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City MP praises local heroes at this year’s Inspiring Fratton Awards

Stephen Morgan MP praised this year’s winners of the Inspiring Fratton Awards, a scheme set up three years ago by the locally born parliamentary representative in partnership with Fratton Big Local.

The Portsmouth MP handed out the awards to winners during a ceremony at St Mary’s church on Friday evening.

The Inspiring Fratton 2021 Award Winners for are:

  • Contribution to Creativity in Fratton Over 18: Claire Phillips
  • Contribution to Creativity in Fratton under 18: Darcie Kingston
  • Contribution to Education in Fratton Over 18: Lynn Harris
  • Contribution to Education in Fratton under 18: Keira Coles
  • Contribution to Sport in Fratton in Fratton over 18: Ali Fayazi
  • Contribution to Sport in Fratton in Fratton under 18: Christopher Lillie
  • Contribution to Volunteering in Fratton Over 18: Kay Ackerman
  • Contribution to Volunteering in Fratton under 18: Lilyann More
  • Best Café / Take Away in Fratton Rd: Paanchi
  • Best Trader/ Business in Fratton Rd: Electric Arms
  • Contribution to Community Life in Fratton in extraordinary time Over 18: Helen Barter
  • Contribution to Community Life in Fratton in extraordinary time under 18: Alice Stoneham

Fratton Big Local is a ‘Big Lottery’ funded 10-year project which aims to make lasting improvements to Fratton.

Run by a partnership of local residents, the scheme makes decisions about how to spend the funding, based on engagement and conversations with local key groups and those living in the area.

Awards categories are split between over 18s and under 18s, ranging from best community volunteer, to the best café or takeway on Fratton Road.

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

“Born and bred in Fratton I’ve always believed the area is a strong and resilient community, but the last 18 months have tested every resident, in every part of this area.

“When, three years ago, I set up the Inspiring Fratton awards with Fratton Big Local, we never thought our community would be tested in the way it has in recent months.

“After last year’s hybrid award ceremony, I was delighted to be able to hand these awards over to their richly deserving winners, with so many more people there to see it in person this time.

These unsung heroes in Fratton who have gone above and beyond this year are truly making a positive and lasting legacy for our community.”

This is the third year the awards ceremony has taken place, with last year’s Inspiring Fratton Awards ceremony being hybrid event that was broadcast online.

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Dirty Water Crisis: Portsmouth MP lobbies ministers for greater transparency and to ensure ‘history does not repeat itself’ in new investigation

Stephen Morgan MP has lobbied government demanding assurances that ‘history does not repeat itself’ and for greater transparency, after an investigation was launched by its regulators into 2000 sewage treatment works.

The investigation was announced after new checks led to water companies admitting that they could be releasing unpermitted sewage discharges into rivers and watercourses.

In a letter to the Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP, the city MP raised concerns that ‘not enough is being done presently, by regulators or government, to stop the harms of excessive sewage discharges into bathing waters across the country’. He also demanded assurances that ‘companies like Southern Water will not be allowed to continue to pollute local bathing waters’ and neglect Portsmouth’s natural water environment whilst the investigation is ongoing.

The Portsmouth MP also asked the minister to work with him to ensure regulators compel water providers to publish all of their mapped sewage pollution data for areas they have sewage outlets. Southern Water has previously provided this for areas such as Chichester Harbour, but has so far refused to share similar data models for Langstone Harbour, which recently attracted wider media attention after images were broadcast of raw sewage being released into it from a Southern Water sewage outlet.

It comes after a recent report from charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) found that:

  • 5,517 sewage discharge notifications were issued by water companies over a 12-month period, an increase of 87.6% from last year
  • 3,328 of these discharge notifications were issued throughout the bathing season and;
  • One in six days have been rendered ‘unswimmable’ due to sewage pollution during the official bathing season alone.

According to the Rivers Trust, in the Portsmouth MP’s constituency alone, sewage was pumped into local rivers for at least 617 hours in 2020, the equivalent of a nearly a month’s worth of continuous sewage discharge.

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

“Southern Water is a repeat offender when it comes to Solent sewage pollution, and recent reports suggest nothing has changed.

“The recently launched investigation into sewage treatment works across the country is welcome, but I share the concerns of my constituents that not enough is being done right now, by regulators or government, to stop the harms of excessive sewage discharges. “Government had the opportunity to do this last month, but instead watered-down related proposed changes to its Environment Bill.

“That’s why I’ve lobbied government to ensure the it takes action to reduce the harms of sewage pollution and compels water companies to publish any mapped sewage pollution data they have, so that they can be held to account long before the investigation is closed.”

 

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World Aids Day: Government must step up support for local sexual health clinics to achieve 2030 ambition – City MP

Stephen Morgan MP has said government must ‘step up’ support for local sexual health clinics to achieve the government’s commitment to end new UK HIV transmissions by 2030, a pledge matched by Labour.

This year marks 40 years since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the UK, which has taken thousands of lives.

The government is expected to publish its action plan to achieve its objective later this month.

However, advances in technology and medicine like HIV prevention drug PrEP have made significant strides in achieving the government’s ambition of no new HIV cases by 2030.

The HIV treatment drug means more than 9 in 10 people living with HIV cannot pass the virus on. Despite this, thousands of people are diagnosed but not on successful HIV treatment due to a lack of local support.

Recent independent analysis, verified by the House of Commons Library, has found that the £3.85m drop in public health funding for Portsmouth over the last five years equates to a real-terms cut of 17.5 per cent, or minus £20 per person in real-terms.

In 2021/22, the public health team (like all other public health teams in England) also took on responsibility for costs associated with the provision of the anti-HIV drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and services related to it, including sexual health.

For World Aids Day 2021, leading HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust is focusing the importance of HIV testing.

THT has also said testing is ‘key’ to ending HIV transmissions. More people are accessing HIV testing to find out their status and in new ways. But online testing is still not available all year round in every area, and over half a million people a year leave sexual health clinics not having had a HIV test, disproportionately women and black people.

Earlier this week, the Portsmouth MP met with local campaigners and pledged to continue to lobby government for improvements in access to local sexual health services and for better support for people living with HIV.

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

“40 years on from the beginning of this terrible epidemic, our country has made huge strides to tackle the harms of HIV, including drugs like PrEP which is now available on NHS.

“The ambition for no new HIV cases by 2030 is the right one, but we have a long way to go if we are to make it a reality, and testing will play a key role in doing so.

“That means government has got to properly fund community sexual health clinics with the support they need to boost HIV testing rates in communities, end the postcode lottery for treatment and stop UK HIV transmissions by 2030.”

The Portsmouth MP is set to meet and visit with local commissioners and sexual health providers in the new year to better understand local challenges and issues, including on HIV testing, following his roundtable this week.

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Portsmouth MP blasts government’s ‘decade of decline’ as analysis reveals over 7,000 local homeowners trapped in leasehold system

Stephen Morgan MP has blasted the government’s ‘decade of decline’ for local homeowners as new analysis reveals 7,262 homes have been sold as leasehold in the local MP’s constituency of Portsmouth South since 2010.

It comes as the Ground Rents Bill has its second reading today in the House of commons, ending ground rents for future leases but offering little for those already trapped in the scandal of spiralling ground rents.

The analysis from the House of Commons Library of Land Registry data shows the scale of the leasehold scandal over the last 10 years. This is when people buy a house, without also owning the freehold, meaning they often face unexpected, unfair costs with no right of challenge or recourse.

Homeowners across the country have been trapped in the feudal leasehold system since 2010, despite the Government promising for years to reform this arcane system. Labour has accused the Conservatives of being the “party of developers”, who use homeowners as cash cows and donate millions to the Tory Party.

New legislation to reduce ground rents to zero will only apply to new homes, meaning all those who have been sold leasehold homes since the Conservatives came to power will continue to be trapped in this feudal system, and developers will continue to make profit off leaseholders’ ground rents for years into the future.

Ground rent is the practice where some house buyers are forced to pay thousands of pounds each year to a company which owns the land their property is on, with usually nothing in return. Leaseholders face escalating ground rent charges attached to the ground on which their property sits. Often, they were unaware of this hidden cost at point of purchase.

The CMA has recently taken enforcement action against four developers Countryside, Taylor Wimpey, Barratt and Persimmon – which it believes may have broken consumer protection law by writing terms into their leases where ground rents double every 10 to 15 years. This has left many leaseholders clobbered by spiralling hidden costs and trapped in unsellable homes.

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

“Homeowners in Portsmouth and across the country have been trapped in our feudal leasehold system over the last decade whilst Ministers have turned a blind eye to this injustice. 

“The Government has long promised reform, but this Bill is a missed opportunity to help existing leaseholders. Ministers have the wrong priorities, they should be standing up for this group today, not leaving them behind.”

The city MP has also been engaging with local leaseholders who are being forced to pay sky-high fire safety remediation costs for their homes and has urged minsters in parliament to ensure they are not forced to pick up the bill.

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Portsmouth MP welcomes local Afghan families with ‘open arms’

Stephen Morgan MP welcomed local ARAP Afghan families evacuated during August’s Operation Pitting with ‘open arms’ today, during a welcome event held in the city.

The Portsmouth MP met with eight Afghan national families that fled Afghanistan in the summer under the government’s resettlement scheme and was able to thank them for their efforts in working with British personnel in Afghanistan.

Earlier this week in Parliament, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister met with 120 of the soldiers who served in Operation Pitting and thanked them for their efforts to the secure the safety of the 15,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan, including those now based in Portsmouth.

The city MP has been helping with the evacuation programme in responding to over 300 individual cases of those hoping to flee Afghanistan with the Home Office and other government departments.

He has also been working alongside veteran community organisation Ems4Afghans that is providing support to those families in bridging hotels across the country with clothes, toiletries, and other essential items.

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

“I know from my engagement with our city’s existing Afghan community the challenges many families have faced being evacuated from Afghanistan and the harrowing stories of those loved ones left at home under Taliban control.

“It was a pleasure to finally be able to welcome families seeking sanctuary in Portsmouth, to thank them for their work in supporting the British armed forces and understand their hopes for the future as new constituents.

“Whilst this is a real demonstration of the strength of our community coming together to support each other, this may not be the same elsewhere.

“Many ARAP evacuees and their families now find themselves at the mercy of a postcode lottery of support and constrained by a cliff edge on their immigration status.   

“It’s vital now that Ministers deliver clear and consistent pathways for the support offered through Operation Warm Welcome if they are to keep the promises they have made to those who bravely supported our forces.”

Mr Morgan has been asking questions of Ministers over the handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and has vowed to continue to lobby government on the delivery of Operation Warm Welcome and support those seeking sanctuary in Portsmouth.

In recent weeks, Portsmouth Labour launched a ‘Hug in the Bag’ project to give practical support to Afghan families settling in the city. To find out more about how to get involved, contact Portsmouth Labour via hello@portsmouthlabourparty.org.uk or sign up to updates through its website: https://www.portsmouthlabourparty.org.uk/meetings/

 

 

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Half of all Portsmouth students leaving education without key skills as City MP backs national reskilling campaign

Stephen Morgan MP has backed a ‘Ready for Work, Ready for Life’ campaign to deliver an education system that is fit for the future and equips young people, adults and our economy with the skills essential for success.

Currently 5 out of 10 young people in Portsmouth are leaving education without the level 3 (A-level or BTEC equivalent) skills and qualifications that are crucial for the modern economy. While Labour was in government, the number achieving these qualifications rose rapidly to 2010, but has since stalled with no national increase under the Conservatives since 2013.

It comes as the cost-of-living crisis continues to impact families with empty shelves and petrol pumps, and rising prices adding extra pressure.

In the sectors with the highest job vacancies in September – including health and care and wholesale – training opportunities have also been falling. Health and care sectors have seen further education student numbers fall by over 150,000 with a fall of over 138,000 students in retail and commerce.

This trend matches the declines in government investment. Funding for apprenticeships and adult education has fallen 35% in real-terms with spending on 16 – 19 education falling 21%.

At Labour Party Conference, Sir Keir Starmer set out plans to ensure young people leave education ready for work and ready for life. Alongside protecting BTEC qualifications, Labour would put a trained careers advisor in every school to help young people make the choices that are right for them and use unspent funding from the apprenticeships levy to create 100,000 new apprenticeships this year.

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

“Families across Portsmouth are feeling the brunt of the Conservatives’ failure to deliver the skills and training opportunities our country needs, with shelves left empty, petrol pumps running dry and the risk of Christmas chaos.

“I’m proud to be supporting this campaign to ensure every young person leaves education ready for work and ready for life, giving them the best start to their adult lives and our economy the skills that will help rebuild our country.”

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“Young people are being let down, leaving education without the skills and qualifications which will open doors for their futures.

“Labour has set out a clear plan to deliver the skills young people and our economy will need for the future, from giving children new digital skills to delivering thousands of new apprenticeships.

 “Under the Conservatives skills and vocational training have been overlooked and undervalued. Labour would ensure every young person leaves education ready for work and ready for life.”

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Don’t miss out: Stephen Morgan’s next ‘Pint with your MP’ session set to take place this weekend

Stephen Morgan MP is set to host his third ‘Pint with your MP’ session of 2021, with the next post-lockdown event taking place this Sunday at 3pm.

The pop-up ‘Pint with your MP’ sessions are designed as informal opportunities for constituents to say hello to their local Member of Parliament and share issues and concerns about topics of interest both locally and nationally.

The Portsmouth representative is determined to take up every opportunity to have more face-to-face conversations with constituents safely after more than a year of restrictions, whilst also helping to support local businesses, as the city recovers from the pandemic.

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

“I’m looking forward to hosting the next ‘Pint with your MP’ event, after really useful and well-attended sessions so far this year.

“This is a great way for local people to share views and issues with me to take back to Westminster whilst supporting a local business.

“As Portsmouth’s voice in Parliament, it’s really important to be out and about and speaking with people to ensure that everyone’s views are heard, not just the loudest ones or those who have better access to technology.

“I hope these sessions have been a chance for others to come and speak to me in a way that is more accessible to them.”

The full address for the ‘Pint with your MP’ session is: Groundlings Theatre, 42 Kent St, Portsea, Portsmouth, PO1 3BS.

Whilst national restrictions have eased, attendees are encouraged to take reasonable precautions to feel safe to attend.

The event is open to all constituents and booking is essential. To confirm your attendance, visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pint-with-your-mp-tickets-191631694557

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Portsmouth MP votes against government ‘con’ to fix social care crisis

Stephen Morgan MP has voted against the government’s ‘backward’ proposals to fix the social care crisis.

The government is proposing a £86,000 cap in personal care costs in its Health and Care Bill.

However, in new details published last week, government said support payments from councils will not count towards the cap, with charities warning the move would unfairly hit the poorest.

Labour’s Shadow Social Care Minister, Liz Kendall MP, also said that the £86,000 cap “would still mean many people will have to sell their homes to pay for their care – against everything Boris Johnson promised.”

Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation think tank, also pointed out the plan could “double your care costs” for someone who has about £90,000 in assets.

According to the Health Foundation, the government’s changes to the Bill “will no longer protect those with lower assets from catastrophic costs.”

The charity said that under “the current system people can lose all but £14,250 of their assets. For someone with £100k this represents 86% of their wealth. Under the Care Act, this would be reduced to 43%.  But under the Government’s proposals the maximum loss would be £80k – 80% of their assets”.

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

“This is a care con, not a care plan.

“We already knew most people won’t hit the cap because it doesn’t cover board and lodging in care homes, but now it has been revealed that the poorest pensioners will have to pay even more.

“Ministers have slipped out a significant change that means if you live in a £1m house, perhaps in the Home Counties, 90% of your assets will be protected.

“But if you need social care and live in an £90,000 in home in Hartlepool or even Portsmouth, your care costs could be doubled under new government proposals. That is not fair.

“That’s why I voted last night to reject these proposals and continue to press Ministers for a fairer option.”

Mr Morgan recently held roundtables with local care users and providers to better understand local issues and concerns, has asked a range of parliamentary questions on the issue and lobbied the Health Secretary on challenges the sector faces.

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Gurkha pensions: Government cannot continue to ‘sweep issue under the carpet’ – Portsmouth MP

Stephen Morgan MP has accused the government of sweeping the contentious issue of Gurkha pension equality under the carpet during a debate in Westminster this evening.

The issue of Gurkha pension equality is a longstanding and complex issue, but the Portsmouth MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister urged the government to set out a way forward to address the problem.

In August, a group of Gurkha veterans were forced to go on hunger strike outside Downing Street following the government’s lack of engagement with their concerns.

The Shadow Minister visited campaigners during their 13-day hunger strike, having lobbied the Defence Secretary the previous day about the issue.

Leading a debate in Westminster Hall on behalf of the Official Opposition tonight, the Portsmouth representative demanded government set out its approach to the forthcoming bilateral committee meeting convened with Nepal to discuss Gurkha welfare issues.

He also called for the government to commit to publishing its response to its own consultation on the Gurkha Pension Scheme, which closed eight months ago, before the talks begin.

The MP has met with Gurkhas and campaigners on several occasions, including on Saturday with Labour councillors in Reading, which has a particularly high Gurkha population.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“This is a complex and longstanding issue, but that’s no excuse for the government’s lack of engagement in tackling the inequalities experienced by those who have fought to keep us safe.

“It cannot be right that those who have served our country have to live in such difficult circumstances, with the cost-of-living crisis set to make things only go from bad, to worse, this winter.

“At the very least Ministers must consider measures that ensure all Gurkha veterans have the opportunity to live securely in retirement. Labour will work cross-party to get this right, but Government needs to finally show long overdue leadership.

Ministers cannot continue to sweep this growing problem under the carpet.”

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Men’s Health Week: City MP praises community project to support men’s mental health

Stephen Morgan MP has praised the work of local community project ‘Breakfast OK’ for its efforts to support and protect men’s mental health.

It comes as this year’s Men’s Health Week, running from Nov 14 – 20, focuses on mental health and how important it is that men feel comfortable speaking up about their own mental health and accepting support where it is available.

The Portsmouth MP paid a visit to ‘Breakfast OK’, held at Fratton-based social enterprise ‘MAKE’, which offers a chance for men to meet up and have a chat, rant or simply share their experiences with others in a relaxed environment over breakfast.

The local initiative runs every Saturday from 10am-12pm at MAKE, 1 Cornwall Rd, Fratton, PO1 5AA.

Nationally, male suicide continues to be the biggest cause of death for men under 35, with over three out of four suicides being men.

Over 1 in 10 males in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders, but are much less likely to access psychological therapies in comparison to women.

On Men’s Mental Health Week, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Men’s mental health is in crisis and the stigma that asking for help and support when you need it is somehow weak or wrong must be stamped out.

“That’s why, during this year’s focus on mental health on Men’s Health Week, I’m proud to support and promote the value of the work local projects like ‘Breakfast OK’ provide to men who need help.

“Hubs like these provide a lifeline for those who need support and I really encourage those who feel they need help to reach out and ask for when they do. It’s ok not to be ok.”

Charities and Organisations that offer support include:

Sarah Mitas, Manager at MAKE, also said:

“44 years ago, my father lost his life to the silent illness of depression. On the outside he was a kind, hardworking, fun dad. However, the turmoil he must have felt inside to even begin to consider taking his own life must have been overwhelming.

“Breakfast OK? was sparked by wanting to give others who have felt the way he did a chance to talk it through and the chance to realise they are not alone. Suicide doesn’t just take one life. It leaves ripples of overwhelming guilt, sadness and loss throughout families, friends and associates.

“We really want Breakfast OK? to give men the chance to know its ok to talk and you are not alone. If we can help just one father, brother, grandad, uncle, friend it is one more man we will not lose to this devastating illness.”

Darren, a recent attendee of the weekly sessions, added:

“Breakfast Ok? is a great way of letting out any problems that I’m struggling to express to close family. You are not judged by what you say and you can get a huge amount of support by someone just listening.”