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Last-minute payment for pubs will still leave many worse off says Portsmouth MP

Labour has revealed that the Prime Minister’s last-minute one-off payment announced today for pubs that are forced to close because they don’t serve food will leave the vast majority seriously struggling and well short of the emergency cash offered during the first national lockdown.

The average pub received a grant worth £6,666 a month during the lockdown in March. Even after today’s announcement of an additional one-off payment, pubs forced to close will receive just £3,000 a month – £3,666 less than they did during the first lockdown.

The payment is a one-off and there was no mention of what will happen after January.

Restaurants and cafes, also hit hard by public health restrictions, received no additional support today from Government – with the vast majority still receiving just a third or half of what they received in the March lockdown.

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP who has been taking a range of actions to speak up for our city’s hospitality businesses during this challenging time for the industry, responded to this analysis, and said:

“The government’s approach to supporting areas under local restrictions is fundamentally unfair and risks a gulf in support opening up across the country. 

We all know that hospitality businesses have been hit hard by this pandemic. By engaging with a number of small businesses owners I understand the challenges a number of pubs and bars across our city are facing. Businesses are also in the dark about the future of the furlough scheme, which is up for review in January.

That’s why we must have a business support package that reflects business need and length of time under each tier and why I will continue to lobby Government for targeted support for sectors and industries in Portsmouth hit hardest by this crisis”.

Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Business and Consumers, added:

“Pubs across the country are facing tough restrictions to help tackle the virus, with many forced to close completely during the most crucial time of year for their trade.

This last-minute emergency payment for pubs could have been a lifeline. Instead it’s small beer that won’t even reach the sides of the income gap they’re facing.

Boris Johnson’s failure to properly support them is fundamentally unfair and makes a mockery of his promise to these communities.”

Stephen Morgan MP has put pressure on Government to help the city’s hospitality sector with parliamentary questions, writing to relevant departments and lobbying Ministers directly. He has hosted a number of online meetings and visits to hear local concerns and to take them to Westminster.

 

 

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City MP calls for the government to ‘get a grip’ with a long-term health and economic plan

Stephen Morgan MP said it would not be in Portsmouth’s or the nation’s interest to oppose the government’s continuing public health restrictions – but Ministers must now set out a long-term health and economic plan.

As the government proposes its public health restrictions for the winter period to be voted on in parliament, the weekly Covid-19 case rate per 100,000 in Portsmouth still sits at 240, according to the latest government data.

Further afield, between 12 November and 18 November 347,575 people were identified as coming into close contact with someone who had tested positive, only 60.3 per cent of which were reached and asked to self-isolate. This is still well below the 80 per cent needed for test and trace to be effective.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said,

“Covid-19 still poses a serious threat to our city and our country, so it would not be in Portsmouth’s or the nation’s interest to oppose the government’s proposals for continued public health restrictions.

However, the government has failed to use this lockdown to fix test and trace and now the Prime Minister seems to have stopped mentioning it altogether.

Test turnaround times are still far too slow, a fraction of those who are asked to self-isolate actually do, and the centralised Serco model is failing to reach nearly enough close contacts to be effective. The government has got to get a grip of this.”

In recent days it was also announced Portsmouth would be placed inside the tier 2 category after the country exits its second period of national lockdown.

Meanwhile the government continues to suggest a vaccine could be rolled out in a matter of days but is still yet to publish its plan on this.

Mr Morgan, added,

“The Prime Minister must publish a comprehensive national action plan which can meet the Easter target for vaccine roll out and have a communications plan to tackle vaccine hesitancy.

It is incredibly important that both as a local community and wider country we do not undo all the hard work we have put in to bring infection levels down, so government must implement an effective communications plan to ensure that continues to happen post-lockdown.”

Following the announcement of the Portsmouth falling into the second Covid-19 risk category, Stephen Morgan MP underlined the importance of Portsmouth residents to continue to follow government guidelines.

 

 

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Covid-19: What you can and can’t do in Tier Two

Today (26 November) Government announced that Portsmouth will move into a new tier of restrictions following the ending of the second national lockdown on 2 December.

Below is a list of what this means for residents and businesses in our city.

‘High Alert’ tier two restrictions:

  • You must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • You must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people outside, including in a garden or a public space – this is called the ‘rule of 6’
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-Secure manner, other than those which remain closed by law, such as nightclubs
  • Pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals
  • Hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to:
  • Provide table service only, in premises which sell alcohol
  • Close between 11pm and 5am (hospitality venues in airports, ports, transport services and motorway service areas are exempt)
  • Stop taking orders after 10pm
  • Hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through
  • Early closure (11pm) applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10pm
  • Public attendance at outdoor and indoor events (performances and shows) is permitted, limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
  • Public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules and limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
  • Places of worship remain open but you must not socialise with people from outside of your household or support bubble while you are indoors there, unless a legal exemption applies
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events such as wakes or stonesettings.
  • Organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue
  • Organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes will only be permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with). There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing
  • You can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible
  • If you live in a tier 2 area, you must continue to follow tier 2 rules when you travel to a tier 1 area. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through a tier 3 area as a part of a longer journey

Information correct as at 26 November 2020.

 

 

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Portsmouth to move to Tier 2: City MP responds

This morning the Government has announced that Portsmouth will move into Tier Two of restrictions following the second national lockdown due to finish on 2 December.

This tier is higher than the tier Portsmouth was in prior to lockdown, in light of the volume of cases still prevalent in the city.

Responding to the announcement from Government following the statement in the House of Commons by the Health Secretary, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I know recent news about vaccines is really encouraging for so many in Portsmouth, but we need to be honest: the threat from this virus is still very real and the Government is therefore not releasing restrictions too quickly.

Ministers must make sure additional restrictions to protect public health come side by side with economic support. There are so many pubs, restaurants and small businesses in Portsmouth which are particularly worried what today’s announcement means for them as we enter the crucial Christmas period. That’s why I’ve been calling for an expansion of the business support package to help those local businesses affected.

After so much confusion over previous tiers we need total clarity this time. Ministers must explain why areas have been put into tiers and the criteria for moving between tiers.

To ensure the confidence of the public, communication is crucial over the next few weeks. The tiers will only be successful if Government provides far better communication with decisions based on scientific evidence for Portsmouth people”.

Tier 2 is classified as ‘High Alert’. This is for areas with a higher or rapidly rising level of  infections, where some additional restrictions need to be in place.

The Portsmouth South representative has been taking a range of actions to ensure constituents’ views are heard on the restrictions, including lobbying Ministers, raising concerns on the impact of specific measures with Government and submitting parliamentary questions.

To find out what the Government’s decision means for our area visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-know

 

 

 

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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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Government plans post lockdown must bring certainty and confidence urges City MP

With only a week until this second national lockdown ends, this week the Government is planning to set out in more detail its plans post 2 December. Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has said he will judge proposals on whether they bring certainty for the city and carry the confidence of the public.

The government have said that more areas will be placed in the higher tiers to safeguard gains made during the national restrictions, and an announcement on which areas will be in which tier is expected on Thursday.

It is expected that non-essential retail, places of worship and gyms and outdoor sports will be open in all three tiers. Hospitality will be closed in tier three areas, and food will be required alongside alcohol in tier 2 areas. The 10pm curfew will be amended. We also expect an announcement on slight easing of the eligibility for support bubbles to include new parents and other groups.

Stephen Morgan MP has been calling on Ministers to use this period of lockdown to finally get a grip on the falling test, trace and isolate. Sadly it has failed to do so.

The government are also expected to announce greater use of mass testing capability in tier three areas, and plans to use daily rapid testing in place of isolation for those who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of the virus. This scheme is being trialled in Liverpool this week.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Ministers needs to be honest. We are at a very difficult point and whilst people’s actions are having an effect, the prevalence of the virus is really high, including here in Portsmouth.

After months of extraordinary sacrifices, the news of possible vaccines gives the British people hope that there could finally be light at the end of the tunnel. But there is still a long way to go.

I will judge proposals by Government this week on whether they bring certainty for Portsmouth businesses, carry the confidence of the public and local leaders, and are backed by the scientific evidence”.

Labour has set out how it will judge proposals by Government on whether they bring certainty for business, carry the confidence of the public and local leaders, and are backed by the scientific evidence. These five tests are:

  1. Evidence: Decisions must be taken based on published scientific evidence and the government must be clear that they are doing enough to keep transmission down
  2. Clarity: The tier system was confusing and the government must make sure people are clear about the measures they are following
  3. Certainty: Chopping and changing at short notice is bad for business and the government must make sure businesses have as much certainty as possible about the restrictions they will be operating under over the coming months
  4. Support: Financial support must go hand-in-hand with the restrictions, and this support must be fair across the whole country
  5. Transparency: There needs to be clear, transparent and evidenced criteria for any tiers and the restrictions within them, including how an area enters and exits a particular tier

 

 

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Portsmouth MP encourages over-50s to take up free Government flu-jab

Stephen Morgan MP has called for over-50s in Portsmouth to enrol on the government’s recently announced free flu-jab scheme starting on 1 December, following his recent visit to a Portsdown Group Practice surgery in Portsmouth.

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that people aged 50-64 will be added to a list of people who are already eligible for a flu jab in England under an expanded winter vaccine scheme, which aims to combat the “twin threats” of flu and Covid-19.

Over 30 million people will be eligible for jabs making it the most comprehensive flu vaccination programme in UK history.

NHS hospitals in England during the winter period face typically higher levels of pressure compared to the rest of the year, but this year will face the added challenge of pressures on ICU beds and treatment for Covid-19 patients.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

“This year health clinics and hospitals face the additional pressure of an already difficult period of the year for public health in treatment for Covid-19 patients.

That is why it is incredibly important we do all that we can to help reduce this pressure on our NHS and health workers, and getting vaccinated for flu will go along in achieving that.”

Whilst added pressures will be particularly focused on hospitals this year, local NHS GP surgeries and clinics will play a significant role in the rollout of the government’s over-50s flu-jab programme.

Stephen Morgan MP, added:

“Local NHS practices provide an incredibly important role in local public health, and I’m really proud of the work of the Portsdown Group has done for Portsmouth on this, including Kingston Crescent Surgery.”

You can find out more about the government’s free winter flu-jab programme by visiting its website

 

 

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Covid-19: Business support

It has been announced that further support for businesses and workers is available for the second national lockdown and beyond.

This includes increasing the contribution to wage costs under the Job Support Scheme, announcing expansion of business grants to cover businesses in particularly affected sectors in high-alert level areas, helping them stay afloat and protecting jobs and grants for the self-employed doubled to 40% of previous earnings.

Stephen continues to lobby Government to close gaps in support and to protect jobs and businesses in Portsmouth, liaising with Ministers, government departments and submitting parliamentary questions to address concerns.

Below are a list of organisations and resources to help our city’s businesses at this difficult time:

The city council’s business support including grants and advice:

https://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/services/coronavirus-covid-19/business-advice-and-grants-coronavirus-information/

The government’s advice and guidance:

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support?priority-taxon=774cee22-d896-44c1-a611-e3109cce8eae

National lockdown information:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november#businesses-and-venues

The LEP’s coronavirus support hub:

https://solentlep.org.uk/coronavirus-support-hub/

Information from the Federation of Small Businesses:

https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.html

Information from the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce:

https://www.hampshirechamber.co.uk/your-local-chamber/portsmouth-chamber/

British Chamber of Commerce:

https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/coronavirus?k=30cdfbcf8e205792be8adadf43630166035c27d5

 

 

 

 

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Government must work with faith groups to support communities says City MP

Responding to concerns about restrictions on all places of worship during the national lockdown in England, Stephen Morgan MP has been taking a range of actions to take forward concerns by constituents including putting pressure on Government on these decisions.

The Government’s second national lockdown in England until 2 December 2020 means that under the new restrictions, places of worship of all faiths can open for individual prayer, funerals and formal childcare, but sadly not for services. Weddings are also no longer permitted expect under the most exceptional circumstances.

The city MP has been liaising with a number of local faith leaders as well as submitting parliamentary questions to ensure our city’s voice is heard.

Commenting on this, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I value enormously the contribution faith communities make to our society, especially here in Portsmouth, through their spiritual leadership and the way they serve the most vulnerable members of our community.

Throughout the pandemic, religious groups across our city have run foodbanks, provided thousands of hot meals, delivered essential supplies, given childcare support and provided many other essential services.

Leaders of faith communities across England have rightly expressed disappointment that they were not consulted ahead of the Government’s announcement.

I am concerned that the way in which the most recent restrictions were announced shows a disconnect with faith groups and a lack of appreciation for the importance of places of worship in our communities”.

The Portsmouth South representative is calling on the Government to adequately consult faith communities on future plans. On this he added:

“I believe the Government must now set out what steps it will take to ensure vital places of worship are not lost from our communities as a result of Covid-19.

Ministers should hold regular meetings with the Places of Worship Taskforce to ensure faith leaders are consulted and provided with support, particularly ahead of important religious festivals”.

The city MP has vowed to continue to take action to represent the views of Portsmouth’s diverse faith groups and organisations.