feudal leasehold system over the last decade whilst Ministers have turned a blind eye to this injustice. 

“The Government has long promised reform, but this Bill is a missed opportunity to help existing leaseholders. Ministers have the wrong priorities, they should be standing up for this group today, not leaving them behind.”

The city MP has also been engaging with local leaseholders who are being forced to pay sky-high fire safety remediation costs for their homes and has urged minsters in parliament to ensure they are not forced to pick up the bill.

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Portsmouth MP welcomes local Afghan families with ‘open arms’

Stephen Morgan MP welcomed local ARAP Afghan families evacuated during August’s Operation Pitting with ‘open arms’ today, during a welcome event held in the city.

The Portsmouth MP met with eight Afghan national families that fled Afghanistan in the summer under the government’s resettlement scheme and was able to thank them for their efforts in working with British personnel in Afghanistan.

Earlier this week in Parliament, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister met with 120 of the soldiers who served in Operation Pitting and thanked them for their efforts to the secure the safety of the 15,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan, including those now based in Portsmouth.

The city MP has been helping with the evacuation programme in responding to over 300 individual cases of those hoping to flee Afghanistan with the Home Office and other government departments.

He has also been working alongside veteran community organisation Ems4Afghans that is providing support to those families in bridging hotels across the country with clothes, toiletries, and other essential items.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“I know from my engagement with our city’s existing Afghan community the challenges many families have faced being evacuated from Afghanistan and the harrowing stories of those loved ones left at home under Taliban control.

“It was a pleasure to finally be able to welcome families seeking sanctuary in Portsmouth, to thank them for their work in supporting the British armed forces and understand their hopes for the future as new constituents.

“Whilst this is a real demonstration of the strength of our community coming together to support each other, this may not be the same elsewhere.

“Many ARAP evacuees and their families now find themselves at the mercy of a postcode lottery of support and constrained by a cliff edge on their immigration status.   

“It’s vital now that Ministers deliver clear and consistent pathways for the support offered through Operation Warm Welcome if they are to keep the promises they have made to those who bravely supported our forces.”

Mr Morgan has been asking questions of Ministers over the handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and has vowed to continue to lobby government on the delivery of Operation Warm Welcome and support those seeking sanctuary in Portsmouth.

In recent weeks, Portsmouth Labour launched a ‘Hug in the Bag’ project to give practical support to Afghan families settling in the city. To find out more about how to get involved, contact Portsmouth Labour via hello@portsmouthlabourparty.org.uk or sign up to updates through its website: https://www.portsmouthlabourparty.org.uk/meetings/

 

 

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Half of all Portsmouth students leaving education without key skills as City MP backs national reskilling campaign

Stephen Morgan MP has backed a ‘Ready for Work, Ready for Life’ campaign to deliver an education system that is fit for the future and equips young people, adults and our economy with the skills essential for success.

Currently 5 out of 10 young people in Portsmouth are leaving education without the level 3 (A-level or BTEC equivalent) skills and qualifications that are crucial for the modern economy. While Labour was in government, the number achieving these qualifications rose rapidly to 2010, but has since stalled with no national increase under the Conservatives since 2013.

It comes as the cost-of-living crisis continues to impact families with empty shelves and petrol pumps, and rising prices adding extra pressure.

In the sectors with the highest job vacancies in September – including health and care and wholesale – training opportunities have also been falling. Health and care sectors have seen further education student numbers fall by over 150,000 with a fall of over 138,000 students in retail and commerce.

This trend matches the declines in government investment. Funding for apprenticeships and adult education has fallen 35% in real-terms with spending on 16 – 19 education falling 21%.

At Labour Party Conference, Sir Keir Starmer set out plans to ensure young people leave education ready for work and ready for life. Alongside protecting BTEC qualifications, Labour would put a trained careers advisor in every school to help young people make the choices that are right for them and use unspent funding from the apprenticeships levy to create 100,000 new apprenticeships this year.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“Families across Portsmouth are feeling the brunt of the Conservatives’ failure to deliver the skills and training opportunities our country needs, with shelves left empty, petrol pumps running dry and the risk of Christmas chaos.

“I’m proud to be supporting this campaign to ensure every young person leaves education ready for work and ready for life, giving them the best start to their adult lives and our economy the skills that will help rebuild our country.”

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“Young people are being let down, leaving education without the skills and qualifications which will open doors for their futures.

“Labour has set out a clear plan to deliver the skills young people and our economy will need for the future, from giving children new digital skills to delivering thousands of new apprenticeships.

 “Under the Conservatives skills and vocational training have been overlooked and undervalued. Labour would ensure every young person leaves education ready for work and ready for life.”

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister: Army cuts are ‘huge gamble’ with our national security

Stephen Morgan has said that the Defence Secretary’s manifesto breaking cuts to the armed forces represent a ‘huge gamble’ with our national security.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister’s warning came in response to the Defence Secretary’s statement to the House of Commons today, which confirmed the largest reorganisation of the army in a generation.

The army will be cut by 9,000 to 73,000 by 2025, its smallest since the Napoleonic era. The infantry will be reorganised into four divisions, meaning some existing brigades will be merged or deleted.

There will also be 33 site closures, including Alanbrooke Barracks at Topcliffe in North Yorkshire, severing historic and prosperous ties the Army has with communities up and down the UK.

A new elite unit of Rangers will be created to operate in complex, high threat environments as part of an Army Special Operations brigade.

The Defence Secretary claims the changes would “transform the Army into a more agile, integrated, lethal, expeditionary force”.

However, concerns have been raised by Labour and others that the changes are short-sighted against the backdrop of growing threats to the UK and its allies, not least on the Ukrainian border.

Responding to the Defence Secretary’s statement in the Commons, Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey raised fears the Government’s plan to reorganise the British Army leaves it too small, too thinly stretched and too poorly equipped to deal with the burgeoning state threats to the UK, and our allies.

Jack Watling of the influential defence and security think tank RUSI said ‘the British Army has essentially admitted that it cannot field a force for high-intensity combat for the best part of a decade’.

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said:

“The Government’s decision to cut the size of the British Army to its smallest since the Napoleonic era is a huge gamble with our national security.

“At a time when the threats faced by the UK and its allies are growing it is vital that we maintain the ability to reinforce Europe against Russia and be an effective warfighting partner to NATO allies. This demands high-end warfighting capabilities, not just light forces and cyber operations.

“Labour has committed to pausing, reviewing and reversing the cuts if necessary.”

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Don’t miss out: Stephen Morgan’s next ‘Pint with your MP’ session set to take place this weekend

Stephen Morgan MP is set to host his third ‘Pint with your MP’ session of 2021, with the next post-lockdown event taking place this Sunday at 3pm.

The pop-up ‘Pint with your MP’ sessions are designed as informal opportunities for constituents to say hello to their local Member of Parliament and share issues and concerns about topics of interest both locally and nationally.

The Portsmouth representative is determined to take up every opportunity to have more face-to-face conversations with constituents safely after more than a year of restrictions, whilst also helping to support local businesses, as the city recovers from the pandemic.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“I’m looking forward to hosting the next ‘Pint with your MP’ event, after really useful and well-attended sessions so far this year.

“This is a great way for local people to share views and issues with me to take back to Westminster whilst supporting a local business.

“As Portsmouth’s voice in Parliament, it’s really important to be out and about and speaking with people to ensure that everyone’s views are heard, not just the loudest ones or those who have better access to technology.

“I hope these sessions have been a chance for others to come and speak to me in a way that is more accessible to them.”

The full address for the ‘Pint with your MP’ session is: Groundlings Theatre, 42 Kent St, Portsea, Portsmouth, PO1 3BS.

Whilst national restrictions have eased, attendees are encouraged to take reasonable precautions to feel safe to attend.

The event is open to all constituents and booking is essential. To confirm your attendance, visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pint-with-your-mp-tickets-191631694557

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Portsmouth MP votes against government ‘con’ to fix social care crisis

Stephen Morgan MP has voted against the government’s ‘backward’ proposals to fix the social care crisis.

The government is proposing a £86,000 cap in personal care costs in its Health and Care Bill.

However, in new details published last week, government said support payments from councils will not count towards the cap, with charities warning the move would unfairly hit the poorest.

Labour’s Shadow Social Care Minister, Liz Kendall MP, also said that the £86,000 cap “would still mean many people will have to sell their homes to pay for their care – against everything Boris Johnson promised.”

Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation think tank, also pointed out the plan could “double your care costs” for someone who has about £90,000 in assets.

According to the Health Foundation, the government’s changes to the Bill “will no longer protect those with lower assets from catastrophic costs.”

The charity said that under “the current system people can lose all but £14,250 of their assets. For someone with £100k this represents 86% of their wealth. Under the Care Act, this would be reduced to 43%.  But under the Government’s proposals the maximum loss would be £80k – 80% of their assets”.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“This is a care con, not a care plan.

“We already knew most people won’t hit the cap because it doesn’t cover board and lodging in care homes, but now it has been revealed that the poorest pensioners will have to pay even more.

“Ministers have slipped out a significant change that means if you live in a £1m house, perhaps in the Home Counties, 90% of your assets will be protected.

“But if you need social care and live in an £90,000 in home in Hartlepool or even Portsmouth, your care costs could be doubled under new government proposals. That is not fair.

“That’s why I voted last night to reject these proposals and continue to press Ministers for a fairer option.”

Mr Morgan recently held roundtables with local care users and providers to better understand local issues and concerns, has asked a range of parliamentary questions on the issue and lobbied the Health Secretary on challenges the sector faces.

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Gurkha pensions: Government cannot continue to ‘sweep issue under the carpet’ – Portsmouth MP

Stephen Morgan MP has accused the government of sweeping the contentious issue of Gurkha pension equality under the carpet during a debate in Westminster this evening.

The issue of Gurkha pension equality is a longstanding and complex issue, but the Portsmouth MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister urged the government to set out a way forward to address the problem.

In August, a group of Gurkha veterans were forced to go on hunger strike outside Downing Street following the government’s lack of engagement with their concerns.

The Shadow Minister visited campaigners during their 13-day hunger strike, having lobbied the Defence Secretary the previous day about the issue.

Leading a debate in Westminster Hall on behalf of the Official Opposition tonight, the Portsmouth representative demanded government set out its approach to the forthcoming bilateral committee meeting convened with Nepal to discuss Gurkha welfare issues.

He also called for the government to commit to publishing its response to its own consultation on the Gurkha Pension Scheme, which closed eight months ago, before the talks begin.

The MP has met with Gurkhas and campaigners on several occasions, including on Saturday with Labour councillors in Reading, which has a particularly high Gurkha population.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“This is a complex and longstanding issue, but that’s no excuse for the government’s lack of engagement in tackling the inequalities experienced by those who have fought to keep us safe.

“It cannot be right that those who have served our country have to live in such difficult circumstances, with the cost-of-living crisis set to make things only go from bad, to worse, this winter.

“At the very least Ministers must consider measures that ensure all Gurkha veterans have the opportunity to live securely in retirement. Labour will work cross-party to get this right, but Government needs to finally show long overdue leadership.

Ministers cannot continue to sweep this growing problem under the carpet.”

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Men’s Health Week: City MP praises community project to support men’s mental health

Stephen Morgan MP has praised the work of local community project ‘Breakfast OK’ for its efforts to support and protect men’s mental health.

It comes as this year’s Men’s Health Week, running from Nov 14 – 20, focuses on mental health and how important it is that men feel comfortable speaking up about their own mental health and accepting support where it is available.

The Portsmouth MP paid a visit to ‘Breakfast OK’, held at Fratton-based social enterprise ‘MAKE’, which offers a chance for men to meet up and have a chat, rant or simply share their experiences with others in a relaxed environment over breakfast.

The local initiative runs every Saturday from 10am-12pm at MAKE, 1 Cornwall Rd, Fratton, PO1 5AA.

Nationally, male suicide continues to be the biggest cause of death for men under 35, with over three out of four suicides being men.

Over 1 in 10 males in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders, but are much less likely to access psychological therapies in comparison to women.

On Men’s Mental Health Week, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Men’s mental health is in crisis and the stigma that asking for help and support when you need it is somehow weak or wrong must be stamped out.

“That’s why, during this year’s focus on mental health on Men’s Health Week, I’m proud to support and promote the value of the work local projects like ‘Breakfast OK’ provide to men who need help.

“Hubs like these provide a lifeline for those who need support and I really encourage those who feel they need help to reach out and ask for when they do. It’s ok not to be ok.”

Charities and Organisations that offer support include:

Sarah Mitas, Manager at MAKE, also said:

“44 years ago, my father lost his life to the silent illness of depression. On the outside he was a kind, hardworking, fun dad. However, the turmoil he must have felt inside to even begin to consider taking his own life must have been overwhelming.

“Breakfast OK? was sparked by wanting to give others who have felt the way he did a chance to talk it through and the chance to realise they are not alone. Suicide doesn’t just take one life. It leaves ripples of overwhelming guilt, sadness and loss throughout families, friends and associates.

“We really want Breakfast OK? to give men the chance to know its ok to talk and you are not alone. If we can help just one father, brother, grandad, uncle, friend it is one more man we will not lose to this devastating illness.”

Darren, a recent attendee of the weekly sessions, added:

“Breakfast Ok? is a great way of letting out any problems that I’m struggling to express to close family. You are not judged by what you say and you can get a huge amount of support by someone just listening.”

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Respect Shopworkers Week: Portsmouth MP calls for Christmas shoppers to ‘keep their cool’

Stephen Morgan MP has back USDAW’s Respect Shopworkers Week campaign and called for Christmas shoppers to ‘keep their cool’ over the busy festive period.

The Portsmouth MP has paid a visit to South Parade’s Co-op to speak with staff and understand the local challenges they have faced this year.

Respect Shopworkers Week is a national annual campaign that works to both curb and raise awareness of the physical and verbal abuse shopworkers receive day-to-day across the country.

USDAW’s survey results have shown a troubling increase in violence and abuse against retail workers in recent years — with another significant increase in 2020 during the Coronavirus crisis.

According to the shopworkers union, 90% of retail workers were abused whilst working on the shop floor over the last year.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“Shop and retail workers both here in Portsmouth and across the country have been the backbone of local communities over the last 18 months.

“During this crisis, our key workers have been there to support us when we needed it most. The very least they deserve is to be treated with the dignity and respect we would all normally expect from each other when in our place of work.

“That’s why I am proud to support this year’s Respect Shopworkers Week’ and urge local shoppers to keep their cool this Christmas.”

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Portsmouth MP urges government to tackle ‘blackhole’ of NHS waiting list as it passes 43,000 mark locally

Stephen Morgan MP has urged the government to tackle the ‘blackhole’ of local NHS waiting lists, as latest NHS figures revealed that at the end of September 2021, there were 43,797 people on the waiting list at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust.

The figures also showed 1,462 people had been waiting for more than a year for an appointment.

In March 2020, at the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, there were 4,235,970 people on the NHS waiting list in England. Nationally, the standard of 92% of people seen within 18 weeks of a referral has not been met since 2016.

However, the pandemic had a devastating effect on an already-fragile NHS, with the national waiting list is now 37.7 per cent higher than it was before Covid-19 hit the UK (an increase of 1,598,451 people). The current figure means that just over 1 in 10 people in England are on the NHS waiting list (10.3 per cent).

The Government is yet to publish its plan to address the vast NHS waiting list, with hospitals around the country already reporting unsustainable pressure and an inability to provide high quality care.

Nationally, the NHS is short of 100,000 staff, including 7,000 doctors and 40,000 nurses. In the Budget last month, the Chancellor did not set out a plan to recruit, train, and retain the staff needed to solve this waiting list crisis.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, said: 

“If people in Portsmouth can’t get the timely care they deserve, there will be devastating consequences. 43,000 people on our local NHS waiting list is simply unsustainable.

“The doctors, nurses, and other health care staff at our local hospitals are doing amazing work, as I saw first-hand last week at QA hospital, but there’s only so much they can do after a decade of underfunding and without the staff numbers they need.

“Government has got to take action and come up with a plan to properly staff and support the NHS in order to tackle this blackhole of local waiting lists.”

Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said:

“We’ve heard serious warnings from hospital chiefs about the unsustainable pressure the NHS is under. These figures are confirmation of the dangerously lengthy waiting times patients are forced to endure and the scale of pressure on overwhelmed A&Es.

“The coming winter weeks are set to be the most challenging in history for the NHS. It’s now urgent Ministers fix the stalling vaccination programme, resolve the immediate crisis in social care and bring forward a long-term plan to recruit the health care staff our NHS desperately needs, which Rishi Sunak has failed to provide despite imposing a punishing tax rise on working people.”