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Queen’s Speech – City MP responds

Reacting to the Queen’s Speech today, Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said:

“This was a wasted opportunity. The first line of the Queen’s Speech should have included the introduction of an emergency budget to tackle the cost of living crisis Portsmouth and the rest of the country are facing. Instead, it was scarcely mentioned at all.

“Nothing to tackle the cost of the weekly shop, energy bills or the price at the pump. Ministers even decided it was better to chuck its Employment Bill in the bin, rather than help to secure good jobs.

“Today’s Queen’s Speech smacks of a government and Prime Minister that is out of ideas, and out of touch. Labour is ambitious for our country. After 12 years of low growth, high inflation and spiralling taxes, Labour’s plan would once again prioritise world-class public services, bring down NHS waiting times, tackle crime and ensure the best education for our children.”

Commenting on schools, the Shadow Schools Minister, added:

“After two years of unprecedented chaos and disruption to children’s education, we saw nothing to support children’s catch-up learning in the classroom, and nothing to tackle the day-to-day challenges pupils and teachers are facing. This government is failing our next generation.

“Labour in government would recruit 6,500 new teachers, back them with improved professional development and ensure every young person leaves education ready for work and ready for life, with professional careers advice and work experience for all.”

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Heating costs soar as City MP calls for ‘urgent action’ to boost affordable swimming pool access

Stephen Morgan MP has called for ‘urgent action’ to be taken to boost affordable local access to swimming pools, after accusing decision-makers of ‘sitting on their hands’ as the cost of heating pools continues to rise.

Swim England last week warned that heating bill increases of up to 150% will lead to the widespread closures of UK swimming pools unless something is done.

It comes after the repurposing and closure of the Pyramids Centre and closure of Eastney swimming pool in Portsmouth alone.

The city has now only has just a few options that are available to the public, as Swim England has also forecasted a wider 40% reduction in the number of available swimming facilities in the country by the end of the decade.

It has also said this would leave 73% of local authorities short of the equivalent of at least one swimming pool.

In addition to questioning Ministers in parliament on this issue, the Portsmouth MP has met with Swim England to discuss the provision level of local swimming facilities, wider national challenges and how the cost of living crisis is impacting affordable access to swimming facilities in Portsmouth and across the country.

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

“Decisions to reduce access to affordable swimming across the country and in Portsmouth have real consequences for our city’s communities.

“Instead of sitting on its hands, Government should be doing more to encourage swimming for pupils and people of all ages, and the council should be getting on with delivering this locally.

“Warnings from Swim England should be focusing minds, not continuing to leave our community as an afterthought.

“It was useful to meet with the organisation in Westminster last week to discuss what needs be done here in Portsmouth and across the country, and how I can continue to lobby others for investment in local facilities.

“I will continue to push the council and Government to get serious about this growing problem.”

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Portsmouth MP backs plan to crackdown on community crime with new police hubs in every local area

Stephen Morgan MP has renewed his commitment to tackling anti-social behaviour, as new analysis from Labour has shown that 1.2 million incidents of nuisance are recorded in England and Wales every year – equating to over 20,000 incidents every single week.

Labour has accused the Conservatives of abandoning local communities like those in Portsmouth and showing no leadership on anti-social behaviour for a decade.

Some 1.2 million nuisance incidents were recorded in the year ending September 2021, equating to 23,759 incidents every week, and over 3,300 every single day. When expanded to cover personal and environmental ASB such as drug paraphernalia, over 1.6 million incidents of antisocial behaviour were recorded over the last year – over 200,000 higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The Official Opposition wants to see local Police Hubs in towns and communities across the country, bringing together a Neighbourhood Prevention Team made up of police, community support officers, local authority staff and youth workers to tackle anti-social behaviour at source.

These teams would prioritise being visible on patrols, being easily accessible for local residents and would pursue serial perpetrators of ASB or low-level crime, as well as dealing with visible signs of disorder such as broken windows, graffiti, fly-tipping, or drug dealing. These teams will also support victims of anti-social behaviour. Labour councils such as Redbridge are already working in partnership with local police to introduce local hubs.

In September 2020 the Home Secretary wrote to the Victims Commissioner to express her concern about “the serious impact that persistent anti-social behaviour can have on both individuals and communities”. Yet there have been no specific reforms since that point.

Labour’s plan includes:

  • New Police Hubs in crime and antisocial behaviour hotspots across the country to get the police back out into the community
  • Neighbourhood Prevention Teams bringing together police and local councils and youth services to tackle antisocial behaviour that is blighting communities
  • Stronger powers for police and local councils to shut down drug dens, and to keep them closed for longer
  • A major recruitment drive to increase the number of special constables
  • Giving victims of persistent antisocial behaviour the same entitlements including access to support services as other victims of crime

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

“Communities across Portsmouth are being badly let down by this government.

“Nationally, total crime is going up, prosecutions are going down, criminals are being let off and victims are being let down.

“I saw first-hand during a night patrol last Friday with our dedicated local police officers how they are working to tackle street harassment and anti-social behaviour, but they need far better support from government.

“That’s why Labour would introduce new Police Hubs to bring neighbourhood prevention teams back out into our communities in Portsmouth. We need to see police back on our streets working in communities to keep people safe.”

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School energy bills doubled last year as cost-of-living crisis threatens learning

Children’s learning and opportunities are being put at risk, Labour has warned, as the Conservatives’ failure to get a grip on rising prices puts the squeeze on school budgets.

School energy bills doubled in the last year, according to data compiled by the House of Commons Library, with further price rises expected as fixed term contracts come to an end.

The new figures suggest that non-domestic gas and electricity prices almost doubled in 2021, mainly driven by the rise in the cost of wholesale gas prices.

Headteachers last year warned they were being forced to strip back additional support for children with special educational needs and disabilities, staff numbers and activities such as breakfast and afterschool clubs.

Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, Stephen Morgan MP has urged Ministers to work with schools to ensure children do not lose out on further opportunities due to cost pressures.

Unlike domestic customers, schools are not subject to the energy price cap, meaning there is no limit on the price rises they could face as wholesale prices increase.

An investigation by SchoolsWeek recently found that schools in the North East could expect their bills to rise by to one and a half times their current level as prices soar.

Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“Children have already faced huge disruption due to the government’s chaotic handling of the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis, made worse by Downing Street, is further squeezing school budgets.

“Ministers must get a grip and engage with schools to ensure children do not lose out on further opportunities.

“Labour is calling on the government to prioritise children’s learning and development post-pandemic, with breakfast and afterschool clubs, tutoring and mental health support. The Education Secretary must match this ambition with a proper plan to secure children’s futures.”

 

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Schools White Paper fails to deliver for children in Portsmouth, says City MP

Stephen Morgan MP has warned that the government’s Schools White Paper shows no plan, no vision and no ambition for children’s education in Portsmouth as 8 in 10 schools are told to carry on as normal.

Labour is calling on the government to focus on children’s experience in the classroom, not bureaucratic tinkering with school structures.

Children in England missed over ten million school days for Covid-related reasons in the last term alone. Meanwhile, pupil absences are also up 35 per cent since the start of January and a quarter of schools have 15 per cent of their teachers and leaders off work.

As a result, the Portsmouth MP warned of the ‘stark scale of the generational challenge we now face.’

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an average loss of six months of schooling for students could see a reduction in their lifetime income of 4%. This equates to a total of £350 billion in lost earnings for the 8.7 million school-aged children in the UK.

The government has admitted that most schools are already hitting their new target for the length of the school day, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously said the evidence for lengthening the school day was “not as good as it could have been”.

In September, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer set out Labour’s determination to drive-up standards for all school with the most ambitious school improvement programme for a generation. Labour’s plan would include getting 6,500 new teachers into our schools, alongside embedding careers advice, work experience and digital skills in every child’s learning so young people leave education ready for work and ready for life, equipped with the skills they need for the future.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Schools Minister, said:

“Once again we have a smoke and mirrors announcement from a Conservative government that has simply run out of ideas. 

“This White Paper is looking backwards showing no plan, no vision and no ambition for children in Portsmouth.

“Children have endured two years of chaos and disruption to their learning and pre-pandemic thousands were leaving school without the skills and qualifications they need.

“But the government isn’t tackling any of this. They’re obsessing over structures not driving up standards.

“Labour is focused on making a difference to children in the classroom. We would be delivering the trained staff our schools need because the success of teachers enables the success of our children.”

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary said:

 “Parents will be surprised to hear that a focus on helping every child develop good reading, writing and maths skills is a new discovery for the Education Secretary. This isn’t an add on that any parent should have to ask for, it’s the fundamentals of a good school system.

“Today’s ‘pledge’ acknowledges that 12 years of Conservative governments have failed to get the basics right.

“Labour has been listening to parents, pupils and school staff. We would be delivering our ambitious Children’s Recovery Plan and getting on with delivering plans for 6,500 new teachers filling skills gaps across the profession alongside embedding careers advice, work experience and digital skills for every child so they get a brilliant education which equips them with the skills they need for work and for life.”

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World Social Work Day: Portsmouth MP urges action to tackle social workers leaving ‘important’ profession

Stephen Morgan MP thanked social workers for the important role that they carry out as the city marked World Social Work Day yesterday, for their role in supporting people with additional needs and through difficult periods in their life.

The City MP also, however, stressed that the Government must take action to tackle the number of social workers leaving or planning to leave the profession. This is in response to a report published by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) which found that increasing workloads due to the pandemic has exacerbated working conditions in social work, which is driving staff to leave.

These fears arise despite more than 60% of respondents to BASW’s survey saying that they were “happy working in the social work profession”. The survey was the first of BASW’s annual state of social work survey, which unveils a picture of increasing caseloads across adults and children’s services against a backdrop of long-term underfunding of social services.

Echoing a concerning outlook on social worker retention, the Department of Education’s Children’s social work workforce statistics, released last week, shows the number of children and family social workers leaving during 2021 was 4,995, up by 16% compared to 2020 and the highest number in the last 5 years.

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

“Social workers go above and beyond for so many vulnerable people, but the working conditions they are facing are unsustainable and unfair.

“Social workers need rest, balance and support. If they do not receive them, we cannot be surprised that people in the profession are burning out or leaving.

“As we marked World Social Work Day this week, the best way we can thank Portsmouth social workers is for the Government to take urgent action on working conditions so that we can encourage social workers to stay in the profession.”

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Portsmouth MP tours CityFibre’s Full Fibre works in Portsmouth

Stephen Morgan MP has toured CityFibre’s ongoing works in the city for its ‘Full Fibre’ £32m project.

During the visit, Mr Morgan and representatives from CityFibre were introduced to full fibre digital infrastructure and provided with demonstrations of the typical build process, including excavation and reinstatement.

Work is underway across the constituency and beyond to build a citywide full fibre network that will reach almost every home and business in Portsmouth.

The project forms part of CityFibre’s up to £4 billion Gigabit City Investment Programme, which will bring full fibre networks within reach of up to 8 million homes and businesses across the UK.

Unlike the majority of the digital infrastructure accessible to households today, full fibre networks use 100% fibre optic cables to carry data at light speed all the way from the home to the point of connection. This gives users consistently faster speeds for upload and download (up to 1,000 Mbps), near limitless bandwidth and connectivity for users.

During the tour, the city MP helped ‘splice’ some fibre cable for an install in Portsea alongside an engineer.

Commenting on the progress of CityFibre’s £32m project, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, said:

“It was really useful to meet with CityFibre to get an update on the works it’s been doing to improve broadband connectivity in Portsmouth.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, boosting local gigabit broadband availability will be crucial to bridging the digital divide in our city to support catch-up learning and tackling loneliness. I raised this with Ministers in the House of Commons a few weeks ago.

“Full fibre connectivity will support our economic, social and smart city ambitions.”

In Portsmouth, services will be available from an increasing range of broadband providers. Across the UK, CityFibre is already working with launch partner Vodafone to supply full fibre infrastructure for customers on selected Vodafone Pro Broadband plans, while TalkTalk and other providers are expected to join the network soon.

Residents can find out more about the build and register their interest at cityfibre.com/homes

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Portsmouth MP commends Portsmouth Water for its ‘vital’ service to the city

Stephen Morgan MP has commended the work of local water company Portsmouth Water for its ‘vital’ services it provides to the city.

Touring some of the water provider’s facilities today, the city MP received a briefing on some of the key challenges facing the company such as climate change and water resources management, as well as how Portsmouth Water is responding through innovation and collaboration.

Mr Morgan was also able learn more about Portsmouth Water’s Havant Thicket reservoir project and see first-hand full extent of its environmental preparation works.

The Portsmouth representative also had the opportunity to visit Portsmouth Water’s Farlington Water Treatment Works, which provides the majority of the water supply to the city of Portsmouth.

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

Portsmouth Water provides vital services to residents across our city, so it was really useful to visit its facilities and see first-hand the work it is doing to serve our city.

“Protecting our local environment is crucial for the long-term sustainability of our city and surrounding area, so it is encouraging to learn about the work Portsmouth Water is doing to ensure that happens.

“I look to forward to seeing the benefits of Portsmouth Water’s innovative work to ensure everyone in the city gets the water they need in the most sustainable way possible.”

Bob Taylor, CEO, Portsmouth Water, also said:

“We were delighted to welcome Stephen Morgan to Portsmouth Water on Friday. This is an incredibly exciting time for the company as we embark on our flagship Havant Thicket Reservoir project and it was privilege to show Stephen the site of the new reservoir.

At its heart, Havant Thicket Reservoir is an environmentally-led project and we were pleased to give Stephen the opportunity to see the significant environmental works which have already been carried out on site.

Stephen was also taken for a tour of our Farlington Water Treatment Works where he witnessed first-hand how the water which supplies the majority of his constituents is treated to the very highest standards.”

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Portsmouth MP pushes for John Pounds Medical Centre to reopen

Local residents, Labour councillors and Stephen Morgan MP have united to lobby for the John Pounds Medical Centre to reopen, following its closure in July 2020.

Lake Road Practice, which John Pounds Medical Centre merged with, said at the time, ‘“With Covid-19 affecting us all this year” the GP service site would temporarily close, with a view “to restarting clinics at John Pounds as soon as we can offer a suitable Covid secure service.”

However, despite covid cases now lowering and local vaccination rates higher, the GP service has still not reopened.

The Portsmouth MP has written to Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) raising concerns his constituents have shared with him on this issue, and on the level of access to alternative GP services in the Portsea area.

Many local residents are either vulnerable or disabled, but have said they are now faced with little choice but to walk up to 30 minutes longer to access the medical attention they need at Lake Road GP practice.

The City MP’s constituents have also said that alternative forms of local transport for this route are either unreliable or expensive.

It comes as the local Labour team, led by Cllr Kirsty Mellor, helped to collect signatures for a petition residents have produced, calling for the John Pounds Medical Centre to reopen.

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

“The John Pounds Medical Centre is vital for people in Portsea to get easy access to the healthcare they need. While it remains closed with no clear explanation for it being so, residents who depend on it face unneeded uncertainty and anxiety.

“That’s why I have written to decision-makers to clarify reasons why John Pounds Medical Centre remains closed and when we can expect it to reopen.

“Local Labour councillors have been doing important work alongside the community on this, and I am grateful for the petition local residents have produced. Our NHS has been left creaking at the seams by Ministers in Whitehall and urgent intervention is needed to bring down local waiting times across our city.

“I will continue to make the case in Parliament for the action and support that’s required to secure the health and social care services our city deserves.”

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NHS waiting list at Portsmouth Hospitals University Hospitals NHS Trust reaching over 45,000 ‘deeply concerning’, says City MP

Stephen Morgan MP has said that the latest figures from the NHS that show that at the end of December 2021, there were 45,397 people on the waiting list at Portsmouth Hospitals University Hospitals NHS Trust is ‘seriously concerning.

At the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, following a decade of Tory government, there were 4.4 million people on the NHS waiting list in England, then a record high.

Nationally, the standard of 92% of people seen within 18 weeks of a referral has not been met since 2016. Now, 1 in every 9 people in England are on the NHS waiting list.

The NHS went into the latest wave of Covid infections with the longest waiting list ever, understaffed and overstretched.

The Conservative Government published its elective care recovery plan for the NHS this week, but failed to set out how it would address the workforce shortages the NHS is facing. The plan set the Government’s ambition as beginning to reduce waiting lists in 2024.

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

“These new figures are deeply concerning. People in Portsmouth are being forced to wait months and even years for treatment, often in pain and discomfort. Now the Government is telling them that, despite hiking up their national insurance, they will continue waiting longer for years to come.

“It is clear that the longer we give the Tories, the longer patients will wait.

“Our local health care staff worked heroically throughout the pandemic, but they have been stretched like never before.

“Government provide the staff and support Portsmouth Hospitals University Hospitals NHS Trust needs to get patients the quality care they deserve, when they need it.

Wes Streeting MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said:

“Record numbers of people are waiting for care and they are waiting longer than ever before, often in pain and distress.

“After a decade of Tory mismanagement, the NHS went into the pandemic with record waiting lists and staff shortages of 100,000. It’s not just that the Tories didn’t fix the roof when the sun was shining, they dismantled the roof and removed the floorboards.

“The Conservatives are so incompetent they’ve come up with a plan that sees patients paying more in tax but waiting longer for care.

“The last Labour government reduced waiting times from 18 months to 18 weeks. The next Labour government will secure the future of our NHS, providing the staff it needs to treat patients on time.”