STEP up to the plate and deliver the benefits we need to improve our region.
That’s the demand being made of the new minister for Portsmouth Mark Francois as pressure is piled on him to improve prospects for everyone who visits, works and lives in the area.
We don’t just want a token minister, we want someone who will genuinely deliver for us.Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt
All eyes are on the former armed forces minister, appointed to the city ministerial post following the general election, to see what he can do.
And Mr Francois has now been called on by Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt to:
n Lobby ministers for millions of pounds to pay for improved bus routes, more cycle lanes and a new city centre road scheme to ease congestion and improve traffic flow.
n Ensure the government keeps its commitment to boost our maritime economy – but also bring in cash to improve the creative industries to help university and college-leavers get jobs in art, fashion and media.
n Bring in further investment to support our small and medium-sized businesses to enable them to grow.
Ms Mordaunt, who has put forward the checklist of demands in a letter to the minister, said: ‘We don’t just want a token minister, we want someone who will genuinely deliver for us.
‘The minister for Portsmouth should have clear objectives. Congestion and parking problems really affect the quality of life people have. To really make an impact on these problems, we need the minister to lever extra funding in the city and get the council some resources to properly tackle them.’
Other city leaders have backed the call for action. Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond said: ‘It’s absolutely important Mr Francois takes action for the city. We need to create more diverse jobs and investment.
‘The creative industries at the University of Portsmouth are great, and it would be fantastic he can help bring more employment from that.
‘I also want him to help make sure the university technical college programme moves forward quite quickly.’
Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, wants Mr Francois to push for more devolution of powers so the authority can make more decisions.
‘The new minister gives us an extra voice, ensuring that Portsmouth is punching above its weight in parliament in order to get a good deal for our residents,’ she said. ‘The minister’s job is to oversee the bigger regeneration and strategic growth of Portsmouth and the Solent area.’
Mr Francois said: ‘As minister for Portsmouth I will champion the city’s cause across government.
‘I will now be working with key partners to ensure we support jobs and growth across the city and the surrounding area. I have already spoken to the council leader about her priorities and look forward to visiting next week.’