NEW CHARITY TO TACKLE ISOLATION BACKED BY STEPHEN MORGAN MP

The Good Company – Portsmouth, a newly registered charity which aims to tackle the growing issue of loneliness and isolation, is being backed by city MP, Stephen Morgan, a long-term advocate for more action to tackle this social problem.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South has been invited, and accepted, to be the new charity’s honorary ‘patron’ it was announced today by the charity.

Good Company-Portsmouth, whose coffee shop ‘Home Coffee’ is based on Albert Road, reaches out to and provides support for members of the community who might be suffering from loneliness.

Last year, Good Company opened the doors to its coffee shops in Southsea and Cosham to offer free coffee and companionship to those who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. They will be doing the same this year, keeping tills closed and encouraging anyone feeling lonely over the festive period to come pop in.

Through its coffee shop, dedicated staff, and community network, the charity seeks to tackle a growing crisis in our city and across the country – that of loneliness and isolation.

A study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross reveals over 9 million people in the UK across all adult ages – more than the population of London – are either always or often lonely. Across Portsmouth and our nation a number of groups and charities are doing their bit to tackle the issue.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“I was really honoured to be approached by the team at Good Company to become patron of this brilliant new charity. As my colleague Rachel Reeves MP said just yesterday, loneliness truly is one of the great evils of our society today.

I’ve seen first-hand the power of what Good Company is doing in connecting and supporting socially and economically isolated people in our great city. Seeing how they are harnessing the talents and generosity of our community gives me great hope for the wider challenges we face in tackling loneliness.

I look forward supporting the team and this important cause as they go from strength to strength. Good Company is exactly the kind of project that makes me so proud to represent Portsmouth”.

A spokesperson for the Good Company – Portsmouth, added:

“We can’t thank Stephen enough for this honour and all his support. This will truly help us reach more people this Christmas and throughout the year”.

A patron is someone who agrees to lend their name to an organisation as a way of supporting its cause. To find out more about the Good Company – Portsmouth, and to get involved, visit: www.facebook.com/goodcompanyportsmouth

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It’s time the Tory council stands up to Government to protect our services

Portsmouth’s Labour Group used their speech at Full Council today to challenge the Conservative administration running the city to stand up to the Government to protect the public services we all rely on.

The Tories voted through £4,000,000 of cuts and savings to the council’s budget today despite calls from opposition parties for a rethink.

Cllr Stephen Morgan MP, used his Group Leader’s speech to challenge the Council Leader and her group to ‘put ambition at the heart of the council’ and put a stop to proposed cuts to vital public services.

Under the Conservative Government, local council funding – including here in Portsmouth – has been cut by over 40%. Across the UK direct funding for local government will see a cut of £5.8 billion between 2010 and 2018.

Cllr Stephen Morgan MP, told the meeting:

“Yet again we meet in this Chamber to agree a budget overshadowed by disproportionate cuts to local government, a deeply unfair distribution mechanism which sees our city further disadvantaged, and find ourselves responding to a Government budget – only a month ago – which failed to recognise the importance of investing in local, frontline services…We cannot stand by and let this happen.

So we urge the Administration to do all it can to support social care in our city, to end the Government’s disregard for the elderly and vulnerable; and make it clear to our city that Portsmouth cares for those in need.”

The speech called for greater action to safeguard and create jobs, support our city’s schools, tackle the housing and homelessness crisis and ensure care is available for our loved ones.

Cllr Morgan also raised the challenges faced by small businesses across the city. He said:

“Under the Tories botched business rate revaluation almost 800 areas in England and Wales will see higher tax bills. Rates are rising by up to 500% for half a million businesses.

 

The average small shop will see an increase of £3,663. Small business is the bedrock of our local economy, but business owners are being let down”.

During the speech, the Labour Group also called for further action on children’s services (which faces a £2 billion funding gap nationally by 2020), and falling real-terms public sector pay.

Addressing Full Council, Cllr Morgan said:

 

“Portsmouth just be at the frontier of what local government is doing, and can achieve, in the most difficult of circumstance. Now people are looking for change, a city which is leading the way in unchartered territory, reinventing the ways things are done and protecting vital services. That is what the people of Portsmouth expect”.

Portsmouth Labour will continue to listen to local views and ideas in the coming months and developing its plan for the city in advance of February’s Council meeting which will agree council tax levels and other budget matters for the next financial year.

Portsmouth teachers forced to fund pupils’ supplies, City MP tells Minister

Stephen Morgan MP has raised concerns in the House of Commons today over the adequacy of funding for school buildings and worrying research suggesting that 94% of teachers are paying for essential classroom supplies, according to a National Education Union/TES report.

Member of Parliament, Stephen Morgan, used Education Questions to highlight recent research which found that 94% of teachers are being forced to purchase basic school supplies for their pupils, including in his constituency of Portsmouth South.

Mr Morgan told the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, and her minister, the Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, that ‘hard-working staff at schools in Portsmouth are buying glue sticks’ for children in the city and asked whether the Minister ‘still maintains that Portsmouth schools have enough money and resources?’

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Government education cuts will mean a 4.6 per cent cuts for schools between 2015 and 2018. The severity of cuts means there are over half a million primary-age children now in large classes over 30, with around 40,000 pupils being taught in classes of 36 or more.

Stephen Morgan MPsaid:

“Local schools in Portsmouth are raising numerous issues with me ranging from lack of funding for essential school building works, to a lack of funding for vital equipment.

We are seeing budgets cuts for our schools for the first time in twenty years and this is having a devastating impact in our city. I remain committed to giving our schools a strong voice in Westminster. 

It is absolutely disgraceful that children are having to rely on the generosity of staff in order to receive basic supplies such as pencils and glue-sticks. What is particularly outrageous is that the Tories are passing the buck to overstretched teachers whose pay they continue to cap below inflation. 

The response I received from the Government today was typically disappointing. Instead of answering my question, the Minister simply talked about parents paying for school trips and changes to the curriculum.  Children and teachers in Portsmouth are facing a real crisis and deserve far better”.

Council fund to help those affected by benefit cuts under-spent by over £475k

Research by Portsmouth Labour has revealed the city council is consistently under-spending a fund set up to support people effected by government cuts to their income.

The fund, called Discretionary Housing Payments, was introduced in an attempt to offset the worst effects of cuts to welfare spending such as the Bedroom Tax and the benefits cap.

The funding is provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to local authorities who are then expected to allocate money to households in financial difficulty.

However, research by Portsmouth Labour’s housing team has revealed Portsmouth City Council has under-spent the budget in every year since it was first introduced. Any under-spend is then returned to the DWP, not retained by the council.

In total £476,858 has been under-spent by Portsmouth City Council and returned to the DWP. These findings have led to concerns that the council is not doing all it can to help low income households.

Maddie Wallace is a local resident whose family has been affected by the benefit cap. Commenting on the news that Portsmouth City Council has been consistently under-spending its Discretionary Housing Payments budget she said:

“I got a letter the day before New Year’s Eve 2016 telling me that the latest benefit cap had come into effect for me on Boxing Day. Aside from being a horrible thing to do to people at Christmas, it meant I lost over £70 a week from my benefits. That is the equivalent of all my family’s weekly food.

I was never told I could apply for Discretionary Housing Payments and I had to get by borrowing money from friends and family. I’ve just started work and the council have suspended my claim while they work it all out, so I won’t be able to pay my rent in April.

“The stress this has caused me has been immeasurable. I owe money left, right and centre, and while I was really lucky to find a job so quickly I’m no better off because I have lost council tax benefit and have to pay so much towards child care costs.”

Cal Corkery is leading a Portsmouth Labour review into local housing policy. He said:

“Local people will be shocked by revelations that the council has sent back to central government over £475k which can and should have been used to help our city’s poorest households.

The Tories claim to be doing all they can to help the most vulnerable but this research shows that simply isn’t the case. It’s all well and good having various funds and grants in place but unless people are made aware of what is available and supported to access them they are effectively useless.

“Going forward the council must do more to ensure Portsmouth’s lowest income households maximise their income and receive all the support available to them.”

Charles Dickens ward campaigner, Claire Udy, has been speaking to residents on the doorstep:

“Many of the people we talk to who are struggling to get by on low incomes, didn’t even know that the Discretionary Housing Payments existed at all.

“All those on benefits should know about this scheme, and it shoudn’t be coming just from myself and others on the doorstep; it should be common knowledge.

“I have written to the council requesting they review how awareness can be raised of Discretionary Housing Payments among local residents and that they ensure all frontline staff actively encourage any eligible households to apply.”

For more information about Discretionary Housing Payments including how to apply click here.

City MP goes out on call with GP out-of-hours service

A city Member of Parliament spent a cold December night going out seeing firsthand how the city’s health and care services work together to improve the health and wellbeing of local people.

Stephen Morgan MP had a tour around QA Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department on Friday with the lead consultant and the hospital trust’s chief executive, then joined a GP in a medic’s car visiting patients as part of the out-of-hours service.

The MP spent the night with a local GP going to residents homes and shadowing the professional to understand the liaison between 111, paramedics and other health services, to understand the pressures these services are under.

Stephen said:

“It was hugely helpful to get a tour around A&E and go out on visits with doctors to understand how this important service works in our city and surrounding area.

I was impressed with how the out-of-hours service eases the pressure on our emergency department at QA as patients who visit A&E but do not need emergency treatment can be quickly directed to a GP or other medical support, and patients in the GP service who are diagnosed with a serious illness can be quickly admitted to hospital.

By different parts of our health and social care system working together it’s really possible to improve care and safety for all patients.”

The out-of-hours service is for urgent problems that cannot wait until a GP surgery opens. It offers advice and assessment when a GP surgery is closed. Patients are advised how best to care for themselves at home, referred to the most appropriate service to meet needs or asked to wait until surgery opening hours.

Stephen is the first MP in our area to go out with a GP and see the service in this way.

He added:

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those dedicated and hard working health professionals I met whilst shadowing the team. I’ll be taking back the experience to inform debates in Parliament and to continue to stand up for our local health services”.

City MP hosts event to promote made in Pompey

Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, hosted a successful event last night to promote local businesses and traders in our community.

The event, bringing together local traders and shops from across the constituency, was laid on by Stephen to encourage people to shop local this festive season on Small Business Saturday (2 December 2017).

Now in its fifth year, Small Business Saturday celebrates the contribution made to the life of the nation by the UK’s 5.5 million small business owners.

Last year more than £600 million was spent with small businesses on the day itself.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“It was fantastic to host this event in the run up to Small Business Saturday. 

Research tells us that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-size business, 63% is re-spent in the local area. This is compared to 40p in every £1 spent with a chain or larger business.

As we approach Christmas, now is the time for all of us to get out and celebrate local business in our great city. 

I value the diversity and vibrancy of Portsmouth’s small business community. Small firms make a big difference to their community and life in every corner of our city.

Whether you’re shopping, buying services or products or choosing where to go for a meal, this is a good moment to check out what small local businesses offer the whole year round.

I’d like to thank the local businesses who came to the event and I look forward to working with more to ensure small business succeeds in Portsmouth”.

Over thirty local businesses displayed local products and produce at the event, from all over Portsmouth, was hosted at 72 Albert Road.

New ship enters service in Portsmouth

Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth, attended the service of dedication for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Tidespring in HM Naval Base, Portsmouth today. 

Tidespring was ordered as part of the Maritime Afloat, Reach and Sustainability programme to provide a refuel capability for the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers. She is the first of the class and will be followed by Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce.

The service of dedication was attended by HRH The Earl of Wessex, Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

As part of the event Stephen received a tour from the ship’s crew.

Stephen said:

It was a privilege to represent Portsmouth at the service of dedication with HRH The Earl of Wessex in HM Naval Base today.

RFA Tidespring is the first of a modern class of fleet replenishment tankers will help our new Royal Navy carriers with their global reach and is a fitting addition to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. 

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the men and women-military and civilian – who have contributed to this project and made today’s service of dedication possible”.