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Portsmouth MP backs Southsea Dinosaur community project

This summer Aspex in Gunwharf Quays is celebrating ten years since Luna Park towered over Southsea Common.

As a response to the national lockdown caused by Covid-19, and to mark the tenth anniversary since the Ultrasaurus sculpture astounded thousands of visitors to Portsmouth, the art gallery has commissioned Heather and Ivan Morison to rebuild their 2010 artwork in Virtual Reality.

Aspex is also launching a crowdfunding campaign to ‘Bring Back The Southsea Dinosaur’, raising public support for a permanent tribute to Luna Park to be installed next year.

If successful the campaign will fund a permanent piece of public art which combines a bronze sculpture and integrated augmented reality archive.

Backing the community project, city MP Stephen Morgan said:

“Known affectionately by fellow Portsmouth residents as ‘The Southsea Dinosaur’ the sculpture was visited, photographed, climbed on and enjoyed by thousands of people until it unexpectedly burnt down in October 2010.

 I welcome Aspex’s latest venture with our city’s communities ten years on, from cake competitions, to the trail, to commissioning new work, this is a great way to connect Portsmouth residents with art during this challenging time for our communities”.

To find out more about fundraising for the permanent tribute to Luna Park to be installed on Southsea Common next year visit the Bring Back The Southsea Dinosaur page here.

As well as the crowdfunding initiative, Aspex have organised for fifty Ultrasaurus dinosaurs on posters and in windows of local businesses and organisations across the city, which can be spotted throughout August and shared on social media at #SouthseaDinosaur.

 

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister visits National Museum of the Royal Navy to hear about their road to recovery

Concerned by the impact of coronavirus and the subsequent economic crisis faced by the nation’s armed forces museums, Stephen Morgan MP today spent time with the Director of the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) as part of ongoing support for the charity.

Stephen Morgan MP kicked off the socially distanced visit with a meeting led by the Museum’s senior management. First on the agenda was the fact the NMRN and Mary Rose Museum would be opening together later this month with a consolidated ticketing system, while the future of the Royal Marines Museum and public safety ahead of reopening was also discussed.

Mr Morgan then went onto a behind the scenes tour of HMS Victory. This included a tour of the public viewing platforms which are currently mid construction and the changes being made to the dry dock facility, making Mr Morgan the first representative in the city to see the work underway.

On the new viewing platform, Mr Morgan said:

“The new viewing platform will allow visitors the opportunity to see the craftsmanship that has gone into HMS Victory from an entirely new perspective.

This, coupled with the implementation of new hydraulic capabilities aimed at further preserving the ship, proves that the Historic Dockyard is at the cutting edge of delivering a high quality visitor experience.”

The city MP also took the opportunity to hear about the new consolidated ticketing function with the Mary Rose Museum, challenges faced by local museums ahead of reopening, and observed the changes being made to the dry dock being used to preserve HMS Victory.  

Commenting on the venture with the Mary Rose Museum, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The National Museum of the Royal Navy, home to the world’s most famous warship, is a cultural institution that educates, inspires and informs people from across the globe about our nation’s naval history. While the Mary Rose acts as a porthole into the past, its preservation and excavation is considered world-leading.

I welcome the innovation and cooperative spirit demonstrated by both the NMRN and the Mary Rose, and following discussions today, remain hopeful that this joint venture will lead to both institutions successfully weathering the storm of Covid-19 – an outcome very important to our community.”

The visit comes in the wake of news that government would offer support to the museum, following lobbying by the Portsmouth South MP and others. Concerns over the future of the major cultural asset arose in recent months due to the severe loss of footfall; causing Mr Morgan to lobby Ministers in Parliament and to write directly to the Defence Secretary urging financial assistance.

The NMRN was facing disproportionate strain in comparison to other national museums as 81% of its funding relies on donors and visitor revenue, meaning that unless government stepped in the museum could face closure.

On financial challenges faced by NMRN, Mr Morgan added:

“I welcome news that government is finally willing to give this of significant national asset the support it deserves. However, I will continue to engage with the museum and Ministers to ensure its future remains secure.

Seeing the safety measures put in place today, alongside the adaptations made to normal service due to Covid, there is no doubt in my mind that every measure has been taken to preserve visitor experience and public safety.

Portsmouth is steeped in military history. It is vital that we preserve and protect this heritage so that future generations can understand just how significant our city is. I urge people to do their bit to support the NMRN by booking in a visit, in line with government guidelines.”

 

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Portsmouth’s own “Crown Jewels” must be supported by Government says city MP after call with local theatres and music venues

Breaking headlines have revealed struggling theatres across the nation are being forced to axe thousands of jobs due to a lack of government support. As part of a string of actions to help the sector here in Portsmouth, Stephen Morgan MP has hosted a roundtable to hear concerns directly.

Bringing together representatives from the theatre, live music and venue hire sector, the Portsmouth South MP outlined the interventions he has been taking amid the pandemic before hearing concerns and agreeing a set of future actions. The roundtable follows direct lobbying by Mr Morgan to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport urging assistance for local theatres. The response received has been labelled as ‘bland’ and ‘lacking in any tangible detail’ by Mr Morgan as it generic format does nothing to address the specific local concerns outlined in the correspondence.

The Government has also been criticised by many for being focused on trying to protect theatres in the West End of London labelled the “Crown Jewels” and not doing enough to support struggling regional theatres and music venues.

The meeting comes against the backdrop of 5,000 jobs losses across UK theatres, 2,000 of which occurred after government announced its arts recovery package. With the arts and culture sector employing around 160,000 across the South East, this is of grave concern to Portsmouth’s jobs and economy.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I have heard again that despite details of the arts recovery package being announced, we are still nowhere closer to the money being distributed. This is just not good enough.

Every day that passes without the funding being released, and a lack of certainty about when theatres will be able to re-open, is a day that risks further job losses from the sector.

Since the onset of this pandemic, I have been calling on government to support our city’s arts. It is essential they immediately release the money set aside as part of the recovery package and explore alternative support such as exemption from furlough contribution and additional measures for freelancers.”

At the roundtable, a set of further actions were agreed by the city MP. Based on the concerns raised by culture sector representatives, Stephen Morgan will be urging the Culture Secretary to visit Portsmouth for a tour of the city’s venues and theatres to hear first hand about the challenges they have been facing.

Mr Morgan added:

“Following the bland response from government to my letter that lacked any tangible detail about the local concerns raised, I will be urging the Culture Secretary to visit Portsmouth’s theatres and venues to see exactly the problems arising from the one-size-fits all approach that is being adopted.

It is obvious from discussions with sector representatives today that each organisation faces a unique set of challenges. I will continue to push Ministers to acknowledge this and offer more comprehensive support to our city’s theatres and music venues – our own Crown Jewels”.

Stephen Morgan has been acting on behalf of the culture sector throughout the pandemic. Writing to the Culture Secretary to urge a recovery package, submitting written questions about cash flow to venues, and throwing his weight behind Portsmouth Creates open consultation are just some of ways he has offered support.

 

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“Just 24 hours to save jobs” says city MP in response to new regional furlough data

“Fresh stats reveal marked deterioration in South East jobs market and economy, even compared to data released three weeks ago” says city Stephen Morgan backing Labour’s 5-point plan.

24 hours to save jobs – new analysis shows high street still under strain in South East, including Portsmouth as 1,216, 600 furloughed workers start losing support in a matter of hours.

Three weeks ago, Stephen Morgan MP released a statement outlining his response to damning stats showing how many people have fallen through the gaps in government support across the region. New data today shows that even in the short time since then, things have become markedly worse.

Analysis released today by the Labour Party shows:

  • Footfall for key high street businesses is still down 40% on pre-pandemic levels in the UK
  • 7% of businesses in the hardest hit sector still report being temporarily closed
  • 1,216,600 furloughed workers in the South East begin losing support in a matter of hours – making it a 7.1% increase in just a few weeks

New analysis by the Labour Party shows many businesses in the South East still face significant challenges due to coronavirus.

Google mobility data shows that footfall for retail and recreation businesses, including restaurants, cafes, museums and cinemas, is down 45% in Portsmouth compared to pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, footfall on public transport and around workplaces is still down 18%.

Meanwhile, the latest ONS data shows some firms have still not reopened, whilst a large number of those that have report lower turnover.

A fifth of businesses in the food and accommodation sector have still not been able to reopen, including nearly 30% of SMEs. 43% of businesses in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector are also still temporarily closed, including nearly half of SMEs.

Meanwhile, of those that have opened, 84% in food and accommodation and 72% in arts and entertainment report reduced turnover from pre-pandemic levels.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Hardworking Portsmouth people, through no fault of their own, have fallen through the substantial gaps in government support. From the self-employed to new businesses, people from a variety of occupations are facing financial turmoil.

The marked deterioration of the state of employment in our region, even just over the last two weeks, is a testament to the fact more must be done.

The government was too slow into lockdown, too slow on testing, now its too slow to protect jobs. That is why I support Labour’s 5-point plan that will fight for jobs, back our businesses, leave no-one behind, keep workers safe and drive up job creation”

In under 24 hours, these firms begin losing support from the Job Retention Scheme and will have to start meeting some of the cost of non-working hours for any retained employees (either fully or partially furloughed).

This change risks handing furloughed workers In the South East their P45;

  • 1, 216, 600, people have been furloughed an increase from 1,035,400 – equivalent to 29% of the workforce
  • 203, 400 workers in the food and accommodation, equivalent to 72% of the workforce
  • 73, 500 workers in arts, entertainment and recreation, equivalent to 69% of the workforce

While the arts and food sectors have seen an increase in output over the last few weeks, this is solely down to an easing of lockdown restrictions. Many still reserve concerns that businesses will not survive unless more comprehensive support is offered by government.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds MP said:

“The Chancellor’s refusal to abandon his one-size-fits-all withdrawal of furlough is an historic mistake that risks a python-like squeeze on jobs in the worst-hit sectors. The reward for months of hard work and sacrifice by the British people cannot be a P45.

It’s not too late for the Chancellor to see sense, change course and support the businesses and sectors that need it most. But even if he does, there is still much to do.

That’s why Labour is today launching the Jobs Jobs Jobs campaign – to offer concrete, constructive proposals that would protect the economy and people’s livelihoods.”

Labour is calling on the government to reverse course and extend the furlough scheme so that it supports jobs in the worst-hit sectors and targets aid to struggling industries.

This would put the UK in line with other major developed democracies, with many extending their versions of the Job Retention Scheme or similar wage subsidy schemes:

  • France announced in July that their emergency wage subsidy scheme would operate for up to two years.
  • Germany already benefited from an existing wage subsidy or ‘short-time’ work scheme, introduced after the financial crisis to prevent unemployment during downturns. The scheme was expanded in March, with these changes lasting until the end of the year. Workers can receive a subsidy for up to a year, meaning the government will be subsidising wages well into 2021.
  • Australia recently announced that its Job Keeper wage subsidy scheme would be extended until March 2021 for the worst affected firms. The scheme was due to end in September and is still open to new claims.
  • Ireland announced last week that its temporary wage subsidy scheme would remain in place until March 2021.

 

 

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City MP takes action for those excluded from government support 

Stephen Morgan MP has written to the Chancellor on behalf of struggling Portsmouth residents who have fallen through gaps in Government’s patchy support.

In conjunction with the ExcludedUK campaign, a campaign for individuals and businesses entirely or largely excluded from the Government’s Covid-19 financial support measures, the city MP is demanding that the chancellor urgently meet with campaign organisers.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Treasury Select Committee identified well over a million people who have lost livelihoods through no fault of their own. With a great deal of small businesses and freelancers, this has hit Portsmouth people hard.

If we are to avoid unnecessary spikes in poverty, unemployment and rising levels of debt and a mental health pandemic, government must take urgent action to address the patchy support offered.”

There are many people currently excluded from government support. This includes those in between jobs or due to start new jobs after 19 March, the newly self-employed and new businesses, some self-employed, those in less than 50% self-employment, those on parental leave, those on PAYE freelance short-term contracts, low investment start-ups, small limited company owner-directors, businesses ineligible for grants and more.

The Portsmouth South MP has joined a cross party group committed to working with Government to find a solution. This latest action follows a series of steps to help those affected. He added:

Powerful testimonies delivered by those affected combined with my inbox bursting with individuals facing financial turmoil is a testament to the fact government must do better.

The Chancellor must listen to those directly affected so that Government can understand where support is lacking and the what this is doing to people’s lives.

That’s why I demanded the Chancellor meet with the ExcludedUK campaign representatives, so that we can help all of those suffering from lack of support, and really make a change.”

Stephen Morgan MP has been in regular communication with local residents and this is not the first time he has taken action on their behalf over failing government support.

Already he has written to the Chancellor on behalf of the self-employed and small businesses as well as submitted questions to the Business Secretary and grilled Ministers in parliament. He has vowed to continue supporting the ExcludedUK campaign, and Portsmouth people and who have been effected by the government’s lacking support schemes.

 

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“Working together is crucial to overcoming inequality in our communities” says Stephen Morgan MP

In a week where Portsmouth’s Labour Group put forward both a motion and an amendment at the city council’s meeting aimed at combating structural racism, Stephen Morgan MP talks about why differences need to be set aside to overcome inequality.

The harrowing footage of the murder of George Floyd has quite rightly shaken the world. While the Black Lives Matter movement is on the frontier of the battle for civil rights, and their peaceful resilience is an inspiration, there are things that we can do here in Portsmouth to stamp out all forms of racism and injustice. To do that, we need to make sure that we are all working together, looking inwards at how we can improve, and making tangible change in our communities at a local level.

Tragically George Floyd’s death was not a one-off event. It is endemic of a deep-set racism in our society. A racism that does not respect borders, has the ability to cross oceans and is just as dangerous across the Atlantic as it is here within our own city. And it is therefore clear that we have a responsibility to drum out this rot where we find it in our own community.

Nationally, there is a lot more that government must do. With the Race Disparity Audit, Lammy Review and the McGregor-Smith Review we have seen inquiry after inquiry telling us the same thing – that racism has infiltrated every echelon of our society. We have seen enough words, what we now need to see is action to tackle the inequalities in employment, health and education laid bare by the pandemic. That is why I am proud Portsmouth as a city, once again, proved that it is willing to tackle the tough challenges head on this week.

At full council I am proud that the Labour Group played a part in making positive changes in our community. Consulting with grassroots minority groups about the disproportionate effect of coronavirus, commitment to developing an anti-racism strategy, strengthening engagement with local BAME groups and reviewing councillor training on equality responsibilities are now all tangible local changes resulting from the Labour Group’s intervention.

When we know that racism and discrimination suffered by Britain’s black, Asian and minority ethnic people has contributed to the high death rates from Covid-19 in those communities, this couldn’t be more needed.

When facing division and hatred, a united front is always the most effective tool.  That is why at full council Labour worked proactively with the administration and other parties to make sure Portsmouth’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement was as strong as it could be. This meant supporting the efforts of other parties, but constructively offering improvements where they were needed.  It is important that representatives from all parties stand united and work together to combat injustice and hatred.

So, the passing of the motion strengthened by Labour’s amendments at full council proves that our city can pull together and be at the forefront of proliferating progress. But this is only a first step. There is a great deal more to do.

Past behaviour of local representatives, local hate crime data and the everyday racism we all see proves that.  We need to be constantly reassessing our response to racism, listening to our communities and translating this into real, visible change.

While in the first council meeting since the tragic death of George Floyd, the Labour Group has proven its unwavering commitment to creating a more equal society, there is no room for complacency. The party locally will continue to work with others to push for a fairer, unprejudiced and more just society.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

 

 

 

 

 

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City MP responds to The Times report on Aquind and Russian interference

Following the publication of the intelligence and security committee’s report this week, concerns about the growth of Russian influence in British political and public life have increased.

Potential links between Aquind Interconnector, a large national infrastructure project running through Portsmouth, and a Russian tycoon have prompted further questions. Investigative reports carried out by The Times has revealed that large sums of money have been paid by Aquind to the Conservative party.

Responding to The Times story, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This week the ISC reminded us that the Government failed to properly investigate Russian interference in our democratic process, and then tried to hide it. Unless these threats are dealt with, aggression will rise.

Now, we learn that hefty sums of money have been paid to the Tories by a Russian linked firm delivering a major UK infrastructure project effecting my city.

Alarm bells have been ringing for some time over the Aquind proposals. With the company exempt from some corruption rules, links to the ex-Chief of Russia’s state-owned arms company and hefty donations, this smacks of impropriety.

There are questions that need to be answered by the Conservatives in the interest of transparency. I will not stand idly by while foreign interests attempt to erode our democracy and national security.”

The full Times article can be seen here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/name-russian-tycoon-behind-power-company-say-top-tories-0vqb0vw8g

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister hosts ‘Labour Listens’ event for forces communities across region

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP this evening hosted the Shadow Defence Secretary for a virtual roundtable for communities across the south east.

Giving people with a forces interest a chance to relay their concerns to the senior frontbenchers, the event is part of a UK-wide programme of discussions led by Labour’s shadow defence team.

The purpose is to link those in the forces and forces communities along with their families directly with Labour’s decision-makers, reaffirming the party’s stance as four-square behind our troops.

Stephen Morgan, Shadow Armed Forces Minister said:

“In Portsmouth it is impossible to miss the immeasurable value of our troops, whether it’s helping set up test centres to combat Covid or patrolling our waters to keep us safe.

To ensure we are delivering for them, we’ve got to understand the hopes and aspirations of the Armed Forces community, as well as the problems they face after a decade of declining numbers, morale and pay.

“We also want to talk about the pride we share in the excellence and professionalism of Britain’s service men and women, feelings I know many Portsmouth people share.”

The event falls in line with announcements made by the Labour leader on (27 June) Armed Forces Day, that Labour is open and listening to the forces community and must take onboard their views and concerns to win back trust.

John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

“I want to open up Labour again to our Armed Forces, their families and veterans across our country.

“Today’s event is part of an exciting new dialogue with forces communities. We want to say thank you to our Armed Forces for the role they play both at home and abroad. We will make sure we listen and learn from them.

“As Britain faces a period of greater global risk and conflict, I want Labour to hear their voices and views, and I want them to play a bigger part in our Party.”

 

 

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“Government must tackle disproportionate effect of Covid on BAME communities” City MP tells Minister in House of Commons

In response to a recent Public Health England (PHE) report exposing that black, Asian and minority ethnic people were worst affected by Covid, Stephen Morgan MP has urged the Government to outline its plans for combating racial inequality in the House of Commons today.

The IFS estimated that Black Caribbean deaths are 1.8 times those of White British, Pakistani deaths are 2.7 times as high, and Black African fatalities 3 times higher.

The PHE report confirms that the impact of Covid-19 replicated existing health inequalities and, in some cases, exacerbated them further, particularly affecting minority groups.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government’s long running failure to address issues that disproportionately effect minority communities such as poor housing, air pollution and overcrowding has resulted in Covid-19 hitting people from a BAME background harder – as the PHE has revealed.

I will continue to put pressure on Ministers to not only acknowledge the findings of the report, but implement the recommendations set out in the ‘Beyond the data’ publication and take stock of Labour’s race relations adviser’s recommendations which will be released soon.

Urgent, drastic and comprehensive measures must be set out by government to tackle this deeply entrenched racist rot that we find in every part of our society. There is no excuse for inaction.”

Labour has carried its own review into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME groups, led by Baroness Doreen Lawrence who is Labour’s race relations adviser.

The report will gather data on the impact of Covid-19 on Black Asian Minority Ethnic Communities and will be released in the summer.

The city MP followed up his initial question to Government today with a targeted line of inquiry relating to workplace discrimination.

Data shows that almost half of BME workers (45%) have been given harder or more difficult tasks to do, over one third (36%) had heard racist comments or jokes at work, around a quarter (24%) had been singled out for redundancy and one in seven (15%) of those that had been harassed said they left their job because of the racist treatment they received.

On workplace discrimination, the city MP said:

“Research carried out by the TUC revealed that people from ethnic minorities are often blighted by discrimination at work. This is not only shocking, but the fact that this may be linked to increased deaths among this demographic is earthshattering.

From being given less desirable and more dangerous work to being singled out for redundancy and getting less PPE, the report identifies example after example of racism must be drummed out immediately.

That’s why today I demanded action from government in dealing with this discrimination and why I will continue to put pressure on Ministers to redress workplace inequality.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Help find Portsmouth’s best small shop’ urges city MP

In a bid to continue to help support small business and Portsmouth’s small shops on the road to recovery, Stephen Morgan MP has urged constituents to let him know their favourites and why so that they can be nominated for the national Best Small Shops Awards.

The city MP has asked Portsmouth South residents to consider a small shops’ entrepreneurial spirit, ways that they have been innovative in their business and what they have done to have a lasting positive impact on their community for the awards.

Special consideration will be given to shops that have gone above and beyond amid the public health pandemic. Constituents are also encouraged to complete the survey, the results of which will then be passed on to ‘Indie Retail’ as part of The Best Small Shops Competition.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Amid Covid-19 we have truly seen just how valuable our small shops are. Whether considering corner stores keeping homes stocked with essential supplies or book shops allowing us access to vital entertainment, we have all relied on Portsmouth’s variety of small businesses. It is important that we recognise the efforts of these small shops and thank them for going above and beyond in keeping our communities going through these tough times.

It is not just in recent months that they have been so important, Portsmouth’s thriving independent shopping scene has always been crucial to the local economy, jobs and our city’s culture. Now it’s time to do out bit to thank them for these efforts.

I encourage any local resident who has a favourite small shop in Portsmouth South to get in touch and share their story so we can ensure they receive the commendation they deserve”.

The criteria for who can be nominated is a non-corporate business selling goods or services to the public for use or consumption rather than for resale, from a business rated premises in the UK.

The national Best Small Shops Competition is open to any small shop operating in the UK. Residents can nominate their favourite businesses until Friday 11 September 2020 and a shortlist will be announced in October with winners announced in November. Those who are shortlisted are eligible for five awards including the newly launched award for small shops response to Covid-19.

You can select your favourite small shop here