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Portsmouth MP pays visit to local Mosque as it joins fight against COVID-19

Stephen Morgan MP visited the Jami Mosque in the heart of Portsmouth today as it opened its doors as a new COVID-19 vaccination centre.

It is expected the vaccination hub will be able to vaccinate over 200 people a day.

It is also hoped by those behind the plan of the Mosque’s involvement that this will dispel false information that is reported to be circulating in some communities, as well as to encourage vaccine take up.

The local centre of worship will be running vaccination sessions every Tuesday from 10am – 1pm and 2pm – 5pm.

The Portsmouth South MP was invited to be one of the first visitors on site to welcome residents to the new pop-up facility and thank those involved in setting up the centre.

Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“I want to thank all the volunteers behind this project. It is really pleasing to be on site as the hub opens to the public today.

“It is so important people take up the offer of the vaccine when they get it. We must not allow misinformation to get in the way of keeping people safe.”

Mr Morgan has previously volunteered with Portsmouth HIVE as part of Portsmouth’s wider vaccination programme in response to COVID-19.

The MP has been working alongside the city’s ethnic minority communities encouraging take up of the vaccine, including supporting a short film to dispel some of the myths about the jab.

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City MP welcomes vision to reverse ten years of city centre decline under the Conservatives

Labour has set out a “bright future for Britain’s high streets” and launched a five-point plan to “put communities first” in support of our community’s high streets.

The party’s plan, set out by the Shadow Chancellor includes:

  1. Stopping the Conservatives selling off Britain’s high streets for low-quality housing, by scrapping new planning rules.
  2. Empowering councils to fill empty shops with new businesses to breathe life into town centres.
  3. Challenging the government to use Tax Day on 23 March to level the tax playing field for high street businesses and online firms.
  4. Establishing a High Streets Fightback Fund to help businesses hit hard by the pandemic get back on their feet.
  5. Protecting family finances by reversing Rishi Sunak’s economically illiterate hammer blows to people’s pockets.

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

“I’ve long argued that the Government must do more, and our council do better, in tackling the decline of our city’s high streets.

That is why I have been pushing Ministers to invest in Portsmouth and pleased to have helped secure funding for the future of high streets as our city recovers from this pandemic. But in order to reverse the decline we see in Portsmouth’s shopping areas we must put communities first.

The Conservatives have completely failed to protect Britain’s high streets over the last decade with over 7,000 shops closed across the country on their watch.

I welcome this five-point plan to deliver a bright future for our high streets. We need urgent action to reverse a decade of decline in our shopping centres, and I know constituents will know how vital this now is”.

Arguing that high street businesses are competing with online retailers with “one hand tied behind their backs”, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds, MP, has demanded urgent action to level the playing field:

“We can’t continue with a situation where five US tech firms account for £1.3bn in lost corporation tax every year, while high street shops pay business rates under a system that hasn’t been reformed for years.

“The Government should set out what it plans to do about this. On so-called ‘Tax Day’, the Conservatives must level the playing field between high street businesses and giant online firms.”

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Local MP calls for breakfast clubs to recover lost learning as students return

Stephen Morgan MP has joined the Official Opposition’s call for the introduction of catch-up breakfast clubs to help kids in Portsmouth recover lost time with friends and teachers during the pandemic.

The Portsmouth MP is lobbying the Education Secretary in support of the suggested measures to address the disruption to learning and social development of students caused by the pandemic and the latest period of lockdown.

Analysis from Labour shows that children have each lost an average of 109 face-to-face school days. Despite this, there was no mention of children in last week’s Budget and Ministers’ single-year catch-up plan amounts to just 43p a day per child over the next school year.

Labour argues introducing a universal offer for catch-up breakfast clubs would ensure children in Portsmouth receive a healthy breakfast before school, have extra time to socialise and give schools time to provide targeted tuition or catch up support.

The latest action by the Portsmouth South MP follows the launch of Labour’s new ‘Bright Future Taskforce’, which will deliver a long-term strategy for children’s recovery and ensure every child has the chance to fulfil their potential.

In Portsmouth, disadvantaged pupils are falling behind their peers in their learning and development, with those in early years five months behind, primary students over ten months behind and secondary students nearly two years behind (23.6 months).

Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

‘’Children in Portsmouth have often been an afterthought for this government; forgotten during in midst of the pandemic, but now also being forgotten in the recovery too.

“Throughout this crisis I have been calling on the government to help address the digital divide and support local disadvantaged children. It is clear this divide has sadly only got wider during this pandemic.

“Introducing universal breakfast clubs would ensure children get a healthy breakfast, which we know is central to children’s ability to learn and enable children to make up for the time lost with their friends and teachers.’’

Mr Morgan has been engaging with parents and school staff throughout the pandemic to hear issues and concerns and take them back to Westminster.

He wrote to the Education Secretary back in January to provide assurances on early years funding when many faced financial uncertainty due to COVID-19 restrictions.

 

 

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Portsmouth MP praises ‘brilliant’ local COVID-19 testing centre during visit

Stephen Morgan MP has lauded the new COVID-19 testing centre at Portsmouth Guildhall as a ‘brilliant operation’, during a visit earlier today.

The new facility is now offering asymptomatic community testing to anyone who is over the age of 16 who regularly leaves home to go to work, or those not covered by an existing workplace testing programme.

Appointments are available 7 days a week, between 8am and 8pm, and can be booked at short notice.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“Asymptomatic testing across our community is going to play a critical role in supporting the fight against COVID-19, right now and in the weeks and months ahead, particularly for those who are unable to work from home.

“The Portsmouth Guildhall testing facility is a brilliant operation and my thanks to all the dedicated staff for getting this up and running.”

According to the latest government figures, the current rate per 100k of positive COVID-19 cases in Portsmouth is 57.7, but the local parliamentary representative has warned that everyone must continue to stick to the COVID-19 rules and restrictions to not undo the progress of the last few months.

Meanwhile from today, many students will be returning to school for the first time in weeks.

The parliamentary representative, added:

 We are making great progress in tackling the spread of this dreadful virus, but as we begin open up society again, it is vital we continue to listen to advice and follow the rules.

“We are so close to overcoming this collective challenge we all share and we must do all we can ensure we do not undo any of the hard work our city has put in over the last few months.”

You can find out more about the testing centre and book an appointment via Portsmouth City Council’s website.

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‘Government must deliver on its promise to creative workers’

I know from my postbag that many constituents are concerned by the issue of work permits for creative workers now that the Brexit transition period has ended.

The work musicians, performers, technicians and writers do in bringing creativity to our lives is important in and of itself, but it is also a hugely important part of our city’s economy and has to be part of the recovery plan for Portsmouth as we emerge from the pandemic.

The industry was one of the fastest growing sectors before the pandemic and a real example of Britain shining on the world stage as we are a net exporter of music worldwide.

I believe it is not acceptable that UK-based creative workers miss out. These opportunities are even more essential in the context of how hard-hit creatives have been in the pandemic. Incomes have been lost and so many people have fallen through the gaps in government support.

The current situation will prevent many younger, newer artists from touring and progressing their careers. It will also prevent European acts from touring here – hitting our music venues when they need it most.

Labour wants the Government to deliver on its promise to creative workers that they won’t be subject to unnecessary bureaucracy in the post-Brexit world. UK-based creative workers should not be disadvantaged by the Government’s failures to stand up for their jobs and nor should our venues miss out on EU-based talent.

Ministers need to put this situation right. I will continue to push the Government on this important issue of concern for Portsmouth people.

Stephen Morgan MP

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‘Prime Minister must scrap council tax rise for families’ says Portsmouth MP

Labour has today urged Government to properly fund local authorities so that proposals for a planned 5% council tax rise can be scrapped. Under current plans drawn up by Ministers, Government would allow local authorities to increase council tax – meaning a £89 increase to annual household bills for the average Band D home in Portsmouth.

Current Government plans would make families pay for a £2 billion hole in council budgets.

The vote follows an appeal from Labour leader Keir Starmer to stop the council tax rise and provide certainty to millions of struggling families who face additional blows to their household incomes from frozen pay and a cut to Universal Credit.

Under the Government’s proposals, households living in Band D will face an average rise of over £90 next year under plans set out in the Comprehensive Spending Review. It means council tax will have risen by 33% under the Conservatives.

Portsmouth City Council faces a funding gap because of income lost during the pandemic and the additional costs of keeping communities safe from COVID-19.

Conservative Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said councils would be funded to do “whatever it takes” to support their communities but later backtracked and suggested councils should share the burden of their lost income.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on council finances. According to the Local Government Association, the latest figures from the COVID monitoring survey put the financial impact of COVID-19 on local authorities at an estimated £9.7 billion for 2020/21, with a further £2.8 billion of lost income from council tax and business rates.

“At the outset of the pandemic the government promised to do whatever was necessary to support councils in their fight against Covid-19, but Ministers have failed to do so.

“This Government should not be making families pay for their mishandling of the pandemic and their broken promises to support councils”.

On the vote today and opposition day debate, the Portsmouth South MP added:

“Families across our city are facing serious pressures currently, but instead of supporting them, the government has decided to add to their hardships.

“These next few months are going to be incredibly tough for many families, which is why Labour is calling on the government today to stop the council tax rise and properly fund councils, otherwise local authorities will be left with little choice to protect the services we all rely on.

“Government must provide certainty to millions of struggling families, following the recently announced blows to their household incomes from frozen pay and cuts to Universal Credit.

“That’s why I’m urging the Prime Minister to scrap the council tax rise.”

Mr Morgan has recently called on the government to support families through this latest lockdown period, criticising the mid-January announcement that free school meals would not be provided by the government through February half-term.

 

 

 

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City MP backs calls for supermarkets to suspend delivery charges for most vulnerable

Stephen Morgan MP has backed charity Independent Age’s campaign supermarkets to suspend delivery charges and reduce minimum basket spends for people who are most at risk if they contract COVID-19 and have been advised to stay home.

The campaign focuses on protecting those are may be disable, people with long term health conditions, older people, unpaid carers and others.

The charity recently coordinated a joint letter signed by over 20 leading charities to the CEOs of seven large UK supermarkets who are involved in facilitating priority delivery slots for people at high risk of COVID-19.

Those who are most at risk are facing long periods of staying at home for their safety, including those who are once again shielding.

Many of these people now need to rely on online shopping. While supermarkets have expanded online deliveries for people at high risk, the extra costs to those consumers are putting many people under financial pressure.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“Those most at risk need to be supported during this pandemic and charging them more for the safest way for them to get basic essentials like food should no be happening.

“We know UK supermarkets can more than afford to suspend delivery charges and reduce minimum basket spends for people who are most at risk if they contract COVID-19, so I completely support Independent Age’s campaign on this important issue.”

Last month, Mr Morgan also called for greater support for and to end discrimination against disabled people in Portsmouth.

 

 

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Portsmouth MP criticises government for refusing to back Labour plans to scrap cut to Universal Credit

Stephen Morgan MP has criticised the government tonight after it refused to support Labour’s proposal to scrap plans to strip £20 a week from 20,764 people in Portsmouth, after the Official Opposition forced a vote in the House of Commons demanding that the government scraps its planned cut to Universal Credit.

This will hit 16,434 families in Portsmouth with a cut equivalent to the cost of the average family’s annual electricity, gas and internet bills combined.

This follows the Prime Minister’s remarks at the Liaison Committee last week that he intends to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week, or £1040 a year, for 6 million families in April.

The official opposition has repeatedly called for the Prime Minister to change course and provide certainty to millions of struggling families who face a triple blow of council tax hikes, frozen pay and a cut to Universal Credit.

Child Poverty Action Group has stated the £20 uplift is essential to ensure “low-income families with children receive the support they need”. While the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has warned that the cut could see another 200,000 children pushed into poverty.

City MP Stephen Morgan has taken a range of actions to lobby Government to think again about the proposed cut to universal credit.

This includes writing to the Chancellor in November to urge him to reconsider the policy decision, submitting parliamentary questions to Ministers, and arranging for a motion at Portsmouth City Council to lobby Government to cancel the cut, but was not supported by local Tories.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“It is unthinkable that Conservative MPs want to push families in Portsmouth into further hardship in the midst of an economic crisis.

“What’s just as worryingly is when we discussed these Government plans at the city council, local Tory councillors stayed silent, then voted against plans to stop the Chancellor cutting this lifeline for so many local families.

“The Government’s handling of the current crisis has caused Britain to suffer the worst recession of any major economy. Now Ministers are trying to make low income families pay as a result of their incompetence. 

“Families in Portsmouth deserve support during this crisis, not cuts.”

 

 

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Portsmouth MP demands answers from Education Secretary on childcare funding

Stephen Morgan MP pushed the Education Ministerial team in the House of Commons today to take action on funding for early years and childcare providers across the country.

 

It comes as many early years providers in the UK face financial uncertainty at the moment due to national Covid-19 restrictions, with the local MP writing last week to over 40 early years and childcare providers across his constituency.

 

The parliamentary representative wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson MP at the beginning of the month outlining his priorities for local education in Portsmouth, including his concerns about the financial pressures nurseries are currently facing.

 

According to a recent report from Coram, 58 per cent of local authorities think that local childcare providers may close for good, leading to calls for immediate investment and clarity about future funding arrangements.

 

Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

 

“Nurseries are not just crucial for families; they are a vital part of our economy.

 

“The government urgently needs to set out its strategy for early years providers, as well as provide certainty on future funding.

 

“Without this, Government risks losing essential childcare places in less well-off communities as a result of the pandemic and damages the prospects of our economic recovery.

 

“Last week I wrote to over 40 local nurseries, early years and childcare providers to hear their views and ideas. This week I am putting my words into action by raising their concerns in Parliament. I will continue to push the government to act on this important sector for our community.”

Mr Morgan has submitted a range of parliamentary questions and lobbied Government on this issue. He is committed to continuing to liaise with the range of local childcare providers to understand and speak up for the sector.

 

 

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City MP welcomes free legal advice available to Portsmouth residents

Stephen Morgan MP has welcomed the University of Portsmouth’s law school continuing to offer free legal advice to anyone in the city on all areas of the law, except criminal and immigration matters.

The Legal Advice Clinic has been running since 2013, and is run by student legal advisers and supervised practising solicitors. Every year the team helps over 250 local people, staff and students with legal issues.

Typically, you’ll receive advice on the day, but the team may follow up by email, or write a letter where the matter is more complex.

The pandemic is highlighting a range of legal issues including with tenants such as university students and their rental properties, employees who are being made redundant, and more.

Common enquiries the team help with include:

  • Tenant issues – problems with the condition of your rental property, return of your deposit, and whether you can leave before the tenancy finishes
  • Family – breakdown of relationship/contact with children
  • Employment – issues with colleagues at work, an employer not paying wages, or unfair dismissal
  • Small claims – returning a defective product, paid for work to your property that was not completed, or received court proceedings due to a disagreement over payment of an item or service
  • Private client – how to make a lasting power of attorney, issues over a will, do you need to obtain probate and how to apply for it?

Appointments are available over phone and email, every Monday and Wednesday, for University students, staff and the public.

To book an appointment, call 07711 389 522 or email advice@port.ac.uk. These lines are staffed Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4pm.