City schools deserve better from government.

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The government’s new schools funding formula will hit areas in greatest need the hardest. So Portsmouth Labour is calling for a rethink.

National research by the teachers unions suggests that 98% of schools are set to lose out as a result of the Conservatives’ new funding plans.

Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour Leader said:

“Head teachers are already speaking of the impossible job they have to balance the books and offer the best education for all children. Yet there is a risk that the worst is still to come”.  Read the rest of this entry »


Concerns over future for funding for schools.

Portsmouth Labour has joined local headteachers and union representatives in sharing concerns over the government’s introduction of a new investment formula for allocating funding to schools.

The News reported this week that local union members have thrown their support behind headteachers saying they have ‘no choice but to make cuts as some schools could lose tens of thousands of pounds over the next few years’. Read the rest of this entry »


Cuts to housing benefit will put young people at risk.

640px-alcoholism_-_streetCuts to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds will increase homelessness and put more people at risk of harm or abuse.

That is the message coming from housing charities in response to the government’s announcement that young people on low incomes will no longer be automatically entitled to support with housing costs.

Youth homelessness charity Centrepoint has warned the changes in entitlement to housing benefit risked forcing thousands of young people onto the streets.

Local residents have also spoken out about the impact changes will have.

Bo, from Portsmouth said:

“I was homeless as a young lad and being able to claim housing benefit allowed me to not only start living somewhere but gave me the opportunity to go to college and better myself. If there was no support in place my life would have headed on a bad path.”

Daniel, from Landport said:

“I became homeless during my teenage years but at the age of 20 managed to secure my own tenancy. I was working but didn’t make enough to pay the full rent. If I hadn’t been able to claim Housing Benefit I would have had to choose between paying the rent or buying essentials such as food. I would probably fallen into arrears and been evicted, becoming homeless once again.”

Cal Corkery is Youth Officer for Portsmouth Labour and is also employed locally as a homelessness support worker. Commenting on the plans he said:

“Young people are already feeling the brunt of the housing crisis and these cuts to Housing Benefit will only make things worse. Locally it will mean teenagers staying put in overcrowded or abusive households because there is nowhere else for them to go.”

 


National plans do little to tackle “broken housing market”.

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The government has admitted that the nation’s housing market is ‘broken’ in a recent white paper on housing.

Whilst the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has also acknowledged the home ownership was a ‘distant dream’ for young families, government plans fail to tackle the challenges our communities face in accessing affordable, quality homes.

Challenges include:

  • The number of households who own their own home has fallen by 200,000, with the number of under-35 households owning a home down by 344,000.
  • There are over 900,000 more households renting from a private landlord than in 2010 including one in four families with dependent children, but rents have risen faster than incomes.
  • Despite 13 separate cuts to housing benefit, including the bedroom tax, the housing benefit bill is £4bn higher each year in cash terms.
  • There are 143,000 fewer council homes than in 2010, with only one home in every six sold under the right to buy replaced, despite promises of ‘one for one’ replacement. Measures in the recent housing and planning act are set to mean the loss of 23,503 council houses a year according to the housing charity Shelter.

Whilst the white paper does have some sensible ideas, such as the new two year time limit for developers to hold planning permission before construction; the vast difference between supply and demand has not been addressed.

Commenting on the detail on the content of the white paper, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing John Healey MP, said:

“The measures announced so far in Theresa May’s long-promised housing white paper are feeble beyond belief. After seven years of failure and a thousand housing announcements, the housing crisis is getting worse not better.

There are 200,000 fewer home-owners, homelessness has doubled, and affordable house-building has slumped to a 24 year low. Ministers should be setting out clear plans to deal with these problems, but all Theresa May’s Ministers have delivered so far is hot air”.

Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth Labour’s housing spokesperson, said:

“Despite promises of more houses and starter homes to bring rising house prices under control, the government has consistently let down homeowners especially those on lower incomes.

They must do much more than is currently proposed to fix the housing crisis – by ensuring thousands more affordable homes to rent and buy are built, a charter of renters’ rights agreed and an action plan developed to finally end homelessness.

We desperately need more affordable, good quality housing for local people here in Portsmouth”.

 


New University technology comes along.

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Some of the city’s councillors paid a visit to the building works at Portsmouth’s new University Technology College (UTC) in Hilsea this week to review progress and meet project staff.

UTC Portsmouth opens in September 2017 with support from the University of Portsmouth and leading businesses including the Royal Navy, Land Rover BAR, BAE Systems and QinetiQ.

UTC students will learn practical and technical skills and on-the-job training in an exciting and stimulating environment.

Young people will be able to join the college at either 14 (Year 10) or 16 (Year 12) and undertake a variety of academic and vocational qualifications including GCSEs, A Levels and Engineering Diplomas.

There will be a programme of learning to suit every student with employers and business leaders actively supporting your progress through mentoring, setting projects, site visits and careers guidance and advice.

Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour Leader, joined the tour and met the site’s project team. He said:

“I am delighted to learn that an excellent range of employers including the University, Royal Navy, BAE Systems, QinetiQ, NATS and many more are involved in this exciting project. This collaboration is exactly what our city needs.

The new college will help young people in our city fulfil their ambitions whilst also generating employees for the future and strengthening Portsmouth’s economy”.

Employer engagement with UTC Portsmouth students will include:

  • leadership and practical support in the creation and maintenance of a series of high quality, work related student projects
  • mentoring support to students and staff
  • offering practical resources, access to equipment, site visits and presentations to groups of students
  • guidance, expertise and experience in interview techniques
  • work experience to students.

New plan for business rates to address growing fears.

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Labour is responding to fears about the impact of looming business rate hikes for some businesses by calling on the government to set up an emergency ‘transitional relief fund’ and take a series of measures to ease the business rate burden for business. Portsmouth’s Labour Leader, Cllr Stephen Morgan has backed these calls.

Business rates revaluation due to come into effect on 1 April have caused uproar as it has emerged that the average small shop will be hit by an extra £3,663 in rates over the next 5 years, while many large online retailers will see their rates cut.

The big four superstores – Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons – will see a 5.9% reduction in Rateable Value, while online retailer, ASOS, will see their rates bill fall from £1.17million to £1.14million, despite reporting UK retail sales growth of 18%.

The changes have led to calls from businesses to reform the business rates system so that it better reflects changing shopping patterns.

Labour has developed a five point plan to help business survive the revaluation and develop a system of business taxation suitable for the 21st century.

The plan includes setting up an emergency transitional relief fund for businesses facing “cliff edge” increases in their rates, and revise the appeals process to ensure businesses get a swift and fair hearing; bringing forward CPI indexation so that businesses aren’t paying more because of how inflation is measured; excluding new investment in plant and machinery from future business rates valuation; and; introducing more regular valuations in law to stop businesses facing periodic, unmanageable hikes.

Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour leader said:

“Fundamental reform of the business rates system is much over due. We need to ease the burden on our high streets and town centres in the age of online shopping; support the traditional fabric of our communities, including community pubs to protect them from closure; and create a fairer system of business taxation.

Too often we hear of pubs and restaurants in our great city of ours at risk of closure. It cannot be right for small businesses to be facing massive hikes while international online retailers have their business rates cut.

Now is the time for a better national plan for business rates”.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“Business rates are an outdated tax. FSB is keen for all political parties to help those small firms hardest hit by the current revaluation, and to start to focus on fundamental longer-term reform of business rates to make sure it’s fair for small firms. It is incredibly important to support small businesses and the self-employed so they don’t face shock tax rises, so we are delighted to take part in the roundtable.”

Andrew Silvester, Head of Campaigns and Deputy Director of Policy at the Institute of Directors said:

“It’s hugely important that politicians on all sides look for constructive ways to reform business rates. This is a 20th century system and in a 21st century economy it looks painfully out of date.”


Investing in the city’s infrastructure: the Hard takes shape.

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The Hard in Portsea is hugely important to Portsmouth as a transport interchange.  It is a site where bus, train and boat services come together and for many people it is the first thing they see when arriving in the city.

The interchange is currently part of a £7m scheme to improve the city’s infrastructure with a completion date expected in May.

Work began to make the interchange more efficient and more welcoming in Autumn 2015 as the old interchange was not suitable for modern transport requirements. Extensive work was required to the concrete deck and supporting structure as the site is on a pier.

The project cost at around £7million includes £2million from the city council and £4.8million from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). 

This week Cllr Stephen Morgan, ward councillor for the area, paid a follow up visit to the site to review progress made since last summer.

Receiving a tour from council officers running the capital project he said:

“The Hard Interchange project is exactly the investment Portsmouth needs. A project which has created jobs, improved the infrastructure of the city and enhanced our built environment therefore supporting the wider local economy.

It has been excellent to take a tour of the site again, meet with the project team and hear how they are working with the community to mitigate the disruption. I’m looking forward to the scheme completing and for local people to benefit from the investment”.

The visit follows Portsmouth Labour’s response to the city’s revenue and capital budget discussed at Full Council. The Labour Group called for a better deal for local people from central government and the council to invest in Portsmouth.

Speaking in the budget debate on Tuesday Cllr Morgan said:

“More must be done to get residents into work and to continue the vital regeneration across our city and to help local businesses grow and prosper.

Most must be done to build the right infrastructure and to tackle congestion so to create an economy where local people have the skills to take advantage of Portsmouth jobs.

Improving the area for everyone who lives here and building the foundations of a brighter future for everyone in Portsmouth”.

For more information about The Hard project visit: www.portsmouth.gov.uk/ext/development-and-planning/regeneration/regeneration-of-the-hard.aspx