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Shadow Defence Minister: Armed Forces Bill risks reinforcing “postcode lottery” on services for veterans

Stephen Morgan MP urged Ministers to hear service charity concerns that the Armed Forces Bill will reinforce the “postcode lottery” veterans face when accessing services.

Speaking in the House of Commons following the publication of a cross-party report, Mr Morgan said the Bill’s narrow focus on housing, healthcare and education, risked creating a “two-tier” Covenant and a race to the bottom on standards in those areas left out.

In practice, this means many long-standing problems facing armed forces, veterans and their families will remain unaddressed. Social care, pensions, employment and immigration are among the long list of areas witnesses told the Committee will not be covered by this once-in-a-Parliament piece of legislation.

The Confederation of Service Charities Chair General Sir John McColl specifically highlighted the eyewatering visa fees that Commonwealth veterans face as an instance where the government’s current “moral requirement” to comply with the Covenant “absolutely does not work”.

The government has also not included the Lyons Review recommendation that civilian courts should have full jurisdiction over murder, rape and serious sexual offences committed in the UK. In evidence to the Committee, Judge Lyons said he was “surprised” to find the most serious cases being tried in the service justice system and argued that this had not been Parliament’s original intent.

Stephen Morgan MP, Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

“The government must listen to concerns raised by MPs of all parties and service charities that this Bill will not address long-standing issues for service communities.  

“Following input from across the sector and service communities themselves, government must now listen to the recommendations outlined in our report today.

“Labour will continue speaking up for our Armed Forces, veterans and their families, and ensure that the promises in the Covenant are delivered for all of the nation’s service personnel.”

Mr Morgan has been leading the Official Opposition’s response to the Armed Forces Bill during its passage through Parliament.

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Portsmouth MP blasts Home Secretary for cuts to local police funding

Stephen Morgan MP has written to the Home Secretary today on how residents in Portsmouth would continue to receive the same level of service from local police after cuts to local budgets.

The Portsmouth MP criticised the Home Secretary for failing to address the £21.9m real-terms hole in funding in Hampshire Constabulary’s finances, despite recent increases.

Meanwhile, Portsmouth currently has the lowest number of police officers per 100,000 than any other police service in the country, prompting fears as to how the same level of local service and crime prevention can be delivered.

It comes as the Chief Constable recently told the Police and Crime Panel underfunding means responses had to be ‘rationed’, suggesting some services may have to be dropped to meet other priorities.

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

“Our local police service has for too long faced cuts by successive Tory governments, which has led to a serious impact on police numbers in Portsmouth.

“It is completely unacceptable in a densely populated area like ours to have the lowest number of police officers per 100,000 in the country.

“This is far from the ‘levelling-up’ agenda the government promised, and it is clear from my postbag that cuts are causing consequences in communities across Portsmouth.

“I will continue to pile on the pressure on Government to properly fund policing in Portsmouth and ensure a fairer funding deal for Hampshire Constabulary.”

Mr Morgan has consistently taken action over the consequences of the lack of fair funding for the local police force, voting in favour of a motion in the House of Commons that would have seen an increase in the number of police officers and the restoration of neighbourhood policing teams in Hampshire.

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Portsmouth MP demands government give veterans access to ‘state-of-the-art’ care facility

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP has pushed the government in the House of Commons today to face-up to its commitment to give veterans access to a world-class treatment centre for those with serious injuries.

The Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre has reportedly seen only twenty-two people in the last three years, despite the government’s commitment to give access to veterans who need it.

However, government has faced criticism from veterans’ charities such as Help for Heroes that “it is not an efficient process” and wants ex-servicemen and women with other issues to be given access.

It comes as the Portsmouth MP is leading the Official Opposition’s response to Armed Forces Bill as it passes through Bill select committee, with its aims to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant into law and improve veterans’ welfare.

Stephen Morgan, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Defence Minister, said:

“This state-of-the-art facility has tremendous potential to afford seriously injured personnel and veterans the healthcare they need, but just 22 veterans being treated at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in the last three years is just not good enough.

“If the government is serious about improving veterans’ welfare, giving proper access to treatment facilities that were designed to help them would be the common sense thing to do.

“I will continue to push the Minister on this, and I look forward to an update on the government’s progress.”

Mr Morgan recently criticised the Chancellor for handing a real-terms pay cut to many currently serving Armed Forces personnel in the government Budget announced earlier this month and is pushing for a range of measures to support service personnel, veterans and their families.

 

 

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Portsmouth MP praises ‘brilliant’ local COVID-19 testing centre during visit

Stephen Morgan MP has lauded the new COVID-19 testing centre at Portsmouth Guildhall as a ‘brilliant operation’, during a visit earlier today.

The new facility is now offering asymptomatic community testing to anyone who is over the age of 16 who regularly leaves home to go to work, or those not covered by an existing workplace testing programme.

Appointments are available 7 days a week, between 8am and 8pm, and can be booked at short notice.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“Asymptomatic testing across our community is going to play a critical role in supporting the fight against COVID-19, right now and in the weeks and months ahead, particularly for those who are unable to work from home.

“The Portsmouth Guildhall testing facility is a brilliant operation and my thanks to all the dedicated staff for getting this up and running.”

According to the latest government figures, the current rate per 100k of positive COVID-19 cases in Portsmouth is 57.7, but the local parliamentary representative has warned that everyone must continue to stick to the COVID-19 rules and restrictions to not undo the progress of the last few months.

Meanwhile from today, many students will be returning to school for the first time in weeks.

The parliamentary representative, added:

 We are making great progress in tackling the spread of this dreadful virus, but as we begin open up society again, it is vital we continue to listen to advice and follow the rules.

“We are so close to overcoming this collective challenge we all share and we must do all we can ensure we do not undo any of the hard work our city has put in over the last few months.”

You can find out more about the testing centre and book an appointment via Portsmouth City Council’s website.

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Our NHS heroes deserve a pay rise 

It is beyond belief that this government claps for our NHS heroes one minute then hands them a real-terms pay cut the next.

The independent NHS Pay Review Body should recommend a real pay rise for our city’s healthcare heroes and the government must honour it.

I want to add my name to this petition on a Real Pay Rise for our Healthcare Heroes*

Thank you for signing our petition. Stephen Morgan MP and the Labour Party will use the personal information you provide for the purpose of the Real Pay Rise for our Healthcare Heroes Petition. Where you have opted in, Stephen and the Labour Party may contact you via the communication channels you have chosen and for the purposes specified. We may also contact you by post using the electoral register, which Stephen is entitled to use as an MP and the Labour Party is entitled to use to further its objectives as a political party. You can opt out of communications from us or manage your preferences at any time. For more information about how we use personal data please visit: www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/privacy-policy

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Budget 2021: City MP accuses government of ‘failing to deliver levelling up agenda’

Stephen Morgan MP has criticised the government for failing to deliver for Portsmouth in the government’s annual budget announced earlier today.

The Portsmouth MP has accused the government of failing to deliver for the city over a number of years, as well as do enough to support and protect it during the COVID-19 crisis.

The budget includes:

  • An extension to the furlough scheme until the end of September, despite the Official Opposition’s and Mr Morgan’s calls to do this months ago, when in February it was estimated that over 15,000 people in Portsmouth were still furloughed by their employer in late January.
  • A demand for local families to pay for gaps in council budgets, rather than fulfilling the Chancellor’s prior pledge to back them, which could amount to as much as £89 extra on annual household council tax bills for the average Band D home in Portsmouth.
  • A freeze to some key workers’ pay, including at least 13,900 key workers in Portsmouth – the teachers, police officers and Armed Forces personnel on the front line of the battle against Covid-19.

It comes as earlier this week Mr Morgan called for a ‘Jobs Promise’ for young people in Portsmouth, with the number of people under 25 needing to claim out-of-work support more than doubling in the last year, rising from 780 at the start of 2020 to now 1830 (an increase of 135%), according to the latest figures.

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

“This budget fails to deliver for Portsmouth and the government’s own ‘levelling-up agenda. It barely mentioned inequality, let alone tried to address it. This is not levelling up, but giving up.

“It fails our families, young people, key workers and those left ignored by the government both during this and successive Tory governments.

From the local cabbie on our high street, to the NHS nurse at our own QA Hospital, they did not get what they needed today.

“I promise to do all I can to ensure Portsmouth gets the support it needs to recover from this crisis, and what it deserves, to become the future city we all know it can be.”

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‘Back local councils with proper funding to prevent the planned council tax rise’ urges Portsmouth MP  

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has called out the Government’s hike to council tax – a £1.9bn planned bombshell costing the average family £90 each.

Today in a major speech by the Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer, Labour pointed out that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are hitting workers in their pockets by “permitting” councils and Mayors to increase council tax by up to 5% next year.

The government’s finance settlement assumes that councils will do this in how it calculates spending power will change. The settlement indicates that core spending on local services has the potential to increase by £2.2 billion in 2021/22, an increase of 4.5 per cent.

However, more than 85 per cent of the potential core funding increase next year is dependent on councils increasing council tax by up to 5 per cent next year.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Councils up and down our country, including our own here in Portsmouth, are facing the tough choice about whether to increase bills to bring in desperately needed funding to protect services.

“This comes at a time when we are acutely aware of the significant burden that could place on some households and many across our communities are struggling to make ends meet”.

Government proposals mean this would be a £2bn bombshell to households in England. For the average Band D property in England, where the average council tax for 2020-21 was £1,818, a 5% increase would be £91. 

Labour is calling on the Government to put families first during this latest lockdown by backing local councils with funding to prevent the planned council tax rise; stopping the planned cut to universal credit; extending the ban on evictions and repossessions; and giving key workers the pay rise they deserve.

On this, the city MP added:

“The Prime Minister and Chancellor should stand by their pledge to do whatever is necessary to help councils get their communities through the crisis by funding the shortfall that they are trying to pass onto families, rather than force councils to raise taxes. Otherwise we risk Portsmouth people paying more and getting less, yet again.

“This crisis has exposed the insecurity felt by many families over the last ten years. Insecurity of work, insecurity at home and insecurity of health.

“Government must now put families first during this lockdown, supporting parents and protecting household incomes and properly fund councils”.

 

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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 reaffirms commitment to local WASPI women ‘Not Going Away’ campaign

Stephen Morgan MP has reaffirmed his commitment to ensure justice for local WASPI women following a meeting with local campaigners.

Mr Morgan heard from some of the local activists from Solent WASPI on this issue about the particular challenges they have been facing during the pandemic, with many struggling due to a delay to their pension.

The WASPI movement campaigns against the way the state pension age was equalised. Prior to the pandemic, millions of 1950s women had been made worse off, some losing up to £47,000. Reports are suggesting that these women are now being disproportionately hit by the impacts of Covid-19.

Evidence also suggests that many 1950s women work in the gig economy. The sector least supported by government Covid-19 schemes. This, coupled with low incomes undermining eligibility for universal credit, is resulting in severe loss of earnings for WASPI women.

Stephen Morgan MP, said,

“It is truly heart-breaking to still be hearing similar stories at this stage of the pandemic as we were at the beginning, but the government has still done little to support these women.”

“The situation for many WASPI women is continuing to deteriorate and it is clear they have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. I want to reaffirm my commitment to securing justice for them and the ‘Not Going Away’ campaign.”

During the meeting, the local parliamentary representative committed to a range of actions, including penning letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey MP, and re-energising campaign efforts alongside Solent WASPI in early 2021.

The Portsmouth South MP, added,

“It is unacceptable that the government has still not provided additional support for our local WASPI women and I will be writing to the Minister to urge her to ensure they get what they need.

I will continue to do all I can working alongside Solent WASPI and their tireless efforts to end this injustice affecting over 9,000 women here in Portsmouth”.

Shelagh Simmons, Coordinator of the Solent WASPI Supporters’ Group, also said,

“We were delighted to meet with Stephen recently and update him on our campaign.  The Covid-19 crisis has badly hit women already suffering as a result of the poorly implemented State Pension age rises.  Some still forced to work have lost their jobs and it will be extremely difficult – if not impossible – to find further employment in an environment rife with ageism. 

“WASPI supports an equal State Pension age for men and women but this was done with little, or no, notice.  For a generation of women who have never had equality, and did not have the same opportunities as men to build up private pension provision, it has been devastating. 

“We’re not asking for special treatment but for fair treatment.  Solent WASPI and its Portsmouth members are extremely grateful to Stephen for steadfastly supporting our campaign for State Pension justice.  We very much look forward to continue working with him on this in 2021. We are ‘Not Going Away’.”

Earlier this year, Stephen Morgan MP took action on behalf of the WASPI to put pressure on the government in a bid to get the help they required.

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City MP criticises Government ‘pay more: get less’ approach to council funding

Stephen Morgan MP has today criticised the government for its funding settlement for local authorities which will mean city residents paying more, but getting less. He also said Portsmouth City Council has not been allocating enough resources for local  services and to continue Covid-19 support.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, announced the annual government funding settlement for local authorities in the House of Commons today.

In his statement the Minister announced that Council Tax bills will rise by 5% next year – twice the rate of inflation. The announcement also means extra Covid-19 related cots will not be fully funded, suggesting inevitable cuts to public services in the new year.

This year, many local authorities are having to use reserves to balance their budgets this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst concerns persist on whether the funding crisis faced by local authorities will undermine the recovery of town centre economies.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South reacted to the announcement, saying,

“Year after year the government has continued to expect our local council, like many others across the country, to pick up the bill where they fail to provide enough resources to run our community’s public services effectively.

“This year of all years, local councils desperately need the funding they need to ensure they can keep people safe and support business recoveries. The people of our city deserve far better and I will continue to push the government to ensure our council gets the support it needs.

“When so many are struggling, it cannot be right that Government is expecting Portsmouth people to pay more, but get less from our local council.”

Mr Morgan raised concerns on this in 2019 and has committed to push the government for further funding measures for Portsmouth.