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City MP demands meeting with Minister over Stanhope House student accommodation crisis

On 9 September, Prime Student Living (PSL), who are managing a new student development named Stanhope House on Commercial Road, failed to provide accommodation for over 250 students at the start of term. 

Since then, Stephen Morgan MP has submitted written questions to the Department for Education, written to PSL directly, written to the regulator, visited the site, met with the university, spoken out in the media, spoken directly with students affected and worked alongside Cllr Cal Corkery.

In Mr Morgan’s latest bid to bridge the gap in regulation and help affected local students, the city MP has written to the Government Minister responsible demanding an urgent meeting.

Mr Morgan Said:

“I have spoken to students impacted by this issue and I am deeply concerned about the effect that the PSL failure is having on them.

Some have been rehoused miles away from lectures and friends, others in places with no wi-fi. The opening weeks of university play a crucial role in academic life and career path, I will not allow private accommodation providers to recklessly gamble with Portsmouth students’ futures.

When I submitted parliamentary written questions to the Minister, he regrettably said that this was not a Government matter. I refuse to accept this and have written demanding a meeting so that we can work together to stop this from happening again

I look forward to continuing to work alongside Cllr Cal Corkery in standing up for Portsmouth students and ensuring they have a platform to be heard on”.

There have been widespread reports of students affected are feeling anxious about their living conditions. Many have outlined deep-set disappointment with the £150 that they have been issued which does not even cover one week’s rent.

In response to Mr Morgan’s written questions, the Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation replied:

“Higher education (HE) providers are autonomous bodies, independent from government; government plays no direct role in the provision of student residential accommodation” (full response in public domain).

Another key point raised by the Portsmouth South MP is that the taxpayer is essentially bankrolling these developments and therefore it is in the public interest to ensure they are of an acceptable standard.

Mr Morgan said:

“No matter which city you enter in the UK, you will notice an everchanging skyline continually infiltrated by new blocks of student flats.

While these are often private investments, make no mistake this funding comes from the tax payers’ purse via student maintenance loans.

Transparency, honesty, and continuity. This is not too much to ask of Government when it comes to regulating student accommodation.”

Mr Morgan and the University of Portsmouth are both in consensus that there is a clear regulatory gap exists. The Office for Students (OfS) regulates universities but has no regulatory power over private student accommodation providers. This clear gap in regulation is leaving students open to exploitation

On how he wants to see this resolved, Mr Morgan said:

“A similar problem occurred last year with Crown Place and I have seen that there have been 20 alike cases around the country this year alone.

The Government has a responsibility to our students, and it is not good enough to simply shift blame to private companies.

This is not the first time that this has happened. I want to make sure it is the last.

There is essentially inadequate regulation of purpose build student accommodation and we need to see more inclusive legislation that gives students more protection.

I look forward to the Minister responding to my meeting request so that we can get on with taking action over this matter.”

Stephen Morgan MP is in regular and constant communication with the University of Portsmouth over this matter and has vowed to submit a Westminster Hall debate on the topic if the Government Minister refuses to accommodate a meeting.

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“Almost half of all women sent to prison are now homeless” – City MP vows to tackle female re-offending 

During questions in the House of Commons today, Stephen Morgan MP grilled a Government Minister over the lack of funding set aside for the rehabilitation of female offenders and what this means for homelessness.

The Portsmouth South representative subsequently applied further pressure to the link between the Government’s failure and the rising rate of homelessness amongst female offenders.

Mr Morgan said:

“We know that half of all women sent to prison are now homeless, an increase on the previous few years. I find this utterly shocking.

Reoffending costs the British tax payer £18 billion a year and the current system is clearly failing to get offenders back on their feet, preventing them from contributing to society.

The solution to this problem is to invest in alternatives to ineffective short-term prison sentences that are proven to increase reoffending and also to properly fund women’s centers. I am delighted that both notions are Labour party policy.

Under the current system everyone loses out, victims, offenders and the tax payer. This is counterproductive.”

Members of the Government’s own Advisory Board on Female Offenders have expressed their frustration at the limited funding, stating that at least £20m is required annually for community provision. However, the Government only provided a one-off two-year grant of £5m to fund the strategy.

Alongside, supporting Labour party policy to immediately provide funds to women’s centres, give £20 million to women’s justice campaigners and ruling out unjustified short sentences, Stephen Morgan MP been conducting his own work on this matter.

The Portsmouth South MP is hosting a parliamentary event in November alongside Gethin Jones from Unlocking Potential with senior representatives from the Ministry of Justice, private sector, Non-Government Organisations, and senior prison governors. The event seeks to change the narrative of criminal justice to focus more on rehabilitation and inclusive policy towards offenders.

On this action, Mr Morgan said:

Following discussions with offenders right’s organisation, Unlocking Potential I am delighted that next month I will be hosting an event that will help shift the narrative of criminal justice towards prevention and rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration and indifference.

The current system is failing, and we must work to rectify these inadequacies, I will not be wasting any time in engaging with people from all parties and perspectives so that we can get a criminal justice system that is better for offenders, taxpayers and reduces the number of victims.”

Mr Morgan has committed to continuing his campaign for a better-quality criminal justice system and has expressed that he will continue to urge the Government to match Labour’s commitments.

 

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Ahead of “Challenge Poverty Week”, City MP slams DWP Minister over Government’s ‘abysmal’ record on child hunger

Ahead of “Challenge Poverty Week”, City MP slams DWP Minister over Government’s ‘abysmal’ record on child hunger

During today’s Oral Questions to the Department for Work and Pensions in the House of Commons, Stephen Morgan MP hit out at Government over record highs in child poverty, specifically holiday hunger.

The city MP has cited his recent visit to Dadz Club in Buckland, Portsmouth as inspiration behind today’s action and has expressed thanks to members of the organisation whose discussions helped shape the narrative of his line of questioning.

The MP’s actions come as The Trussell Trust announced that it distributed nearly 600,000 emergency food parcels to children last year and as Government figures show child poverty figures are 500,000 higher than in 2010.

Mr Morgan said:

“To not make any progress in nearly 10 years on reducing child poverty would be an outrage, the fact the Government has actually created a country where child poverty has increased is a testament to their abysmal track record.

Despite the continued government rhetoric that work is the best route out of poverty, 70% of children in poverty now live in working families – up from 67% last year. To allow this problem to escalate shows both that they are not taking this issue seriously and their strategy needs reworking.

It is a shameful stain on our nation’s reputation that the welfare of our children in Portsmouth is being actively ignored by Government and these figures have been allowed to get so out of hand.”

The Portsmouth South representative followed up his initial question on child poverty with a targeted point holding the Minister to account over holiday hunger.

A recent report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger found that children were returning to school in a worse educational, health and developmental state than that in which they had left in the summer. That report found that as many as three million children face the risk of food insecurity in summer holidays.

Child poverty is the one of the most potent drivers of ill health, not just in childhood but throughout life. The fact that absolute child poverty is rising by 300,000, severe child poverty is rising by 200,000 and there are 600,000 more children in severe poverty than five years ago is putting lives at risk.

The city MP said:

“While many children from low-income families are entitled to free school meals during term time, there is currently no provision during holidays.

In Wales, the Assembly Government has taken action to ensure that all local authorities make provision for those at risk of food poverty as part of a national ‘Food and Fun’ programme. Similarly, in London, the Mayor’s Fund has launched a ‘Kitchen Social’ project this year which helps children during the holidays who would be entitled to free school meals.

It is high time that the Government takes notice of the ingenuity and leadership demonstrated by our devolved governments and local authorities and steps up to support vulnerable children. “

When hit with the question on holiday hunger, the Minister tried to shift blame on other Government departments.

This is not the first time Mr Morgan has taken action over child poverty. The city MP backed a Private Members Bill tabled by a colleague and has made previous spirited calls on Government to tackle the child poverty.

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The Google Digital Garage picks Portsmouth as home for new digital skills training hub 

Stephen Morgan MP recently met with the Google Digital Garage team where it was agreed that a new digital skills training hub would be erected in his constituency. Mr Morgan is set to speak at the opening on Friday 11 October.

The hub, which seeks to provide local people with essential online skills is setting up on Commercial Road. Google’s Digital Garage will provide support for local small businesses and comes on the back of Mr Morgan’s long running high streets campaign.

The launch of the new Google Digital Garage hub is part of a major investment to help boost digital skills throughout the UK and will be offering free digital skills training for constituents spanning everything from introduction to coding, to social media strategy courses and even how to build a digital CV. 

The city MP has been talking to Google about coming to the city for over a year.

Mr Morgan said:

“The importance of being confident and capable online in this digital age is integral to anyone wanting to develop their business ideas or even their own profile.

The presence of the Google Digital Garage on commercial road, accompanied by the touring route master Digital Garage bus, will greatly boost access to these essential skills and I strongly encourage Portsmouth people to get involved.

Whether it is learning how to be safe online or receiving new marketing guidance from a global tech leader, there is something for everyone.

I look forward to continuing my work with the Google Digital Garage team when it comes to supplying my constituents with first rate, free-at-the-point-of-delivery training and skills.”

As well as the bricks and mortar hub located on Commercial Road, a route master bus bus will be visiting key locations around the constituency in a bid to ensure that all Portsmouth people have the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.

With access for all in mind, Mr Morgan is currently working closely with the Google Digital Garage team to locate the best areas for the bus to travel to.

Mr Morgan said:

“Portsmouth high streets are facing challenges, with giants like Knight & Lee and Debenhams closing their doors for the last time, now more than ever it is essential that we support local people and businesses.

Where the Government are failing, it is good to see organisations like Google stepping in and taking this proactive stance and delivering services to Portsmouth people.”

Ronan Harris, Managing Director, Google UK and Ireland commented:

“Today, the need for digital skills is becoming more obvious in all sectors including those which feel far from technology related. This latest research shows that the digital skills gap is a reality for many communities across the country and with this comes limitations of personal and professional growth and opportunity.”

That’s why I’m thrilled to announce that we’ve opened a new Digital Garage training hub in Portsmouth. By supplying tailored training, we hope to provide the tools and digital skills required to grow the careers of individuals throughout the South East.”

The Digital Garage will open on 105a Commercial Road, Portsmouth PO1 1BQ. If you would like more information about courses, what’s on and who will be there, get in touch at stephen.morgan.mp@parliament.uk or visit: https://events.withgoogle.com/portsmouthgarage/

 

 

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“Climate change should be a core module in schools” – environment priority needed in curriculum says City MP

Stephen Morgan MP has set out demands to the Education Secretary that would see climate change taught as a core module across the UK.

The city MP’s calls for change come at a time when unprecedented numbers of climate change disasters have taken place and school children have flocked to the streets in protest against lack of Government action.

Mr Morgan said:

“Over 5,000 miles away the Amazon is ablaze, 20-30% of species are teetering on the edge of extinction and we are seeing record temperatures soar year on year. This is not some distant or disputed problem, this is happening right now.

If the Government does not take decisive action, there will be catastrophic consequences. I have written to the Education Secretary urging that climate change becomes a core module because it is his responsibility to equip the future generations with the skills to tackle climate change and the knowledge to live sustainably.

The current PM’s environmental track record has been flaky at best, while at the Foreign Office he presided over a 60% cut in climate attaches and his leadership campaign had close ties with the UK’s leading climate change denial group.

The Government must prove it is serious about tackling this issue and making climate change a core module in UK schools is a good place to start.”

Over 80,000 people have already signed a petition agreeing with Mr Morgan’s policy suggestion and it has been confirmed that the Labour Party would implement this change if elected.

Under the Labour Policy, the curriculum would focus on the skills and knowledge young people need to deal with the changing world, particularly in renewable energy and green technology jobs.

Stressing the importance of these curriculum changes, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“While issues surrounding climate change are taught up to 16 in Geography and Science, this does not go far enough.

School is about preparing the next generations for adult life, preparations and education around climate change should be a key pillar of that.

When dealing with issues of this magnitude, we need to work shoulder to shoulder and put party politics to one side. Yes, this is a Labour Policy, but is in the interests of everyone no matter their political perspective.”

Shadow Secretary of State, Angela Rayner said:

“We need to equip people with the knowledge to understand the enormous changes we face, and skills to work with the new green technologies that we must develop to deal with them.

“That must be part of a broad education and that prepares pupils for adult life. Climate change should be a core part of the school curriculum, and under a Labour government it will be.”