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Portsmouth MP pleads with constituents to respect restrictions

Responding to recent concerns from constituents about anti-social behaviour and people not following social distancing guidance on Southsea Common, the Hotwalls and in parks across the constituency, ahead of the Bank Holiday Stephen Morgan MP has written an open letter to all residents urging continued ‘respect for the lockdown restrictions’.

In the personal letter, published on all social media platforms on Saturday morning, the city MP pleads with constituents by saying:

“As we approach another sunny Bank Holiday, we must redouble these efforts. If we fall at the last hurdle, we could face months more social distancing measures and run the risk of harm to our loved ones”. 

A copy of the letter can be found below:

Open letter

 

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“It falls on all our shoulders to help people through the front door” says Portsmouth MP encouraging men to access mental health support

During Mental Health Awareness Week, city MP Stephen Morgan joined local mental health providers and service users to discuss ways to encourage men to access mental health support.

Welcoming efforts by Solent NHS Trust to bring services and people together to raise awareness and help co-ordinate local provision, Stephen Morgan MP listened to practitioners and service users in a zoom conference call.

On the challenges men face as a result of Covid-19, the city MP said:

“I share the concerns of the Mens’ Health Forum on the impact of Covid-19 on the physical and mental wellbeing of men and the risks of a spike in addictive behaviours and suicide.

With restrictions on being able to go outside, not seeing loved ones and anxiety about family and friends getting coronavirus, 60% of adults are reporting that their mental health has got worse during lockdown and over a third describe their mental health as currently poor or very poor”.

Mahdi Ghomi, Clinical Director and Consultant Psychologist at Solent NHS Trust, said:

“We are delighted to have hosted our first ‘Men & Mental Health’ Zoom chat and grateful to our guests, including Stephen Morgan MP, for their very positive engagement.

Men are historically under-represented in mental health services and yet are sadly at a greater risk of dying from suicide attempts. The NHS is here to help men in our communities to have a voice and feel enabled to access the mental health support they deserve.”

Mental health charity MIND are calling on the Government to take a number of steps to prioritise mental wellbeing during this public health emergency.

Their demands include ensuring the continued availability of mental health services; ensuring people with mental health problems detained under the Mental Health Act can be treated in a safe environment, have their rights protected, and have access to support to help them recover; prioritising support for young people’s mental health and wellbeing as part of plans for re-opening schools; and ensuring urgent investment in the mental health workforce and estate to support mental health services to deal with additional demand from the coronavirus crisis.

These demands have been acknowledged by Stephen Morgan MP and continue to inform his ongoing work on the availability of mental health support and as a champion for investment in these services.

Recognising the work of local service providers and charities supporting men with their mental health, Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Not just in Mental Health Awareness Week I want to shine a spotlight on the important work of Solent NHS Trust, Solent Mind and charities and local groups across our communities who are working tirelessly to ensure the continued availability of mental health services.

The zoom call acted as a reminder that it falls on all our shoulders to help get people through the front door to seek mental health support.

I will continue to work with others to put support for people with mental health problems, and for our nation’s mental health, at the heart of their coronavirus response and the country’s recovery plan”.

 

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Covid-19: How Portsmouth’s services are working hard to keep us safe this weekend

Following concerns raised with Stephen Morgan MP over recent days about anti-social behaviour on Southsea Common, the Hotwalls, other public spaces including parks in Milton, Fratton, and across the whole constituency, Stephen continues to take action on behalf of constituents to ensure the police, council and other bodies are doing all they can to address issues.

As result of further conversations, lobbying and liaison with senior officers today, the following is an update on efforts by key public services and what we can expect this weekend for the Bank Holiday to manage the situation:

Hampshire Constabulary efforts

 Stephen is in regular contact with the District Commander and his senior leadership team and receives a full briefing on the police’s response to the coronavirus crisis weekly.

The police locally have dedicated Covid patrol teams, who will be resourced for Portsmouth this weekend. They also have response and patrol teams with a patrol plan to focus upon locations, where the community have guided the force to consider in relation to groups gathering and breaches of Covid-19 guidance compliance taking place.

Community Wardens will also be patrolling across the city including supporting the Hotwalls area and Southsea Common.

Working with the city council additional security will be provided in some locations and a community advisers foot team will be pro-active in engaging with the public again on social distancing.

Street Pastors will also be providing support engaging with members of the public, and the Ministry of Defence police will be on duty assisting across the constituency.

Portsmouth City Council efforts

Stephen has also been liaising with the city council over what they can do to address issues being raised.  Officers have assured me they are very aware of the gathering of groups in recent days but inform me the vast majority of users of both the seafront and parks spaces are families and the general public practicing effect social distancing which having picnics, BBQs or taking exercise.

The council are taking forward our concerns with some additional measures to ensure public open spaces are as safely accessible as possible.

They have arranged a wide range of staff to be present across the seafront and city parks and specifically this weekend there will be officers supporting and responding to any physical damage all across the seafront from beach huts to notice boards; teams managing the deployment of resources across the open spaces; grounds maintenance providing the cleansing service across the grassed areas; a Community Advisor team – walking patrols who operate from the Hotwalls to Canoe Lake offering pro-active advice on social distancing and general information and the Seafront Management responsive to issues as they arise

In addition to these, council staff at PCC have also contracted additional security to have a presence at the Hotwalls area, especially when we feel the weather and tides are likely to be attractive to visitors. They are scheduled to have a presence in this area throughout the weekend.

On top of this they have are deploying 350+ additional high visibility signs to support social distancing right across the seafront area. The signs are gradually being enhanced with further messaging to support the recent government changes to how people can use spaces, and these are being rolled out from today.

The council’s social media will also remain very active from encouraging only sensible involvement in water activities in light of there currently being no lifeguard presence across the seafront, to ensuring the public are clear on the road closures.  The road closures remain in place to support safer social distancing and to support the increased numbers of cyclists using the seafront area.  A specific Bank Holiday campaign is asking people to please follow the guidance, stay home as much as they can – and do not visit Portsmouth yet.

The council has instigated a daily checking of provision such as beach huts and sites where fitness equipment is located, again to ensure the correct messaging out to the public and also to ensure that any fencing or closure measures we have had to put in place remain secure.

We are very aware of the gathering of groups of young men on the Common in the last couple of days but up the vast majority of users of both the seafront and parks spaces are families and the general public practicing effect social distancing which having picnics, BBQs or taking exercise.

What enforcement powers do authorities have?

The police and local authorities have the powers to enforce the requirements set out in law if people do not comply with them. If you breach these regulations, the police may: instruct you to go home, leave an area or disperse; instruct you to take steps to stop your children breaking these rules if they have already done so; or; take you home, or arrest you, where they believe it necessary

The police will act with discretion and common sense in applying these measures and we expect the public to act responsibly, staying at home in order to save lives.

However, if the police believe that you have broken the law – or if you refuse to follow their instructions enforcing the law – a police officer may issue you with a fixed penalty notice for £60 (reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days). If you have already received a fixed penalty notice, the amount will increase to £120 and double on each further repeat offence, up to a maximum of £960.

Stephen understands the government are keeping this under review and will increase the penalties if necessary to ensure compliance.

Update on incidents in recent days

Four people have been arrested following a public order incident at Southsea Common. Officers were called at 6.09pm on Thursday 21 May to a report of a fight amongst a large group of people. Shortly afterwards, we received a report that a group of males were trying to gain access to a property in Nightingale Road. Officers arrived and four people were arrested.

Those arrested are:

  • A 21-year-old man from Essex, arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon in a public place
  • Two 17-year-old boys from Portsmouth, both arrested on suspicion of wounding with intent and possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply
  • A 16-year-old boy from Portsmouth, arrested on suspicion of wounding with intent and possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply

All four remain in police custody. A meat cleaver and bottles were seized. Three boys attended Queen Alexandra Hospital following this incident. No serious injuries were reported.

As a result of this incident and the associated anti-social behaviour, a dispersal order has been authorised, which will run from 4pm today (Friday 22 May) until 3:59pm on Sunday 24 May and covers the areas of Southsea Common and immediate surrounding roads and The Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth.

The order gives a police officer the power to order a person to leave the area for a 48-hour period with no return. Refusal to comply with the order is a criminal offence.

The order, which has to be authorised by a police inspector, is made under the Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (Section 34).

Government support to Portsmouth

Stephen continues to lobby Government to make sure local public services have the resources they need to respond to the pandemic. He remains concerned by how stretched local services are and the impact this has. He has written to the relevant Secretary of State to urge for the department to give the council and police extra power and resources to deal with the anti-social behaviour being undertaken in the constituency. He will continue to work with others on this important lobbying work.

Separately the Government have published new guidance on enforcement this week which Stephen is keen to ensure local service providers utilise as quickly as possible.

Updated 23 May 2020 at 08.00

 

 

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City MP hosts ‘School Call’ bringing together parents, teachers and unions over concerns on school reopenings

Last night, Stephen Morgan MP teamed up with NEU President Amanda Martin and brought together parents and teachers for an open consultation.

The constituency-wide conversation – which took place via zoom – follows Government’s controversial proposals to send some pupils back on the 1 June, a decision slammed by unions and parents alike.

The conference call included addresses from the National Education Union  President and the city MP about the national lobbying effort to make sure that when schools reopen, they are safe for both pupils and staff.

City MP Stephen Morgan set out his parliamentary actions before opening up for questions and agreeing to take forward a set of actions in support of concerned parents and schools’ staff.

Amanda Martin, the President of Europe’s largest teaching union, spoke on the NEU’s 5 tests, current gaps in evidence and the problems with comparing the UK with nations such as Denmark and the Netherlands.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government’s current proposals for reopening schools put pupils and teaching staff at risk. The consensus among teachers, unions and parents in the consultation revealed deep set and justified concerns.

We all want pupils back at school, but everyone loses if the proper preparations are not made. Lack of accurate guidance on workplace safety, unsubstantial scientific evidence supporting the proposed return date and the non-existent national testing strategy need to be addressed before dates are set.

There is a lot at risk if this is not done properly. I have already taken action alongside teaching groups in holding government to account for this decision. I will continue to work on the set of actions agreed through our discussions yesterday.”

Prior to the meeting, Stephen Morgan MP had already written to the Education Secretary, submitted a string of written questions and established communication with every school in the constituency.

NEU President, Amanda Martin said:

“Lack of published scientific evidence, patchy workplace safety guidelines and an absence of a testing process mean that reopening schools in early June runs the risk of harm coming to teachers and pupils.

I will continue work alongside Stephen to apply pressure on government to meet the NEU’s 5 tests, which have been backed by the British Medical Association and Parentkind.”

Over 40 attendees took part in the consultation. The main concerns raised included transparency in government decision making, the need for science-based evidence, importance of ongoing communication, and the lack of planning for the looming mental health crisis.

Mr Morgan added:

“This is not about making government’s job harder. It is about highlighting the areas they must address to keep pupils and teaching staff safe.  

The agreed set of actions yesterday will build upon the work that we have already done to hold government to account.”

Actions agreed yesterday included lobbying government to meet the NEU’s 5 tests through parliamentary questions and ministerial engagement, maintaining regular communication, applying pressure to government to implement a strategy for dealing with mental health implications, and continued use of parliamentary process to access scientific data.

 

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Stephen’s School Call report

Lots of parents and school staff have been contacting Stephen over the last few days about schools reopening.

Stephen believes the Government didn’t think this through before making the announcement, and many headteachers – while trying to plan – are still uncertain what they are being asked to do. As an MP Stephen is doing what he can to help worried teachers and parents.

On Wednesday 20 May Stephen held a ‘School Call’ for parents and teachers from across the constituency to discuss views and concerns over the proposed plan by Government for children to start returning to school in the first week of June.

Stephen is calling on Ministers to work with trade unions and local government to agree safety measures, publish the scientific evidence and get much more of the test, trace and isolate system in place.

We all want to see children back in the classrooms but only when we’re confident it is sensible and safe.

The zoom call saw 40 parents and teachers join a discussion with Stephen Morgan MP, Amanda Martin, President of the National Education Union, and Cllr Suzy Horton.

A report from the discussion can be found here: School Call report

 

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Take a few minutes to help Portsmouth’s creative sector urges city MP

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has thrown weight behind Portsmouth Creates’ consultation with the creative sector to hear their concerns at this time of crisis

Portsmouth Creates, set up last year, is an independent organisation seeking to increase cultural investment in the city, by connecting, enabling and championing culture in the city.

Backing the organisation, Stephen Morgan MP is urging people to participate in a short survey and to share views on practice, business and operations amid Covid-19. This will inform Portsmouth’s response to the ‘Call for Evidence’ from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) ‘Enquiry into the impact of Covid-19.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Portsmouth is regarded as a culture hub not just within our region but nationally. Our city boasts world class festivals, outstanding food outlets, multiple theatres and internationally renowned museums.

As stark warnings are issued that the arts and culture could be most at risk during Covid-19, the work of organisations like Portsmouth Creates CIC becomes even more important.

It is vital that we get behind them in their efforts. I urge Portsmouth people to spare a few moments to help inform discussion on culture in our city.”

Amid the Covid-19 the Portsmouth South representative has been lobbying hard for PAYE freelancers and taking concerns to Government on behalf of local cultural institutions, submitting written questions and raising matters with the Culture Secretary.

You can do your bit too, stand up for Portsmouth’s creative community here: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/QWBMDK2.

Please submit your response by Friday 29 May 2020 so that your views can be included.

 

 

 

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City MP backs call to help struggling PAYE freelancers

Acting on the behalf of local PAYE freelancers under strain, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has backed calls on government to offer more far reaching financial aid.

Holes in government support for freelancers is an issue that has been disproportionately affecting those working in the creative industry.

According to a BECTU survey, only 50% of creative industries workers have been able to access support through a Government income support scheme.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“From international-standard museums to media start-ups, Portsmouth has a thriving creative scene. The continuation of this is in the interest of the city economically and socially.

The fact that this sector is most at risk due to gaps in government support must be redressed. There are many freelancers out there who are unable to access any support through the Government’s financial assistance schemes.

If support does not come quickly, this could result in financial ruin for hundreds of hardworking Portsmouth people and risk the loss of a highly skilled section of the workforce.”

Despite direct calls last month from Labour’s Shadow Chancellor to look to address the gaps in the support schemes, no steps have been taken, leaving many workers in crisis and a very real risk of a skills blackhole in this vital, growing sector of the UK economy.

Within the creative industries sector there are a significant number of people who are unable to access either the job retention scheme (JRS) or the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS). Creative and cultural industries significantly contribute to the 5.3 million jobs across the DCMS sector, a sector that accounts for nearly 16% of all UK jobs.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens MP:

“Creative industries have become a vital, successful part of the UK economy – outgrowing the UK economy on the whole and contributing £13 million every hour.

But many in the creative industries have been left to go through this crisis without support and their concerns and proposed solutions to the Government have so far been ignored.

The Chancellor needs to listen to these pleas. We know that many talented people are now considering their futures in the sector. If we lose these skills, it will prevent this critical sector from surviving and playing its part in our recovery once the virus is beaten for good.”

Stephen Morgan has been taking action to lobby Government over the concerns of freelancers since the onset of the pandemic. Already he has written twice to the Chancellor, submitted written questions and helped struggling individuals in the constituency with specific casework.

Information to support freelancers from BECTU can be found here

 

 

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Immigration Bill

Some constituents have been in touch with me about the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill which was debated in the House of Commons today – Monday 18 May 2020.

I deeply concerned by the Bill in its current form. This is because I believe it harms our NHS and social care sector, risking creating a shortage of nurses, carers and other key health workers in the middle of a global pandemic.

Labour believe rushing this Bill through Parliament during the current coronavirus crisis when many of those workers are saving lives and keeping the country running is unnecessary.  This legislation, which will hand over sweeping powers to the Government to create a new immigration system, without proper parliamentary scrutiny, that labels so many of the workers who are keeping our country running day by day as unskilled and unwelcome. That is unfair.

The new immigration system proposed by the Government contains a salary threshold of £25,600 that will exclude health and social care workers we desperately need from our country and will have a devastating impact on the health and social care sector. It values workers by what they earn and not what they contribute to our society.

In Portsmouth we rightly show our appreciation and gratitude for NHS staff and carers not just on Thursday evenings, but all year round. Yet this Bill will mean that care workers we need to fill vacancies would no longer be able to come to this country under the Government’s proposed immigration system – I don’t believe that is in the national interest.

For these reasons tonight I voted against the Bill at its Second Reading stage in Parliament.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

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Minister probed in Parliament over securing Gosport Ferry’s future by Stephen Morgan MP

In his latest action to support the continuation of Gosport Ferry post Covid-19, the Portsmouth South MP has raised the ferry services continuation with Ministers’ today at Transport Questions.

Mr Morgan has already liaised with Gosport Ferry’s top team, taken part in meetings with the city council along with other stakeholders, written to the Transport Secretary directly and submitted written parliamentary questions to keep pressure on Government to act.

Today, the city MP followed up on this action by asking Transport Ministers to flesh out the support they could offer to the vital ferry service.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I know how important the Gosport Ferry is for my constituents and commuters along the south coast which is why I have been working with others to secure its future.

It’s a lifeline service for many who rely on it for work, business and leisure. The coronavirus crisis has shone a spotlight on how crucial the crossing service is for the people of Gosport, and Portsmouth”.

Local stakeholders have submitted proposals to the Government to help secure the ferry’s future following discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport last week.

Mr Morgan added:

Government has already given positive signals and has engaged on the issue so far. However, we cannot afford to lose steam.

Portsmouth jobs, businesses and livelihoods are what is at risk. I will continue to take action on behalf of residents to ensure a suitable solution is reached to secure the ferry’s future.”

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Portsmouth MP backs ‘Pompey Street Space’ campaign and wastes no time promoting the plan in Parliament

Backing efforts by local groups and community representatives, Stephen Morgan MP today took action in support of the new Pompey Street Space campaign as part of his ongoing work to tackle the city’s climate emergency

Launching this morning, the Pompey Street Space is a newly formed campaign calling for the council to make our city safe for residents to walk, wheel, shop and cycle whilst keeping 2m apart. Since the lockdown the number of residents walking and cycling has risen hugely. The cleaner air, more audible bird song and peaceful streets have been a revelation for many of how our city could be.

The city MP is encouraging Government through the hybrid-Parliament to ‘lock-in’ the emission reducing practices that the city has adopted amid Covid-19. 

While Mr Morgan has been taking action to promote active travel in the city for some time. Today he threw his weight behind the Pompey Street Space campaign in signing a collective letter to the local authority and raising the community campaign in the House of Commons.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Active travel uptake amid this crisis has increased by up to 125% on some days. This shows that our city is capable of making decisive efforts to change behaviours and in turn, tackle climate change.

Now it is up to government to seize the opportunity and ensure Portsmouth people can continue to use green travel free from fear and with confidence. That means putting an end to the piecemeal approach to transport infrastructure and allowing councils rapid access to new vital funds.

Social, economic and environmental returns to active travel investment will be seen almost immediately. I will continue to take action with others to promote greener travel and look forward to supporting the work of Pompey Street Space to make this vision a reality.”

Active travel – such as walking and cycling – has soared amid the pandemic while traffic has seen around a 60% decline, slashing harmful emissions.

Portsmouth is the fourth most congested city in the UK and one of the worst outside London. Organisations such as the World Health Organisation have deemed current city pollution levels as ‘illegal’, while Friends of the Earth have described them as ‘Dangerous’. This means an increased risk to 11,000 people living the city who have heart and respiratory conditions.

Local climate activist Nick Sebley said:

“Stephen has been a solid ambassador on climate issues since his election and we welcome his support for the Pompey Street Space campaign.

We are presented with a unique opportunity to make our community fitter, healthier and greener. Portsmouth people have shown they have what it takes to be pioneers in addressing the climate emergency, it now falls on government’s shoulders to ensure the continuation of these practices.”

The community-led campaign is calling for the council to take three important steps immediately:

  1. Widen narrow pavements in busy streets so that people can keep two metres apart whilst walking, queuing for shops etc.
  2. Create a comprehensive city-wide network of roads that give priority to cyclists and pedestrians
  3. Create more commuter cycle routes to allow people who usually travel by public transport to get quickly and safely to work by bike.

Mr Morgan added: 

“As we emerge from this crisis, we cannot go head first into another. Climate change poses a real and severe threat to life that disproportionately effects people in our community.

Government has a duty to listen to the calls of trailblazing campaigns, like Pompey Street Space, to create the right conditions in communities that will allow green and active travel to continue to thrive. For that reason I wanted to flag this new initiative from our city to Ministers today.

According to the Government’s own research, at least £6bn of extra funding is required to meet their own targets of doubling cycling by 2025.

If Ministers are serious about active travel, then they need to get serious about investing in communities like Portsmouth”.

Stephen Morgan MP has a long running history of climate change action. He has hosted Brompton along with Keir Starmer in Portsmouth to promote active travel, hosted major public events with expert speakers to share best practice, regularly speaks out at local events, has worked in conjunction with XR and Friends of the Earth and continues to raise issues in Parliament.