General Election 2019: The issues facing voters in Portsmouth South

THE fight for the seat in Portsmouth South is set to be one of the most exciting in the south coast.

Friday, 6th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 7th December 2019, 9:42 am

Having been represented by all three major parties at least once in the past nine years and with various polls placing the candidates neck and neck, there really is all to play for.

Of course Brexit is a defining issue of this general election with its outcome aiming to end the stalemate in the House of Commons. Although this might favour some political groups above others, in the south of the city this is not so clear cut.

In line with the national result, 51.76 per cent of voters in the Portsmouth South favoured leave during the 2016 referendum.

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Commercial Road, Portsmouth Picture: Malcolm Wells (181017-6187)

And candidates are using this as key manifesto points in their campaigning, promising varying conclusions to the most contentious political argument of modern times.

Tory Donna Jones and Brexit Party candidate John Kennedy are both gunning to get Brexit done, whereas Lib Dem Gerald Vernon-Jackson is looking to remain in the EU. Labour Stephen Morgan, who is fighting for reselection, is also backing remain but has promised another public vote.

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But for the average Portsmouth South resident there are issues closer to home that need tackling.

The General Election is on Thursday, December 12

With a cold winter ahead charities have raised fears about rough sleepers and those facing homelessness, worried that the government is not doing enough.

Trevor Pickup, chief executive of homelessness charity the Society of St James, said: 'We run accommodation that's now full almost all the time. In the places we run 40 beds are filled every night.

‘But there are obviously still people slipping through the cracks - we've still got a huge backlog of rough sleepers.

'I think there's a shortage of accommodation for people who are then moving off the streets. The waiting lists are very slow. We have been applying for government funding to allow us to buy properties to turn into homes for that next step.’

A lack of housing in general in the south of the city is also a worry for many.

The East St Thomas Neighbourhood Forum has been campaigning against the conversion of family homes into large homes in multiple occupation (HMOs).

Martin Willoughby, from the forum said: ‘Those properties will never be returned to family use. We are not anti-student because they need places to live as well. But some roads have 70 per cent HMOs and this is making these communities unbalanced, it’s all about balanced and sustainable communities.’

Around 25,000 students currently attend the University of Portsmouth - making up around 10 per cent of the city’s population.

Mr Willoughby added: ‘Really students should be able to stay in student halls. But there’s an issue with pricing, why would they stay in them when shared homes are so much cheaper? Some of the student accommodation is priced very high and something needs to be done about that.’

Protecting retail in the south of Portsmouth has also been a key concern for many, especially since the shock closure of Knight & Lee in Southsea this year.

Steve Courtnell, the founder of Pie and Vinyl in Castle Road, and member of the Castle Road Traders’ Association, said: ‘Shops are most definitely suffering, it’s really tough out there.

‘I think there are a few of factors although we can’t look past the fact that since the referendum things have slowly declined because there’s a lot of uncertainty.

‘People are keeping what little money they have in their pockets.

‘The council and government could do more to attract people to the shops but we know it will take funding, so it does depend on who is voted in and what they decide.’

Steven George for the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party is also running for the Portsmouth South seat.