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Portsmouth MP criticises government for refusing to back Labour plans to scrap cut to Universal Credit

Stephen Morgan MP has criticised the government tonight after it refused to support Labour’s proposal to scrap plans to strip £20 a week from 20,764 people in Portsmouth, after the Official Opposition forced a vote in the House of Commons demanding that the government scraps its planned cut to Universal Credit.

This will hit 16,434 families in Portsmouth with a cut equivalent to the cost of the average family’s annual electricity, gas and internet bills combined.

This follows the Prime Minister’s remarks at the Liaison Committee last week that he intends to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week, or £1040 a year, for 6 million families in April.

The official opposition has repeatedly called for the Prime Minister to change course and provide certainty to millions of struggling families who face a triple blow of council tax hikes, frozen pay and a cut to Universal Credit.

Child Poverty Action Group has stated the £20 uplift is essential to ensure “low-income families with children receive the support they need”. While the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has warned that the cut could see another 200,000 children pushed into poverty.

City MP Stephen Morgan has taken a range of actions to lobby Government to think again about the proposed cut to universal credit.

This includes writing to the Chancellor in November to urge him to reconsider the policy decision, submitting parliamentary questions to Ministers, and arranging for a motion at Portsmouth City Council to lobby Government to cancel the cut, but was not supported by local Tories.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“It is unthinkable that Conservative MPs want to push families in Portsmouth into further hardship in the midst of an economic crisis.

“What’s just as worryingly is when we discussed these Government plans at the city council, local Tory councillors stayed silent, then voted against plans to stop the Chancellor cutting this lifeline for so many local families.

“The Government’s handling of the current crisis has caused Britain to suffer the worst recession of any major economy. Now Ministers are trying to make low income families pay as a result of their incompetence. 

“Families in Portsmouth deserve support during this crisis, not cuts.”

 

 

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Stephen Morgan MP calls on the Government to support families during lockdown

Today, Stephen Morgan MP, has demanded the government give families the support they need while schools and colleges are closed to most pupils.

This follows news that the government will not be providing Free School Meals funding during February half-term, leaving 6,580 children in Portsmouth at risk of going hungry.

Labour is calling on the government to guarantee that all eligible children receive the full value of free school meals during this school year, including during all holidays.

To enable this, the government should set-up cash payments so parents can choose the spend the £15 free school meal funding on the food and supplies that are right for their children.

Children’s education is being further put at risk by the government’s failure to provide the laptops and digital access needed for remote learning. Two weeks into lockdown, 97,800 of the government’s promised laptops still have not been delivered to children across the south east.

Labour will call a vote in Parliament on Monday to ask the government to guarantee that all eligible children are getting the full value of free school meals support, including during school holidays, and have the digital access they need to learn remotely.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“The government has had no plan to support children’s education, wellbeing or futures during this pandemic.

“Cutting free school meals support and leaving children without the equipment to learn remotely in our city is simply unacceptable.

 “I will not stand by and let families be the victims of the government’s incompetence. Boris Johnson and his MPs must now do the right thing and vote to support Labour’s proposals on Monday.”

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Government must do the decent thing and ‘Cancel the Cut’ says City MP after hearing from local Citizens Advice

Stephen Morgan MP has today renewed his call for the Government’s plans to cut Universal Credit (UC) by £20 per week to be scrapped and called on others to get Ministers to ‘Cancel the Cut’

The latest intervention comes after hearing from Portsmouth Citizens Advice on the importance of the campaign and ahead of a debate on Monday in Parliament where the official opposition will force a vote by Government to justify its decision.

Contacting the city MP this week, Portsmouth Citizens Advice said:

“Every day our advisers speak to people whose lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic. Our local office is proud to have support 1207 people with Universal Credit during the crisis.  

However, the new national lockdown will further impact local people’s lives, and many will struggle if the uplift expires.

The uplift has been a vital lifeline for local people, safeguarding quality of life and helping to prevent permanent economic scarring. Citizens Advice and organisations across the country will be working together to encourage the Chancellor to keep the lifeline, as well as extend the uplift to legacy benefits”.

The total Universal Credit caseload in Portsmouth South, Morgan’s constituency, has risen to 11693 – a 108% increase since March. The changes to Universal Credit could take around £10,900,000 out of the local economy, or more if the caseload increases. 

The Portsmouth South MP has taken a range of actions in recent months to urge the Government to cancel the cut to universal credit including writing to the Chancellor in November to urge him to reconsider the policy decision, submitting parliamentary questions to Ministers, and arranging for a motion at Portsmouth City Council to lobby Government to cancel the cut, but was not supported by local Tories.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Universal Credit is a lifeline to many people in Portsmouth and across the country. Right now people are relying on it more than ever.

“Cuts to Universal Credit, especially during this time of crisis, is not only morally bankrupt, but would cause serious economic damage to our economy and its and our city’s ability to recover from this crisis.

“That’s why I am calling on the government to cancel the cut and will continue to push Ministers to make sure claimants get the support they so desperately need”.

Mr Morgan has called on the Chancellor last week to set out his wider strategy on economic support for Portsmouth as he prepares to announce his budget in March.

On Monday, during an opposition day debate, Labour will force a vote on the proposed cut to universal credit to urge the Government to think again over their plans.

On this, the city MP added:

“The Government must do the right thing on Monday, and stop the planned £20 a week, or £1000 a year, cut to Universal Credit due for April 2021, which will hit Britain’s poorest households.

“I’ll be doing the decent thing on Monday when MPs come to vote. I hope the Government do too”.

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City MP welcomes free legal advice available to Portsmouth residents

Stephen Morgan MP has welcomed the University of Portsmouth’s law school continuing to offer free legal advice to anyone in the city on all areas of the law, except criminal and immigration matters.

The Legal Advice Clinic has been running since 2013, and is run by student legal advisers and supervised practising solicitors. Every year the team helps over 250 local people, staff and students with legal issues.

Typically, you’ll receive advice on the day, but the team may follow up by email, or write a letter where the matter is more complex.

The pandemic is highlighting a range of legal issues including with tenants such as university students and their rental properties, employees who are being made redundant, and more.

Common enquiries the team help with include:

  • Tenant issues – problems with the condition of your rental property, return of your deposit, and whether you can leave before the tenancy finishes
  • Family – breakdown of relationship/contact with children
  • Employment – issues with colleagues at work, an employer not paying wages, or unfair dismissal
  • Small claims – returning a defective product, paid for work to your property that was not completed, or received court proceedings due to a disagreement over payment of an item or service
  • Private client – how to make a lasting power of attorney, issues over a will, do you need to obtain probate and how to apply for it?

Appointments are available over phone and email, every Monday and Wednesday, for University students, staff and the public.

To book an appointment, call 07711 389 522 or email advice@port.ac.uk. These lines are staffed Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4pm.

 

 

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Revealed: The striking similarities between shameful meal parcels and Government guidance

Labour today reveals that the Government’s own guidance on what should be in food parcels is strikingly similar to images circulating on social media in recent days – with less than a 50p daily difference.

It comes as Stephen Morgan MP has stepped up pressure for the Government to ensure families are getting the full value of Free School Meals support here in Portsmouth.

Ministers have described images circulating in recent days as “completely unacceptable.” The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, told the Education Select Committee that “it will not be tolerated we will not live with that.” But research from Labour suggests that the packages aren’t as far removed from Government guidance as ministers are suggesting.

Guidance written by the Department for Education and pointed to from gov.uk suggests “general principles for putting together” parcels. And the similarities between them and the images circulating are striking.

The key items missing are two ‘tins of meat’, a litre of milk and a tin of sweetcorn. A leading UK supermarket prices this at about 47p of food a day. This doesn’t include items that are not in the guidance but in the picture, such as Soreen and pasta.

Widely shared image on social media Government guidance
1 x loaf of bread 1 x loaf of bread
2 x potatoes 2 x potatoes
1 x tomato 3 x tomatoes
5 x portions of fruit 5 x portions of fruit
? x cheese portions 3 x cheese portions
1 x tin of baked beans 1 x tin of baked beans
3 x yoghurts 3 x individual serving yoghurt pots
1 x bag of pasta 1 x cucumber
2 x packets Soreen 1 x tin sweetcorn
2 x carrots 1 x bottle milk
2 x tin of meat

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

“The images that have been circulating on social media are shameful and have shocked many constituents.

“But these revelations about the Government’s own guidance as we have learnt today means that ministers’ newfound concern rings hollow. A couple of tins and a bottle of milk isn’t the difference between acceptable or unacceptable.

“I will continue to put pressure on Government to act. Many in our city were already struggling to make ends meet before this pandemic. This crisis has made life for them even harder. Portsmouth families deserve better from Ministers”.

Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s Shadow Children and Early Years Minister, added:

“The Government’s response has yet again been far too slow, with national food vouchers only becoming available from next week – two weeks after schools moved to remote learning.

“Children are going hungry now – this cannot wait.”

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City MP speaks up for ‘Excluded’ and calls on Government to give Portsmouth people the protections they need

Stephen Morgan MP intervened again in Parliament today to ensure concerns of the ‘Excluded’ on Government financial support schemes are heard.

The ‘Excluded’ are commonly understood as the 3.1 million taxpayers who have been exempt from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and Job Retention Schemes.

The Portsmouth South representative has received a large number of messages from his constituents voicing their fears for the future, due to their exemption from Government support, aside from social security. Today’s action follows a string of efforts to stand up for those affected in the city.

A recent survey from the ExcludedUK group found that 57% of the 3,000 surveyed were on less than 20% of their pre-Covid income and 70% felt they had been emotionally impacted.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“People in Portsmouth and across the country have been left by the wayside by this government, as the Chancellor continues to stubbornly pursue his scattergun policy.

“The official opposition and myself have consistently argued for a targeted approach to jobs and businesses, not this one-size-fits-all approach.”

Portsmouth’s economy rebounded in Q3 of this year, but lost momentum towards the end of the quarter.

The city MP has met with campaigners, joined an all-party group to find solutions and lobbied Government with questions and correspondence with Ministers.

Today’s Westminster Hall debate continued to call on Government to finally find a solution 9 months after the pandemic.

Mr Morgan, added:

“In Portsmouth we have continuing to feel the impacts of this misguided strategy by Government to exclude so many. Ministers must find a solution to support these jobs and livelihoods.

“I have received messages from a number of my constituents sharing their serious concerns over how they will be able to support themselves and their families through this winter period and beyond.

“It is critically important the Chancellor rethinks this approach and gives the country’s people and economy the support it truly requires.”

Stephen Morgan MP has consistently called on the government to support the economy and protect local jobs, particularly those in creative and hospitality industries, or sectors with large numbers of self-employed workers.

 

 

 

 

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A decade of letting Britain down: Stephen Morgan MP and the Shadow Chancellor condemn Spending Review as “missed opportunity”

Stephen Morgan MP and Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds MP have condemned the Government’s Spending Review as a “missed opportunity” for our city and accused the Chancellor of failing to take responsible choices to get the economy back on its feet.

Labour has called for a relentless focus on jobs and growth. But instead of setting Britain on the path to recovery, the Chancellor has let the country down again by hitting people in Portsmouth three hammer blows to their personal finances:

  • a pay freeze for our community health workers, teachers, police officers and firefighters – an insult to our frontline workers, forcing them to tighten their belts and damaging our economic recovery
  • a hidden council tax bombshell, with the fine print of the Chancellor’s announcement showing he’s planning for council tax rises of 5% next year
  • ploughing ahead with the plan to cut Universal Credit, taking £1,000 a year out of the pockets of our poorest families

Even where the Chancellor promised new investment, the Conservative party’s track record over the last ten years casts real doubt over their ability to deliver. The Chancellor has also failed to address the key challenges we face as a country:

  • Child poverty is set to hit five million by 2023. Childcare costs in the UK are among the highest in the developed world. Here in Portsmouth part time childcare for a child under two costs £38.90 more than it did a decade ago.
  • Over one million jobs have gone since this crisis started – and younger workers have been hit hard. 2018-2019 saw the lowest number of young apprenticeships for a decade.  Trade apprenticeships have been falling in every part of our country, down 100 since 2010 in Portsmouth South alone.
  • Over the last decade, pay for working people in Britain has stagnated while average real weekly earnings have barely changed – average real weekly wages went up just 1% in the last decade.
  • The country is getting less safe and less healthy – police numbers across Hampshire have dropped by 1,050 in a decade and we have fewer GPs and many residents unable to access a dentist.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The people of Portsmouth know that the Tories have let this area down. After ten, long years in government, we’ve still seen no action on ensuring proper investment in our city.

Instead they hit local people hard with a triple whammy of key worker pay freezes, Universal Credit cuts and a hidden council tax bombshell. Yet again we face another year of paying more, but getting less”.

Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

“This week the Chancellor took irresponsible choices that won’t get Britain on the road to recovery.

The Conservatives have spent the last ten years wasting billions on pet projects and delayed developments while the things that matter to people’s lives have got worse. 

What Portsmouth needed was swift action to recover jobs, retrain workers, and rebuild business, not the triple whammy of key worker pay freezes, cuts to Universal Credit and a hidden council tax rise.”

 

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City MP laments spending plans that ‘do little for Portsmouth’

Stephen Morgan MP has criticised the government’s spending review that was announced earlier today in Westminster, arguing Government plans do little to deliver for Portsmouth.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer statement in the House of Commons this afternoon included the government’s review of the UK economy, as well as its plans for an economic recovery in response to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government’s plans included a pay freeze for a large number of public sector workers, many of which would have worked on the frontline during this crisis, as well as a new infrastructure bank based in the north of England and a cut to overseas aid to 0.5% of national income next year.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the Member of Parliament’s constituency of Portsmouth South is 0.6% higher compared to the rest of the UK and 1.7% higher compared with the rest of South East England, according to the latest figures.1

Responding to the Government’s statement Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This spending review will not deliver on the government’s promises of levelling up and reducing the inequality that our city has sadly faced the consequences of. Some say Ministerstalk a good game, but it is clear that for Portsmouth people what we get from Government is consistent over-promise and under-delivery for our great city.

“The ‘Levelling Up Fund’ will see money doled out to favoured MPs, not invested strategically in the communities that need it – more pork-barrel politics from a Government that’s learned none of the lessons of the scandal-ridden Towns Fund.

On news that many frontline workers will have a pay freeze, which in reality means a real-terms pay cut the MP added:

“We cannot be clapping for our frontline workers one week, then freezing their pay the next, when so many have made incredible sacrifices to keep us safe and secure during this crisis.

This freeze will hit people’s pockets and pull spending out of our city’s small businesses and high streets, when many are already on their knees, choking off the recovery.

The Chancellor’s statement failed to mention the end of the Brexit transition period as public services continue to prepare for a no-deal scenario. The Portsmouth South representative said on this:

“It was also incredibly shocking to note not a single mention of of how prepared his Government is for Brexit – just 40 days before the end of the transition period – that will have a huge impact on Portsmouth and other coastal communities in the UK.

Portsmouth needs a relentless focus on jobs and growth to get our local economy back on its feet. The Government must act to recover jobs, retrain workers and rebuild business, as part of a longer-term plan to make our country the best place in the world to grow up in and to grow old in.

The Portsmouth South MP has regularly called for the government to address the issues of rising regional inequality affecting Portsmouth and its impact on jobs and unemployment.

 

 

 

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‘Our frontline workers deserve more than clapping’

Our key workers have kept Portsmouth going during this pandemic. The reality of the Chancellor’s spending statement this week means a real terms cut for those dedicated to the services we all rely on. 

The Government is turning its back on them once again by freezing the pay of many frontline workers in the middle of a deadly second wave.

We cannot be praising the extraordinary efforts of our frontline workers one week, and the next make them pay the economic cost of this crisis the next. This is simply not acceptable behaviour from the government.

This is another short-sighted and irresponsible decision by a Chancellor who is constantly one step behind. Our frontline workers perform a wide variety of roles, including local police officers, classroom assistants, cleaners and kitchen porters, many of whom will now be worried about making ends meet this Christmas.

In turn, it will mean a cut back on spending in local businesses and high streets in Portsmouth and our economy won’t recover as quickly. These are just some of the concerns I have heard consistently raised when listening to those who serve our communities and engaging with local unions.

Freezing pay has also been disastrous for our public services, leaving them unable to recruit the staff they need during this time of unprecedented pressure on them.

But the Chancellor is trying to pass the buck for his own mistakes. He’s had to come back week in week out to change his plans, he blocked a circuit breaker leading to a longer, more painful lockdown, and he still hasn’t acted to fix Britain’s broken safety net. And all this is taking place as billions of pounds have been wasted on outsourced contracts which haven’t delivered.

We heard again this week our country has had the worst downturn in the G7. Sadly, this government is making yet another economically illiterate decision, with the Chancellor’s name is all over it.

As the official opposition, we would make responsible choices to protect all key workers, secure the economy and recover jobs in every part of the country.

The government should be doing all it can to build up confidence in the economy, not choking off the recovery at the worst possible time.

Now is the time to support and protect all our frontline workers in Portsmouth and city’s economy, not leave them by the wayside.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

 

 

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Portsmouth MP urges Chancellor to not cut universal credit funding

Stephen Morgan MP has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak MP, urging him to not cut Universal Credit by £20 per week, or £1,000 a year. The cut is understood to begin in April, 2021.

This comes ahead of the government announcement of its spending review, with £2.1 billion of public money wasted on Covid-related procurement and outsourced contracts and almost £700 million on coveralls that were never used.

The government has been asked 40 times to rule of the change to Universal Credit, but Government representatives have refused to commit to ruling out the cut.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“This crisis has put families both here in Portsmouth and across the country under immense financial pressure.

For a lot of families, Universal Credit has been a lifeline and many of which are reliant on this money to get them through this crisis. It is why a cut to it by as much as £20 a week, or £1,000 a year, is simply is unthinkable and I urge the Chancellor to reconsider.”

In Portsmouth South alone, there are 11457 on Universal Credit, including 9273 households in the area dependent on the welfare support system.

Mr Morgan, added:

“Sadly, we have many families in our community who are reliant on Universal Credit and it’s vital the Government does not once again resort to austerity cuts at a time when families need this support more than ever.”

The Portsmouth South MP has frequently urged the Chancellor to provide greater support for the most vulnerable in the community during this period, including on providing a government settlement which works for Portsmouth.