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“Just 24 hours to save jobs” says city MP in response to new regional furlough data

“Fresh stats reveal marked deterioration in South East jobs market and economy, even compared to data released three weeks ago” says city Stephen Morgan backing Labour’s 5-point plan.

24 hours to save jobs – new analysis shows high street still under strain in South East, including Portsmouth as 1,216, 600 furloughed workers start losing support in a matter of hours.

Three weeks ago, Stephen Morgan MP released a statement outlining his response to damning stats showing how many people have fallen through the gaps in government support across the region. New data today shows that even in the short time since then, things have become markedly worse.

Analysis released today by the Labour Party shows:

  • Footfall for key high street businesses is still down 40% on pre-pandemic levels in the UK
  • 7% of businesses in the hardest hit sector still report being temporarily closed
  • 1,216,600 furloughed workers in the South East begin losing support in a matter of hours – making it a 7.1% increase in just a few weeks

New analysis by the Labour Party shows many businesses in the South East still face significant challenges due to coronavirus.

Google mobility data shows that footfall for retail and recreation businesses, including restaurants, cafes, museums and cinemas, is down 45% in Portsmouth compared to pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, footfall on public transport and around workplaces is still down 18%.

Meanwhile, the latest ONS data shows some firms have still not reopened, whilst a large number of those that have report lower turnover.

A fifth of businesses in the food and accommodation sector have still not been able to reopen, including nearly 30% of SMEs. 43% of businesses in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector are also still temporarily closed, including nearly half of SMEs.

Meanwhile, of those that have opened, 84% in food and accommodation and 72% in arts and entertainment report reduced turnover from pre-pandemic levels.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Hardworking Portsmouth people, through no fault of their own, have fallen through the substantial gaps in government support. From the self-employed to new businesses, people from a variety of occupations are facing financial turmoil.

The marked deterioration of the state of employment in our region, even just over the last two weeks, is a testament to the fact more must be done.

The government was too slow into lockdown, too slow on testing, now its too slow to protect jobs. That is why I support Labour’s 5-point plan that will fight for jobs, back our businesses, leave no-one behind, keep workers safe and drive up job creation”

In under 24 hours, these firms begin losing support from the Job Retention Scheme and will have to start meeting some of the cost of non-working hours for any retained employees (either fully or partially furloughed).

This change risks handing furloughed workers In the South East their P45;

  • 1, 216, 600, people have been furloughed an increase from 1,035,400 – equivalent to 29% of the workforce
  • 203, 400 workers in the food and accommodation, equivalent to 72% of the workforce
  • 73, 500 workers in arts, entertainment and recreation, equivalent to 69% of the workforce

While the arts and food sectors have seen an increase in output over the last few weeks, this is solely down to an easing of lockdown restrictions. Many still reserve concerns that businesses will not survive unless more comprehensive support is offered by government.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds MP said:

“The Chancellor’s refusal to abandon his one-size-fits-all withdrawal of furlough is an historic mistake that risks a python-like squeeze on jobs in the worst-hit sectors. The reward for months of hard work and sacrifice by the British people cannot be a P45.

It’s not too late for the Chancellor to see sense, change course and support the businesses and sectors that need it most. But even if he does, there is still much to do.

That’s why Labour is today launching the Jobs Jobs Jobs campaign – to offer concrete, constructive proposals that would protect the economy and people’s livelihoods.”

Labour is calling on the government to reverse course and extend the furlough scheme so that it supports jobs in the worst-hit sectors and targets aid to struggling industries.

This would put the UK in line with other major developed democracies, with many extending their versions of the Job Retention Scheme or similar wage subsidy schemes:

  • France announced in July that their emergency wage subsidy scheme would operate for up to two years.
  • Germany already benefited from an existing wage subsidy or ‘short-time’ work scheme, introduced after the financial crisis to prevent unemployment during downturns. The scheme was expanded in March, with these changes lasting until the end of the year. Workers can receive a subsidy for up to a year, meaning the government will be subsidising wages well into 2021.
  • Australia recently announced that its Job Keeper wage subsidy scheme would be extended until March 2021 for the worst affected firms. The scheme was due to end in September and is still open to new claims.
  • Ireland announced last week that its temporary wage subsidy scheme would remain in place until March 2021.

 

 

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Decision to axe free TV licence for over 75s ‘stripping away vital lifeline amid pandemic’ says city MP

After a two-month delay due to Covid-19, plans to scrap the universally free TV licence for the over-75s are once again underway. The decision to scrap the vital benefit for older people was first made in 2015 when the Conservative Government forced the responsibility onto the BBC.

Since then, Stephen Morgan MP has consistently been vocal in his opposition to government snatching away this popular benefit, working alongside the Portsmouth Pensioners and Age UK as well as hundreds of constituents. The move announced today has angered many especially as the Tories stood on a 2017 election manifesto pledge not to roll back benefits for older people.

The Portsmouth South MP has undertaken a series of actions lobbying for Portsmouth pensioners including seeking the views of all constituents affected; writing to two Culture Secretaries lobbying for government to revoke the decision; speaking out in favour of keeping the benefit during parliamentary debates; grilling Ministers in the House of Commons during relevant questions; submitting a string of targeted written questions to the department responsible; and writing a joint letter with the Portsmouth Pensioners Association to the Prime Minister.

On today’s announcement, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government has not only snatched away this vital lifeline for some older people, it has then cowered away from ownership of the decision and tried to shift blame onto the BBC.

That means more than three million households will be asked to start paying the £157.50 fee. I know from speaking to hundreds of local residents that for some that will mean choosing between loneliness and hunger.

Of those set to lose out we know that 900,000 are veterans who have served this country, 500,000 suffer from Alzheimer’s and 1.3 million are eligible for pension credit but unable to claim it. This means those losing out are truly the most vulnerable in our society.

Today’s announcement is hugely disappointing for thousands of Portsmouth’s pensioners who have contributed so much to society. This is a simple benefit giving back to those who have contributed a lot”.

Free TV licences for the over-75s had been provided by the Government since 2000, but responsibility for the provision was passed to the BBC as part of a fee settlement.

The cost of continuing to provide free licences to all over-75s could have reached £1bn a year over time with an ageing population and would have accounted for one fifth of their overall budget, meaning government left the BBC no choice.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens MP said:

“The refusal of the government to fund this vital service after promising to do so is nothing short of betrayal.

Many over-75s have spent months at home with TV providing an invaluable source of company during the pandemic. For the government to blame the BBC who are having to contend with huge cuts is simply passing the buck.”

 

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‘We needed proper plan and real investment in Portsmouth from Government today’ and instead we’ve been let down

Today the Chancellor made a financial statement to the House of Commons, responding to the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis.

Labour has been calling for full and urgent ‘Back to Work Budget’ to protect UK jobs at a crucial phase of the coronavirus recovery warning that the country cannot afford for the government to make the same mistakes on the economy as during the coronavirus health crisis.

Arguing that the Government’s slow health response to coronavirus has worsened its economic damage, the Shadow Chancellor has warned that without swift action from the Treasury the UK risks falling even further behind other nations.

Other countries, including Germany, have already announced stimulus packages to support the post-Covid economic recovery. The measures announced by the Prime Minister last week fall well behind many other countries’ commitments.

Responding to the Chancellor’s Financial Statement, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Coronavirus is the biggest crisis of most our lifetimes. That is why my priorities have been protecting the health of Portsmouth people and protecting our city’s economy.

Although it is still too early to know the exact size of the economic shock caused by the crisis, initial signs show a sharp and deep recession. We also know the Government’s slow health response to coronavirus has worsened its economic damage, risking the UK falling even further behind other nations.

That is why I have been calling for a real budget to respond to the scale of the challenges our country faces, not a mere brief financial statement we got today from the Chancellor instead.

Whilst there are a number of measures in the statement today that I welcome – including support to the hospitality sector – we must ask what is in this for Portsmouth’s future? The sacrifices made by us all must be followed up with a targeted recovery plan that gets the economy back on its feet, brings real investment to our city and boosts local jobs and businesses. Instead we have been let down again.

We need a proper plan from Government not a one-size-fits-all approach dictated from Westminster. With all the challenges our communities now face, our city’s economy can ill afford to wait until the autumn for that”.

 

 

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‘We need a real budget focused on jobs, jobs, jobs’ says Portsmouth MP

Speaking ahead of the Chancellor’s summer update this afternoon Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Instead of a limited financial statement, what our city and our country needs today is a real Back to Work Budget – focused on preventing unemployment, supporting the unemployed and creating the jobs of the future.

Listening to constituents and local businesses who have fallen through the gaps in support, I have been calling for Government to abandon its one-size-fits-all approach and wind-down of the furlough and self-employed schemes.

Rather than waiting until the autumn to help those affected by this crisis and indebted small businesses, government should work out solutions for them now and present them today”.

Labour has called for a real budget focused on protecting and creating jobs. To deliver on jobs the Chancellor’s statement the official opposition has said the Government must meet four key tests:

  1. Projects must involve local firms, upskill the local workforce and lead to material improvement in the quality and availability of local employment.
  2. The Chancellor must rebuild economic resilience right across the entire country – and protect those institutions, like local authorities, that can help deliver that resilience.
  3. Every single project must be consistent with the drive to net-zero – so we can build the green jobs of the future
  4. Any benefits of investment now must not be cancelled out by poor decisions later. The Tories promised at the last election there would be no rises in income tax, National Insurance or VAT. We need the economy to bounce back from this crisis, so there’s money in the coffers to protect public finances.

 

 

 

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‘We need a back to work budget for Portsmouth’ says City MP

Analysis of new labour market data from the ONS shows the scale of the economic challenge facing the south east as claimants for Universal Credit and other unemployment benefits rose by 178.12% to 325,199.

Although an imperfect measure of unemployment, these figures show a severely strained jobs market and an urgent need for a Back to Work Budget.

The Government has reportedly postponed its next full budget until autumn, raising concerns a slow and muddled health response is now being followed by a slow and muddled response to saving jobs.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Government show 23.38 % of the workforce are furloughed in the South East whilst 352,000 of the workforce are using the Self-employed Income Support Scheme.

Vacancies also fell by 60% across the UK between February and May, with steeper falls in some sectors. This includes:

  • 80% fall in construction, employing 5.3% of workers in South East
  • 94% and 70% falls in motor trades and retail, employing around 16.7% of workers in the South East
  • 94% fall in accommodation and food services, employing 7.3% of workers in South East
  • 85% in arts, entertainment and recreation, employing 2.5% of workers in the South East

Figures reveal that:

  • There were 325,199 people claiming universal credit and other unemployment benefits in the South East in May 2020, up 178.12% from February
  • This is equivalent to around 6.7% of the workforce
  • 23.38% of the workforce are furloughed, whilst 352,000 are using the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“These figures show the Government cannot afford to delay its next full budget until after the summer and must urgently bring forward a Back to Work Budget to protect jobs and livelihoods here in Portsmouth and across our region.

The government must also ensure the vital support provided by the JRS and SEISS are not withdrawn too soon, and that any withdrawal is tailored to the specific needs of firms and sectors in our city and for the south east.”

 

 

 

 

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Government U-turn to fund free school meals is the ‘decent thing to do’ says Portsmouth MP

Government have a committed a major U-turn and today agreed to fund free school meals during the summer holidays. A move welcomed by Stephen Morgan MP, who has been lobbying the Prime Minister to reverse his original decision.

In Portsmouth, over 5,000 children were at risk of going hungry this summer if government were to withdraw support for the provision of free school meals. This prompted action from the city MP who wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister which gathered just shy of 600 hundred signatures in less than 24 hours.

With the added financial strain of coronavirus and social distancing measures, many Portsmouth families were deeply concerned by the prospect of losing holiday lunch schemes. It is expected that an additional 200,000 children will fall below the poverty line due to the pandemic, making this food provision a vital lifeline for families across Portsmouth and the UK.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

‘’Children were at a heightened risk of going hungry this summer as the Covid-19 crisis hits family incomes while charities and food banks struggle to provide the same level of holiday support.

There was always a simple solution to this, and that was for the government to continue funding free school meals throughout the summer holidays. Their refusal to do so until today was a deeply callous move. It is encouraging that they have taken heed of warnings from MPs, public figures, charities and the Labour Party. However, we should not be at a point where we have to fight to feed the children of struggling families.

That is why I launched a campaign, with local people, to help force the reversal of the Government’s decision and will continue to speak out in favour of maintaining support for all those struggling amid this pandemic.”

The Government today caved in on their decision to stop free school meals over the summer after a passionate plea from Manchester United footballer Marcus Rushford, pressure from a number of MPs and ahead of an opposition day debate in Parliament headed up by Labour. The Government were planning to vote against the motion to restore the scheme for the holidays.

On the Prime Minister’s U-turn, the city MP added:

“Some are calling this a major U-turn by Government. I’m calling this a victory for common sense and decency.

The untold hardship faced by families at this time of uncertainty requires government to be looking at increasing support, not stripping it away. What really matters is no one should ever go hungry over the holidays. While the immediate threat of holiday hunger may be in hand, we now need to look at the root causes.

Holiday hunger is not new. Longer term, the Government must address the underlying cause of holiday hunger: child poverty, low wages and insecure work.”

Ahead of the government’s decision reversal, the city MP had written an open letter garnering hundreds of public signatures, backed Labour’s “Holidays without Hunger” campaign, and supported the Opposition Day Debate on the issue. He has vowed to continue taking action to combat child poverty throughout Covid-19 and beyond.

 

 

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City MP urges Portsmouth people to help put pressure on PM over Free School Meal removal

In response to the Prime Minister’s plans to take away meals from the children of struggling families, Stephen Morgan MP has orchestrated a mass signed letter urging the Government to reconsider.

In England, 1.3 million children rely on free school meals. Normally children only get free meals from school during term-time but eligible pupils received food vouchers over Easter as the country coped with the Covid crisis. Government is threatening to take away this vital lifeline which is helping feed hungry children from family’s struggling amid the pandemic.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This government has presided over a decade of inequality and injustice that has only been enhanced by Covid-19.

To now risk taking food away from hungry children because term time has ended is counterproductive and only kicks struggling families while they are down.

Hunger doesn’t stop when kids get home. Parents know how important a healthy diet is for children – and for children from struggling families, these meals are a lifeline. Once school is out, these families’ kids will get left behind unless the PM changes his mind.”

The Department for Education said the scheme will not continue in the summer holidays, but campaigners say children in vulnerable families will go hungry. This has prompted high profile individuals such as Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford, to also write to all Members of Parliament about the matter.

Sustain and the Good Law Project, led by the campaigning lawyer Jolyon Maugham have also pledged that they will challenge the government’s decision in the courts if necessary, something that Stephen Morgan MP has also pledged support for.

Mr Morgan added:

“This pandemic has made the serious structural inequality in this country unmissable.

In the long-term we need the Prime Minister to lead efforts by Government to tackle the causes of child poverty. Right now, we need him to step up, show leadership, and make sure the 1.3 million children don’t go hungry this summer.

I know how important this issue is to constituents. That’s why I am urging fellow Portsmouth people to sign my open letter urging the Government to act.”

You can sign Stephen’s letter to the Prime Minister, here: https://www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/holidayhungercampaign/

 

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Sign: Letter to the Prime Minister to stop holiday hunger

Many constituents have got in touch after reading Marcus Rashford’s open letter to all Members of Parliament. Stephen welcomes this letter and supports calls for Government to make sure no child goes hungry this summer by funding Free School Meals.

Please add your name to Stephen’s letter to the Prime Minister to lobby Government to stop kids going hungry:

 

 

Thank you for signing the letter. Stephen Morgan and the Labour Party will use the personal information you provided for the purpose of the Holiday Hunger campaign. 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 click here

 

 

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Covid-19: Report reveals surge in city’s unemployment claims even greater than previously thought

Independent research conducted by the House of Commons Library has found that ‘unadjusted’ unemployment claims amid Covid-19 in Portsmouth South have drastically risen.

The unadjusted claimant count includes those who were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or were claiming Universal Credit and are required to seek work.

The figures show that in Portsmouth South, unadjusted unemployment claimants were a staggering 123% higher in April 2020 than April 2019. They also reveal that there was a 66% surge between March 2020 and April 2020. The stats also reveal that Portsmouth has been hit 8% harder than the UK national average.

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The fact we are in a crisis means that we should allow for a slight increase in unemployment claimants, but there is truly no excuse for a 123% surge within just a year. These figures also reveal that Portsmouth South is being hit harder than the rest of the UK. Time after time, our community bears the brunt of Tory austerity.

Behind each figure is a family forced to live on far less and people struggling under the financial pressures of this crisis.

Countless constituents have got in touch with me to express that they aren’t eligible for government support. From not being covered because they are paid in dividends to not being eligible for furlough, people are falling through the gaps.”

These unadjusted figures include those who were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or were claiming Universal Credit and are required to seek work. Unlike the ‘alternative count’ the ‘unadjusted count’ is not adjusted to consider the roll-out of Universal Credit.

This gives a more accurate picture of how the number of claimants has changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and shows the scale of the problem is actually far greater.

Labour is calling on the government to agree five urgent social security measures to provide immediate support to people affected by the coronavirus crisis:

  • Convert Universal Credit advances into grants instead of loans, ending the five-week wait
  • Remove the £16,000 savings limit which disqualifies individuals from accessing Universal Credit
  • Suspend the benefit cap
  • Abolish the two-child limit in Universal Credit and tax credits
  • Uprate legacy benefits to match the increase in Universal Credit, providing an immediate increase in Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance

Mr Morgan added:

“I have already written to the Chancellor twice, submitted a string of written questions, backed Labour’s calls for urgent social security measures and continue to help individuals with casework relating to a lack of financial support.

We all want government to get this right. We all lose if they do not. I will continue to constructively highlight where gaps in their support exist and lobby hard for more far reaching financial packages. My work goes on in parliament holding this government to account for its substandard social security record.”

Figures for both series (unadjusted and alternative) are available on the House of Commons Library’s dashboard:

https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/social-policy/welfare-pensions/benefits/constituency-data-people-claiming-unemployment-benefits/

 

 

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Emergency action needed to protect renters say Labour

The official opposition are today setting out a five-point emergency action plan to prevent people from being forced from their homes as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Current measures set out by the Government in the Coronavirus Act fall well short of adequately protecting people from homelessness when they cannot pay their rent. Shelter reports an estimated 1.7 million people living in rented accommodation expect to lose their jobs in the next three months due to the coronavirus crisis.

Most people in rented accommodation have no savings and when the current freeze on evictions expires in June, an estimated 2.6 million people are likely to be in rent arrears, according to Citizens Advice.

Labour’s measures would use temporary legislation to protect people from bankruptcy and homelessness due to rent arrears, providing the kind of protection to people living in rented homes that is already in place for commercial tenants and owner-occupiers.

Labour’s five-point plan to protect people from eviction:

  1. Extend the temporary ban on evictions for six months or however long is needed to implement the legal changes below.
  2. Give residential tenants the same protections as commercial tenants, by protecting them from being made bankrupt by their landlords for non-payment of rent.
  3. Bring forward the government’s proposal to scrap Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and outlaw evictions on the grounds of rent arrears if the arrears were accrued because of hardship caused by the coronavirus crisis.
  4. Once evictions are prevented, grant renters at least two years to pay back any arrears accrued during this period.
  5. Speed up and improve the provision of Universal Credit, as Labour recently called for, and consider a temporary increase to the Local Housing Allowance to help prevent risk of homelessness.

Responding to the plan, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

Labour wants to make sure people are not made homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of the coronavirus.

That is why we have urged the government to make temporary changes to the Universal Credit system which would help more people, and to the system of government assistance under the furlough and self-employed support schemes and we want them to make further temporary changes to the laws on eviction to protect people who struggle with rent.

The five point plan announced today, if adopted by Government, will help protect Portsmouth people during this time of crisis”.

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, added:

“Current protections for people renting their homes are woefully inadequate. Unless the Government acts now, many thousands of tenants will be at risk of losing their homes.

The Government has paused evictions for three months and answered Labour’s call to increase the Local Housing Allowance. Both are welcome, but do not go far enough. It will take time for people to recover from this crisis and they need all the support we can give them to prevent what would be an unprecedented and devastating spike in homelessness.

In the long term we need to fix the housing crisis – with stronger rent regulations and much more affordable and social housing – so that everyone has a home that is safe, secure, environmentally sustainable, and that they can afford to live in. What we need right now is an emergency package to set us on that path.

Every Thursday we clap for key workers but many of them live in homes that are overcrowded, unsafe or expensive. When we emerge from this public health crisis, we cannot go back to business as usual.”