Getting to know the Portsmouth North seat ahead of the election

Aerial view shows North End, in Portsmouth.' 'Picture: Allan Hutchings (111872-701)
Aerial view shows North End, in Portsmouth.' 'Picture: Allan Hutchings (111872-701)

Campaigners holding information morning in Portsmouth on state pensions

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THERE are now less than three weeks to go until the most eagerly-anticipated general election in a generation.

There are many issues in a local area which influence the way people vote on polling day.

And today The News continues its coverage in the run up to the election on May 7 by pulling out some of the key talking points in the Portsmouth North constituency, and addressing what the its future MP’s priorities will be in the next parliament. The end of shipbuilding has been a bone of contention, particularly between the seat’s Tory and Labour candidates, but there are other important matters such as the future of the NHS given the problems at Queen Alexandra Hospital, and local high streets.

Tomorrow, we’ll be focusing on the issues around Portsmouth South.

Shipbuilding

THE end of shipbuilding and with it the loss of hundreds of jobs in Portsmouth sparked huge public outcry.

The government insisted it rectified the situation by securing the future of the city’s shipyard and bringing in companies to continue work.

But critics argue the loss of such a crucial industry to Scotland was hugely damaging to Portsmouth’s maritime economy – and the prime minister has not delivered on his promise to bring ship construction back since.

One of the big challenges the seat’s future MP faces is ensuring the government’s move to bring BAE Systems and Magma Structures into the yard works and results in more jobs – and lobby the government if there’s any sign of that not happening. Workers will want confidence they have an MP who will campaign on their behalf. The first of the Royal Navy’s new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is also expected to return in 2017, so it’s vital the one standing in Portsmouth North helps to ensure all preparations are made for its arrival and its stay is long-term.

The next strategic defence review is also looming – and the public will want to see defence spending protected.

And residents will turn to whoever is standing in Portsmouth North - as well as Portsmouth South - at the time to ensure the second of the navy’s new carriers, HMS Prince of Wales, arrives as expected in 2020 and not be mothballed.

NHS

MORE and more pressure is being piled on the NHS than ever before.

And people have to look no further than Queen Alexandra Hospital for evidence of that as A&E waiting times soar.

At the start of the year, the Cosham hospital was placed on ‘black alert’ as it could not cope with the sheer number of people flooding in for emergency treatment.

Figures revealed Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust, which manages QA, was the sixth worst-performing trust in the country in terms of meeting A&E visitor targets.

Operations have also been cancelled in recent times due to rising numbers of people turning to A&E for help.

So it is absolutely crucial Portsmouth North’s future MP campaigns for a proportion of the extra billions promised for the NHS being used to improve the flow of patients going through QA, that people receive the best treatment possible and more doctors, nurses and midwives are recruited. At the same time, the emphasis will need to be on promoting and providing support for alternative health services treating problems such as alcohol and drug addiction, to ease pressure in A&E and give people the best possible treatment.

Portsmouth’s dementia action plan also shows that in the next two years, 2,142 residents will have a form of dementia – so assurances will need to be made day care services like the Patey Day Centre are protected.

North vs South

IT has long been said there is not enough for young people to do in the north of the city.

Major events are happening all the time in Portsmouth – but more often than not they are based deeper in the city and along the seafront.

The good news is a new summer music spectacle is being held on King George V Playing Fields this year after local leaders recognised the need for more opportunities.

But residents will want to see that momentum sustained and their MP doing all they can to help make the area more attractive and open for business.

Venues such as Wymering Manor Hilsea Lido are growing again and hope to become sites promoting the arts and other events, but need support going forward.

And while plans for an inside snow sports attraction near Port Solent are encouraging, it will be down to the MP to ensure it comes to fruition and is simply not a pipedream.

The city council has been in talks about the possibility of turning part of the landfill site on Horsea Island into a family resort with activities including skiing, snowboarding, sledging, tubing - going down a slope on an inflatable – and ice-skating. However, the council’s resources is limited and that means its ability to help financially is restricted.

So the next MP will need to try and lobby the government for extra funding and help bring in other outside investment so families and youngsters don’t miss out.

Housing

THE landscape of the north of the city has changed quite drastically in recent years with the increase in new homes being built.

And there is no sign of that slowing down anytime soon as the regeneration of Tipner is set to get underway in the coming years.

The major project will see hundreds of new properties and businesses being brought in on land formerly owned by the Ministry of Defence.

It’s being made possible thanks to a £50m grant having been brought down from the government in the form of a City Deal, and will finally see a derelict stretch of the city be brought back to life.

Other organisations which own plots of land around Tipner are also making a start on housing schemes.

But there are major issues which will need to be addressed and many will see it as the MP’s job to tackle them head on.

More homes mean more cars on the road - and residents will want confidence money will be found to improve existing roads and expand on the routes available so the city’s traffic network does not grind to a halt.

There will be a need to improve public transport in order to take cars off the road, and protect bus services from cuts.

And many will want the MP to help ensure that what is built benefits the area - and developments have a lasting positive impact and aren’t unsustainable.

High streets

MUCH has been said about the need to improve city shopping areas.

But residents will want to see more action and less talk in the next parliament and see high streets in places like Cosham and North End thrive again.

All eyes will be on the next MP to see whether they can deliver and bring in money for a package of benefits - such as better parking and cultural offers to encourage more footfall.

The need to improve areas like North End is widely seen as crucial.

Only last month, Steve Hunter, former owner of tattoo shop Touch of Ink, said the North End area had turned into ‘Gotham City’ amid claims of a rise in crime.

HSBC and McDonald’s had already announced they were leaving the area.

Remaining businesses will also want to see their needs being heard in parliament - and see their MP pushing for a reform in the calculation of business rates.

Traders would also welcome more being done to bring in high profile retailers to boost high streets and their own business.

Large businesses in North End have already hinted they would be open to dipping into their community budgets to improve the area if the right projects were put forward.

So it will be interesting to see if the candidate elected will be able to capitalise and push for companies to commit themselves.

The candidates bidding to be the next MP for Portsmouth North

PENNY MORDAUNT – CONSERVATIVE

Penny Mordaunt has represented Portsmouth North in Parliament since 2010 and had previously stood in 2005.

She attended Oaklands Catholic School and afterwards left to work in the Johnson and Johnson factory.

Penny went to Romania as an aid worker before going on to university.

She is a former director of Diabetes UK and has worked for the NHS, in particular for its national screening programmes, and for several heart health charities. She has campaigned on issues such as the community takeover of Pompey, QA hospital waiting times and the future of the shipyard.

JOHN FERRETT – LABOUR

John Ferrett is married with three children. He works for the trade union Prospect as a negotiations officer, representing members working in both the public and private sectors, including managers, engineers and specialists working for BAE Systems in Portsmouth Naval Base. John is also a city councillor representing Paulsgrove ward, and is leader of the council’s Labour group.

He has campaigned on issues such as cuts to Sure Start centres and the decision to axe shipbuilding in Portsmouth. He was also against proposals in 2013 to close the Patey Day Centre, in Cosham.

MICHAEL FITZGERALD – UKIP

Michael Fitzgerald grew up in Portsmouth and went to school in Paulsgrove and Waterlooville. He now splits his time between Cosham and Germany where his work is based from and where his wife and three children currently live. He joined the army at 18 but was medically discharged after injury. He then worked for HM Customs & Excise and the Crown Prosecution Service before training in law. He is now a manager, working internationally for Hewlett-Packard for the last 15 years. He entered politics in 2009 and stood for Portsmouth North in 2010.

JON WOODS – TRADE UNIONIST AND SOCIALIST COALITION

Jon Woods has been a trade union and socialists activist in Portsmouth for 30 years.

He has campaigned against cuts in council services such as Sure Start and led anti-facist rallies. He works in social care in Portsmouth and says he sees every day how cuts are affecting people.

He says that if elected, he will only take an average workers wage as MPs are currently paid too much.

DARREN SANDERS – LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Born and brought up in Portsmouth, Darren Sanders has been a councillor in the constituency since 2012. He is a Cambridge graduate and spent 20 years working in the private and charity sectors until he became the councillor in charge of the city’s housing in 2013.

He now chairs the council’s housing and adult social care scrutiny panel.

Darren has stood for the Lib Dems in Portsmouth North twice before, and has been involved in local campaigns such as the one against an increase in parking charges at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

GAVIN ELLIS – GREENS

Gavin Ellis is a chartered certified accountant and resident of Drayton.

His vision of the future for Portsmouth is for the city to have a diverse economy, where the minimum wage is replaced by a living wage.

Not only does he want to get the party’s message and policies across to the electorate, he also seeking to start a debate, interest and conversation about society and politics in both the UK and the world, amongst the electorate, as he believes there is still too high a degree of voter apathy.

STEVEN GEORGE – JUSTICE AND ANTI-CORRUPTION PARTY

Steven George stood in Portsmouth’s local elections last year as a candidate for Fratton ward representing the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party.

Steven, who grew up in Knowle, is an author and his latest book, Heartless Too, was published last year.

It is a true account of his life through boarding schools, prisons and special hospitals.

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