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‘Britain will be remade’ – Portsmouth MP reacts to Labour leader’s vision for the country

Stephen Morgan MP has thrown his weight behind the vision for the country outlined in Keir Starmer’s leader’s speech at Labour Party conference today.

The Labour leader underlined that a government led by him as Prime Minister will be focused on “Work. Care. Equality. Security.”

During his speech, Mr Starmer set out what he sees are the major challenges Britain faces for the future, including “how we emerge from the biggest pandemic in a century. How we make our living in a competitive world. The climate crisis. Our relationship with Europe. The future of our union.”

He also announced that with Labour in power, his government would deliver Labour’s ‘National Excellence Programme,’ an ambitious school improvement plan, putting state education at the heart of his vision for Britain.

It marks Labour’s shift to focus on improving the prospects of the 40 per cent of young people who leave compulsory education without essential qualifications.

The National Excellence Programme will include:

  • recruiting thousands of new teachers to address vacancies and skills gaps across the profession;
  • reforming Ofsted to focus on supporting struggling schools;
  • providing teachers and headteachers with continuing professional development and leadership skills training.

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

“Keir’s speech marks a radical departure from what people have heard from Labour in recent years. A Labour government, under his leadership, will retool Britain for the future and make this nation anew.

“The Conservatives are responsible for short-term failures and long-term neglect. Their political response of the moment has been lamentable failure to meet the scale of the challenge.

“Keir’s principles of security, work, care and equality will be the guiding light for a Labour government to deliver a better future for Portsmouth and a Britain that will be remade.”

In addition, Keir Starmer announced in his speech that:

  • Labour will undertake a national mission for greener homes and lower bills. Labour will upgrade the 19 million homes that fall below energy efficiency standards (EPC C).
  • Provide grants to low-income households and low interest loans to those able to pay to cover the cost of retrofitting. Households will pay no upfront costs, and see their bills fall immediately. Support up to 500,000 good, unionised jobs in a range of industries by the mid-decade.
  • Work with local and combined authorities, and the private sector, to recruit and train staff to coordinate and deliver a decade-long upgrade to Britain’s housing stock.

During 2021 Labour Party conference, it was also announced that Labour will:

  • Guarantee mental health treatment within a month for all who need it, setting a new NHS target, ensuring that patients start receiving appropriate treatment – not simply an initial assessment of needs – within a month of referral.
  • Recruit 8,500 new staff so that one million additional people can  every year by the end of Labour’s first term in office.
  • Put an open access mental health hub for children and young people in every community, providing early intervention, drop-in services.

A number of other announcements were also made at this conference previously reported on Stephen’s website.

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New analysis finds homeowners in Hampshire face the brunt of the Government’s new social care plan in the South East

  • New analysis shows homeowners in Hampshire could face care costs of up to one third of their assets, including the value of their home.
  • In comparison, homeowners in Surrey face costs of around just 15% of their assets.
  • This means homeowners in Hampshire, with significant care needs, are more likely to have to sell their homes and will lose more of the value of it.

New analysis of assets held by homeowners in different regions of the UK show that those in Hampshire face losing a higher proportion of their assets if they have high care needs and hit the £86k care cap.

The analysis shows that homeowners in Esher & Walton (Surrey) face costs averaging at 14% of their assets if they have high care needs and hit the cap.

Meanwhile, other constituencies in the South East, like Portsmouth South, face losing 38% of their assets.

This comes despite a guarantee in the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto “that no one needing care has to sell their home to pay for it”.

It follows analysis by the Resolution Foundation, who found that “the cap, which does not benefit households with less than £100,000 in capital, will be of relatively more help in the more affluent areas…it will offer most protection to those living in high wealth parts of England. This is not just because of the obvious reason that a cap set in cash terms offers far more protection to those with higher-value assets to lose.”

Stephen Morgan, MP for Portsmouth South, said:

“It’s shocking that people in Portsmouth may end up having to pay for care costs in excess of a third of their total assets, including their own home.

“Those in leafy Surrey, by comparison, would have to just fork out 14 per cent of their estate. That’s half of what my constituents would have to cough up.

“The Tories have broken yet another of their promises to the British people – their manifesto isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

It’s time to properly fix our social care system.”

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“Social care is in desperate need, but the Prime Minister – along with every Conservative MP – was elected on a manifesto that promised to fix the system on a plan that had been developed and would mean no one would have to sell their home.

“On both, he broke his promise.”

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City MP blasts government planning reforms and “unsustainable” housing targets

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has criticised the government’s proposed planning reforms, which he says will force ‘unsustainable’ house-building targets on the City.

The government’s hated “Developers’ Charter” is set to hand control of planning decisions over to housebuilders and gag communities from speaking out against inappropriate developments in their area.

Mr Morgan has written to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to raise concerns around the government’s inflated housing targets, which would see Portsmouth build 17,357 dwellings by 2038.

The City MP wrote: “Our city recognises the need to build more homes, but any delivery must be sustainable, integrated with the right infrastructure, and acknowledge the unique circumstances Portsmouth faces.”

In response, the Housing Minister committed to meet the Portsmouth South representative and local planners to discuss their concerns and deliver a more sustainable housing plan, but is yet to set a date for the meeting.

In June, Mr Morgan supported Labour’s proposals to protect local people’s right to object to individual planning applications in the House of Commons, after the Government announced plans to rip up the planning system in the Queen’s Speech.

The Government’s proposed reforms of the planning system will remove powers from elected local representatives and hand them to Whitehall-appointed boards of developers while doing nothing to solve the growing affordable housing crisis.

Boards will oversee a new zonal system that allows developers to build at will in areas designated for growth. Communities will be consulted only in the development of five-yearly local plans and will be gagged from intervening in individual planning applications.

Conservative Ministers have claimed that the reforms are needed to speed up housebuilding, even though over one million planning permissions have not been built out in the last decade.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“The government’s inflated housing targets are totally unsustainable for our densely populated City. They risk overwhelming local infrastructure and endangering our treasured natural environments. 

“The Minister’s empty promises of a meeting speak volumes, but I’ll fight to make sure local voices are heard.

“I want to see a flexible planning system that delivers the homes we need while placing local people at the centre of decisions that affect our City.

“Algorithms and formulas can never be a substitute for local knowledge and decision-making by councils and communities who know their area best.”

 

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Local MP votes to block Developers’ Charter and protect Portsmouth residents’ right to be heard in planning decisions

Stephen Morgan MP has voted in the House of Commons to block the hated Developers’ Charter, a Government plan to hand control over planning decisions to developers and gag communities from speaking out against inappropriate developments in their area.

In an Opposition Day Debate on Monday, the Official Opposition called a vote to protect local people’s right to object to individual planning applications, after the Government announced plans to rip up the planning system in the Queen’s Speech.

The Government’s proposed reforms of the planning system will remove powers from elected local representatives and hand them to Whitehall-appointed boards of developers while doing nothing to solve the growing affordable housing crisis.

Boards will oversee a new zonal system that allows developers to build at will in areas designated for growth.

Communities will be consulted only in the development of five-yearly local plans and will be stopped from intervening in individual planning applications.

Conservative Ministers have claimed that the reforms are needed to speed up housebuilding, even though over one million planning permissions have not been built out in the last decade.

Conservative MPs have repeatedly signalled their opposition to the reforms, expressing fears about the party’s cosy relationship with developers.

The Conservative Party received £11 million in donations from developers in Boris Johnson’s first year as Prime Minister and £891,000 from developers in the first three months of 2021 alone.

The latest action in the House of Commons by the Portsmouth MP follows his efforts to lobby Government over the city’s unsustainable housing targets set by Whitehall, and Mr Morgan’s success in securing a meeting with the Housing Minister to discuss planning and housing concerns.

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

“By refusing to vote with Labour, the Conservatives have shown Portsmouth and other communities whose side they’re on: wealthy developers that increasingly bankroll their party.

“Under the Developers’ Charter, Mr Johnson’s wealthy developer chums will be set loose to bulldoze and concrete over local neighbourhoods at will. Local residents will be gagged from objecting even if an oversized development threatens to blight their own street.

“Labour believes that good development can only happen when developers and communities work together, but the Developers Charter hands control to developers in what looks like payback for their massive increase in donations to the Conservative Party.”

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Portsmouth MP slams government as new research reveals thousands of local children living in poverty

Stephen Morgan MP has attacked the government today after new analysis published by the End Child Poverty Coalition showed a sharp rise in child poverty in Britain in the last 5 years, with more than 400,000 more children living in poverty after housing costs than in 2015.

Child poverty was rising sharply even before the Covid-19 pandemic, which is feared to have exacerbated the situation even further.

Child poverty is also rising locally and there are now 7,154 children in Portsmouth South living in poverty, an increase of 7.7% from five years ago. A staggering 37.5% of all children in the constituency are living below the poverty line, after housing costs.

Researchers combined data on child poverty published by the Department for Work and Pensions in May with information about local housing costs to build a detailed picture of child poverty across the country.

Mr Morgan has also signed the new “No Child Left Behind” pledge launched today by the National Education Union which says:

“As a Member of Parliament, I pledge to do everything in my power so that no child is left behind in Portsmouth.

“I call for the development of a cross-Government strategy to eradicate the poverty faced by the 4.3 million children currently growing up trapped in poverty. 

“I will use my vote and voice in Parliament to try to stop an expected 730,000 more children being plunged into poverty by 2024. 

“We must value and invest in all our children, so they are supported to learn, succeed, and go on to have bright futures.”

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, added:

“These figures are shocking and heart breaking. This Government has presided over a staggering increase in child poverty, and ministers should hang their heads in shame.

“Boris Johnson talks a good game about levelling up the country, but this Government’s shameful record is one of rising poverty, soaring food bank use and a widening attainment gap.

“I will keep standing up for children in Portsmouth and campaign for a Labour Government that will make tackling child poverty a top priority.

“That is why I am proud to sign the National Education Union’s pledge committing to do everything in my power to ensure no child is left behind.”

The Portsmouth MP criticised the government last year for failing for afford free school meals to children last year. For families in need of support, you can find range of local contacts for foodbanks and other organisations here.

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City MP raises concerns over ‘totally unsustainable’ government housing targets

Portsmouth South MP has blasted the government’s “inflated” housing targets for the city, and raised concerns about the impact of unsustainable development on the local infrastructure and “our treasured natural environment.”

The government’s 2020 Standard Methodology housing targets commit Portsmouth to building 17,357 dwellings between 2020 and 2038, or 855 per annum.

But the city is already one of the most densely populated in the UK, with approximately 220,000 people in 15 square miles. The Council’s 2019 Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) suggests there is capacity for up to 134 fewer dwellings per year than will be needed in the period to 2036.

According to property developer Lichfields, the new target is 602 dwellings per year more than the average delivery over the past three years.

Mr Morgan writes: “Our city recognises the need to build more homes, but any delivery must be sustainable, integrated with the right infrastructure, and acknowledge the unique circumstances Portsmouth faces.”

Natural England suggested halted housing applications in the Solent area in 2019 because of Nitrate contamination in harbours killing marine life. Portsmouth Council’s own data suggests continued development will worsen the existing greenspace deficit in the City.

The letter goes on: “As it stands, our housing targets are so high that we have no hope of meeting them and our City is being set up to fail.”

Stephen Morgan MP is urging Mr Jenrick to attend a summit meeting with local planning representatives to discuss the issue and support a more sustainable housing delivery plan.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan added:

“We all recognise the need to build more homes, but it must be delivered sustainably, with the right local infrastructure and must not put our environment at risk.

“Algorithms and formulas can never be a substitute for local knowledge and decision-making by councils and communities who know their area best.

“I am urging the Secretary of State to think again, and meet with myself and local planning representatives to see the impact these inflated targets would have on our area first hand.”

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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.