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Portsmouth MP demands action from government on unsafe cladding costs

Stephen Morgan MP led a debate in Parliament last night calling on the government to protect leaseholders from steep costs to remove unsafe cladding from their apartment blocks.

Efforts to remove unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings have accelerated since the Grenfell Tower disaster. Due to decades of poor regulation, the responsibility for costs often falls to leaseholders, leaving them in unsafe homes, unable to sell and subject to life-altering costs.

A number of properties in Portsmouth have been impacted by this issue, with Admiralty Quarter and Gunwharf Quays among those affected.

Speaking in the debate, the Portsmouth South MP said that some of his constituents fear they may be liable “to contribute between £20,000 – £30,000 each towards remediation.”

They also fear losing their homes and many are retired or on low incomes.

Currently open to building owners and freeholders to help cover the cost, the government’s Building Safety Fund has been criticised for poor communication with residents, taking too long to distribute funds and turning down requests with little rationale.

The government recently announced an additional £3.5bn loan scheme for high-rise cladding removal and loans for buildings under 18m, but Mr Morgan criticised the scheme, arguing it would it leave residents liable to pay to fix an issue they did not create and will likely mean many will still struggle to sell.

The Portsmouth South MP called on the Minister for Housing to meet the costs of remediation work in full and release the funds for repair work as quickly as possible.

He has also called for the government to include measures to ensure leaseholders cannot be held responsible for future costs in the forthcoming Building Safety Bill.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“It is scandalous for the government to expect leaseholders to pay these astronomical costs in full, with every moment of delay to these critical cladding changes putting lives at risk.”

“Last night I urged government to take responsibility for these costs, speed up the distribution of funds for remediation and legislate to ensure that regulation is never allowed to fail Portsmouth residents again.

“We know these concerns are not just felt in Portsmouth and the government must address them immediately.”

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‘Unfolding Scandal’ of Military Accommodation ‘falls far short’ of Armed Forces Covenant

Labour has criticised the government’s ‘appalling record’ on military housing, as data reveals that just half of service personnel are satisfied with the standard of their accommodation, the lowest since 2009.

The Army’s 2020 Continuous Attitudes Survey shows that a third of tri-service personnel said accommodation provision increased their intention to leave the service.

New data has also revealed that more than 9,000 military homes in England and Wales are awaiting repairs.

Since 2017, £300,000 has been paid in compensation for 9,088 missed maintenance appointments, with compensation given in the form of high street shopping vouchers.

Last week the National Audit Office’s report into Single Living Accommodation, which more than half of the Armed Forces call home, told a similar story.

The report concluded that “the Ministry of Defence is not meeting its commitment to provide high-quality subsidised accommodation to all service personnel.”

Meanwhile, the government continues to arbitrate its dispute with Annington Homes on the rent for Service Family Accommodation, currently occupied by a third of tri-service personnel.

The previous 1996 deal, dubbed “disastrous” by the Public Accounts Committee, held rents down by 58%, meaning service families could face rent hikes under a new deal.

The revelations come as the government’s Armed Forces Bill is due for its second reading on Monday.

Labour has criticised the Bill – which the government claims will ensure ‘fair treatment’ for members of the Armed Forces – for being too narrow and not going far enough to guarantee the rights afforded to service personnel under the Armed Forces Covenant.

Speaking ahead of the Bill’s Second Reading, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The unfolding scandal of dilapidated military accommodation is a far cry from the ‘homes fit for heroes’ our service personnel should expect.

“The Tories appalling record on this issue is evident in every home that has trouble with basics like heating, hot water, with endless waits for repairs. This falls far short of the promises in the Armed Forces Covenant and those who serve deserve better.

“Labour stands squarely behind our service communities, and will press the government to make sure the Armed Forces Bill delivers quality, affordable housing for all service personnel, families and veterans.”

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Responding to the National Audit Office report on Improving Armed Forces’ Single Living Accommodation

After decades of under-investment, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is not meeting its commitment to provide all service personnel in the Armed Forces with high-quality subsidised accommodation, according to a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on Single Living Accommodation.

Single Living Accommodation is normally accommodation blocks inside military bases. At 31 October 2020, 79,963 service personnel, around 52% of the total Armed Forces, occupied SLA, which can vary considerably by type and quality.

At this date, around half of SLA residents lived in ‘good’ SLA (Grade 1 and 2), but 36% lived in poorer grade accommodation (Grade 4 or below).

In addition, approximately two-fifths of SLA buildings are more than 40 years old, although MoD has confirmed that all SLA was built in compliance with the standards applicable at the time of construction.

Responding to the findings,  Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“This report shows that too often service accommodation is a far cry from the ‘homes fit for heroes’ our forces should expect.  

“With more than half of the Armed Forces housed in Single Living Accommodation, substandard conditions present a serious risk to recruitment and retention. The appalling prevalence of issues with basics like heating and hot water doesn’t live up to the promises made in the Armed Forces Covenant. Those who serve deserve better.

“The Armed Forces Bill presents an important opportunity to make meaningful improvements to the day-to-day lives of those who serve. Labour will challenge the government to deliver quality, affordable housing for forces and their families.”

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister demands assurances Service Families won’t face rent hike

Stephen Morgan MP called on the government today to provide assurances that those living in Service Family Accommodation will not have to pay more as a result of new rent prices set via arbitration with private providers.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister was questioning the government today on this issue at departmental defence questions in the House of Commons.

This comes following the first details of the forthcoming Armed Forces Bill were published last week. Among other things, the Bill seeks to introduce a legal duty on the relevant UK public bodies for health, education and housing to have due regard to the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant. (1)

However, after failed negotiations between the government and Service Family accommodation supplier Annington Homes, the matter is now subject to an arbitration process ahead of the first rent review later this year. (2) (3)

The previous deal provided a 58% downward adjustment on rent, but future rental costs are now subject to the arbitration process. (4)

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“On the face of it, the Armed Forces Bill will enshrine in law a due regard to necessities for Armed Forces personnel and their families, including housing.

“However, many Service Personnel families are facing uncertainty over whether they will be able to afford their rent, after the government failed to agree a fair price with private accommodation suppliers that is now being resolved via arbitration.

“Service personnel and their families deserve far better, and Government must provide them with the assurances they need to keep a roof over their heads.”

People and Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer committed to his colleague Jeremy Quinn to following up with further details in writing.

The second reading of the Armed Forces Bill is due to take place on February 8th.

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Portsmouth MP vows to ‘hold the Government to their promise and help ensure leaseholders are protected from unfair fire safety costs’ 

Labour will hold a vote on Monday (1 February 2021) in order to force the Government into action and protect millions of leaseholders from life-changing cladding costs and unsellable properties.

News of the latest intervention in the House of Commons has been welcomed by Stephen Morgan MP who has been taking action a range of actions to stand up for constituents over the remediation of unsafe cladding on residential blocks, and the impact this is having on leaseholders across the country.

Despite repeated promises from Ministers that cladding remediation costs would not be passed onto leaseholders, the Government has failed to deliver on this.

In the meantime, leaseholders across the country remain trapped in unsafe blocks during a third lockdown facing increasing interim costs and are often unable to sell or re-mortgage their property.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Three and a half years on from the tragic fire at Grenfell tower, the Government’s handling of the cladding crisis that has emerged has lacked any sense of grip or urgency.

I have deep concerns that people are being put at risk, trapped in flammable buildings for a third lockdown, and facing an unclear financial future.

Inaction has gone on too long. Labour is forcing a vote in Parliament calling on the Government to urgently establish the extent of dangerous cladding and prioritise buildings according to risk, provide upfront funding to ensure cladding remediation can start immediately, and protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis.

I will also be supporting amendments to the Fire Safety Bill that hold the Government to their promise and help ensure leaseholders are protected from unfair fire safety costs”.

The amendment tabled by McPartland and Smith also provides welcome clarity on the specific costs that would be prevented from being passed on to leaseholders, but Labour has sought to go further.

As currently drafted, the McPartland and Smith amendment would not cover leaseholders in blocks where flammable cladding has been added at some stage following the building of the block. It only applies to defects in the original design of buildings. As an example, the Grenfell Tower was built in the 1970s, but the flammable cladding was added in 2017.

The Portsmouth South representative added:

“Labour has tabled an amendment that would ensure that the cost of fire safety problems from refurbishment jobs, like the cladding on the Grenfell tower, cannot be passed on to leaseholders. 

Labour’s amendments also include new clauses so that the Bill protects leaseholders from the day it comes into law, instead of an unknown date in the future. And Labour’s amendments ensure that if the Fire Safety Order is extended in the future, the Secretary of State must publish an analysis of the financial implications for leaseholders”.

MPs will be given the opportunity to vote for these amendments when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.

Stephen Morgan MP has been liaising with leaseholders at the Vista Apartments, Admiralty Quarter and Gunwharf Quays affected.

 

 

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Help and support this Christmas

If you or your family is struggling and in need of support over Christmas, there is help at hand. You are not alone.

Help with food

Local food banks can provide emergency food parcels over Christmas and New Year. Foodbanks provide around three days food for your household if you can’t afford to buy food.

The Salvation Army on Albert Road is providing emergency food parcels from 24 Dec – 3rd Jan (including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) via phone request. Call: 023 9282 1164

You can find all Portsmouth food bank and community meal opening times over Christmas at: www.portsmouth.gov.uk/helpwithfood

Help with mental wellbeing

If you’re struggling to cope, feeling anxious, lonely or depressed, you’re not alone.

You can call the Samaritans free anytime, from any phone, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123. You can also email jo@samaritans.org

Young people or parents and carers worried about a child’s wellbeing can also contact Childline via the website childline.org.uk or by calling 0800 1111. There is more advice, information and support at: portsmouth.gov.uk/mentalhealth

Help for vulnerable adults and children

You can contact the adult social care team on 023 9268 0810 or email ASCoppdAdmin@portsmouthcc.gov.uk. The out of hours contact number is 023 9268 0810.

You can contact the children’s social care and safeguarding team on 023 9283 9111 or 023 9268 8793 or email MASH@secure.portsmouthcc.gov.uk. The out of hours contact number is 0300 555 1373.

Help for victims of domestic abuse

Call Aurora New Dawn on 023 9421 6816. Get advice and information at stopdomesticabuse.uk or by calling 0330 016 5221 between 9.30am and 8pm, Monday to Friday.

Help for rough sleepers

The Homeless Day Service is open every day, including Christmas Day, 8am-4pm.

Anyone who is sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough can access the service for breakfast, snacks, hot drinks and other services like laundry facilities. Call: 023 9288 2689 Visit: Yew House Ground Floor, Milton Road, PO3 6BA (next to Hope House)

Help if you’re unwell

If you need medical help, call the NHS on 111 or use NHS 111 online. Don’t just show up at the Emergency Department (Accident and Emergency) – use 111 first, and they’ll give you all the support you need. If it is a medical emergency, call 999.

Coronavirus testing

Local Test Centres in Portsmouth and the Regional Test Centre in Southampton will be open every day over the festive season. Find out the opening times at: portsmouth.gov.uk/christmas

To request a test call 119 or visit: gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

Additional support – HIVE Portsmouth

If you are in need of additional support please visit the HIVE Portsmouth directory of services at: www.hiveportsmouth.org.uk/hive-directory

The HIVE Portsmouth helpline (023 9261 6709) will be closed between 4pm on 23 December and 9am on 28 December and between 4pm on 31 December and 9am on 4 January.

When the helpline is closed HIVE Portsmouth will continue to check social media messages and may refer you to other organisations that can offer you support.

Find HIVE Portsmouth via @HIVEPortsmouth on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and send them a direct message.

This list has been provided with thanks by Portsmouth City Council’s communications team and is correct as at 22 December 2020

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City MP hosts Labour’s Shadow Housing and Planning Minister

Stephen Morgan MP will be hosting the Shadow Housing and Planning Minister Mike Amesbury MP for a public online question and answer session on Monday 23 November at 7pm.

The online public meeting will focus on the Aquind plans, HMOs, proposed planning changes and the housing crisis, with a chance for attendees to share their ideas on topical issues and ask questions.

Members of the public are invited to register for the event online here.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“I’m really pleased to be able to be able to welcome the Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning to join this public meeting, addressing local concerns relating to planning and housing locally, as well the wider region and country.

“This will serve as a great opportunity for Portsmouth residents to share their concerns about both local and wider housing and planning issues.

“Government proposals will take decisions out of local hands while doing little to solve the housing crisis our city faces.”

 

 

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Emergency action needed to protect renters say Labour

The official opposition are today setting out a five-point emergency action plan to prevent people from being forced from their homes as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Current measures set out by the Government in the Coronavirus Act fall well short of adequately protecting people from homelessness when they cannot pay their rent. Shelter reports an estimated 1.7 million people living in rented accommodation expect to lose their jobs in the next three months due to the coronavirus crisis.

Most people in rented accommodation have no savings and when the current freeze on evictions expires in June, an estimated 2.6 million people are likely to be in rent arrears, according to Citizens Advice.

Labour’s measures would use temporary legislation to protect people from bankruptcy and homelessness due to rent arrears, providing the kind of protection to people living in rented homes that is already in place for commercial tenants and owner-occupiers.

Labour’s five-point plan to protect people from eviction:

  1. Extend the temporary ban on evictions for six months or however long is needed to implement the legal changes below.
  2. Give residential tenants the same protections as commercial tenants, by protecting them from being made bankrupt by their landlords for non-payment of rent.
  3. Bring forward the government’s proposal to scrap Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and outlaw evictions on the grounds of rent arrears if the arrears were accrued because of hardship caused by the coronavirus crisis.
  4. Once evictions are prevented, grant renters at least two years to pay back any arrears accrued during this period.
  5. Speed up and improve the provision of Universal Credit, as Labour recently called for, and consider a temporary increase to the Local Housing Allowance to help prevent risk of homelessness.

Responding to the plan, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

Labour wants to make sure people are not made homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of the coronavirus.

That is why we have urged the government to make temporary changes to the Universal Credit system which would help more people, and to the system of government assistance under the furlough and self-employed support schemes and we want them to make further temporary changes to the laws on eviction to protect people who struggle with rent.

The five point plan announced today, if adopted by Government, will help protect Portsmouth people during this time of crisis”.

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, added:

“Current protections for people renting their homes are woefully inadequate. Unless the Government acts now, many thousands of tenants will be at risk of losing their homes.

The Government has paused evictions for three months and answered Labour’s call to increase the Local Housing Allowance. Both are welcome, but do not go far enough. It will take time for people to recover from this crisis and they need all the support we can give them to prevent what would be an unprecedented and devastating spike in homelessness.

In the long term we need to fix the housing crisis – with stronger rent regulations and much more affordable and social housing – so that everyone has a home that is safe, secure, environmentally sustainable, and that they can afford to live in. What we need right now is an emergency package to set us on that path.

Every Thursday we clap for key workers but many of them live in homes that are overcrowded, unsafe or expensive. When we emerge from this public health crisis, we cannot go back to business as usual.”

 

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City MP demands eviction ban for renters with coronavirus

Stephen Morgan MP has today called on the government to ban evictions for people who fall behind on their rent due to coronavirus. The city MP took forward constituent concerns by writing to the Communities Secretary tonight.

Labour is also publishing draft legislation that the official opposition is urging the government to adopt immediately.

The new law would mean any non-payment of rent due to coronavirus would not count as legal grounds for eviction. It would cover the more than 20 million people – eight and a half million households – who rent their homes from private, council or housing association landlords, including three million households with children.

The move would bar landlords from evicting tenants who are off work and not getting paid due to coronavirus, by changing the legal basis on which landlords can seize possession of a rented property to exclude arrears that have built up due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

It would initially cover any arrears that accumulate between 1 March 2020 and 1 September 2020, with the option to be extended as necessary.

In the letter to the Communities Secretary, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Mr Morgan said that two thirds of private renters and more than eight in 10 social renters have no savings, according to government data.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I have taken this action today immediately after hearing constituents’ concerns. It follows Labour’s call at the weekend for emergency financial protection for people affected by the coronavirus, including rent deferrals and mortgage holidays, higher statutory sick pay, and income protection for insecure, low-paid and self-employed workers, which I fully support.

No one should face eviction during a pandemic and the Government are in a position where they can ensure this does not happen.

It is a priority of mine at this time of national crisis to ensure Portsmouth people are safe and are protected. I hope Ministers take forward these positive proposals for those that rent their home”.

Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey MP added:

“The coronavirus pandemic requires a rapid response from the government to protect families.

Our current threadbare legal safety net means renters are vulnerable to eviction if they get ill and fall behind on their rent. The fear of being evicted may also mean workers are reluctant stay off work and self-isolate.

Our emergency legislation would protect renters from eviction and we urge the government to work with us to adopt it and implement it at the earliest opportunity.

This is an essential first step in public reassurance, giving people confidence they can follow official health advice in responding to coronavirus without putting their home at risk.”

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City MP to take part in housing panel discussion

Stephen Morgan MP will take part in an open discussion, hosted by Portsmouth University, on the past, present and future of housing.

Joining social and design historians, the Shadow Communities Minister will discuss topics such as social housing and homeownership.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“There is a major shortage of over 100,000 homes in the UK. There are also around 8.5 million people who are living in unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable housing.

Portsmouth is one of the most densely populated cities in the country meaning people in our community bear the brunt of the crisis.

This is an issue that affects people of all ages and demographics. It is essential that the reasons for the housing emergency are discussed so that solutions can be formulated.”

In Portsmouth over the past 5 years, more than 3000 households have made a homeless application, the number of rough sleepers was over 8 times greater in 2017 than it was in 2013 and there is a shortfall of over 3,500 affordable homes.

Mr Morgan said:

“Everyone has the right to a roof over their head and to live free from the worry of homelessness. Debate needs to take place in our communities about how to address the housing crisis.

I encourage Portsmouth people who want to see change in their community to come along and take part in this discussion.

This is a rare chance to hear from field experts and engage in meaningful debate. I urge residents not to miss the opportunity”.

The event is set to take place on Friday 6 March from 19:00 until 20:30 at Eldon Building University of Portsmouth, Winston Churchill Avenue Portsmouth.

This is an opportunity to join authors John Broughton, Professor Sugg Ryan and Stephen Morgan MP for a discussion on the past, present and future of housing.

John Broughton is a social housing historian who has documented the history of public housing through books, blogs and public talks. Professor Sugg Ryan is a design historian, author and media presenter specialising in the history of the home and domestic technology.

Ideal Homes: The past, present and future of housing can be reserved: here