Portsmouth MP defends decision to stay on councillor after former Labour leader hits out

Portsmouth South's new Labour MP has defended his decision to stay on as councillor after facing criticism from a former group party leader.

Thursday, 13th July 2017, 6:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 12:16 pm
Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP (left) and Councillor John Ferrett (right)

Councillor John Ferrett - who was with the party for 27 years - said that Stephen Morgan, who was elected as the city's first Labour MP for the constituency earlier this summer 'seems to be keen on double-jobbing and double allowances.'

The independent councillor's comments come as the new MP was present for the entirety of full council on Tuesday, in which members debated a controversial motion on homelessness in the city.

Mr Morgan - who decided to stay on as a councillor and MP following June's general election - said he had been in Parliament earlier in the day ahead of the afternoon council meeting and that he stayed in the role to show commitment to his Charles Dickens ward.

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Cllr Ferrett said: 'In my time with Labour, the party had a consistent, and I believe, a correct policy on this issue in that MPs would not continue to serve as councillors. This was in order to ensure that MPs fully concentrated on the very important job that they were elected to carry out.

'Unfortunately, it appears Cllr Morgan is keen on double-jobbing and double allowances.'

In response, Mr Morgan stated that there were was 'absolutely' no party policy or rule against being an MP and councillor, adding it was not an unusual practice in the House of Commons.

He also said that his pay as an MP would be the only paid employment he undertook while in the role, stating that councillors only receive an allowance to cover the costs of being a councillor - pointing to a recent donation from his allowance to the Portsea Events Group to support their community carnival next month.

Mr Morgan said: 'My entire focus is on being the best possible representative for our great city. I will be Portsmouth South's voice in Westminster, not Westminster's voice in Portsmouth South.

'There is no greater honor than being elected for the community I'm from. I believe being an unpaid local councillor, as some other parliamentary colleagues are, is a key way I can be an active local campaigner and a strong national voice for Portsmouth South.'

The Labour MP also added that he believed people in Charles Dickens would not welcome another election and pointed to the cost to the taxpayer of hosting a by-election.

He explained that Labour Party rules toward multiple political roles dictates towards being in more than one parliament such as being both an MP and a MSP.

Cllr Ferrett said that from a 'constituency point of view' there was more important business to deal with in Parliament on Tuesday, such as a debate on Sure Start centres and the impact of government policy on disabled people.

He added: 'Instead, Mr Morgan attended a council meeting, but did not take part in any of the debates in the council chamber.'

Mr Morgan also refuted this, stating he had already undertaken a range of duties in his new role such as lobbying government for funding of sprinklers in the city's high rises and had only today met with the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell to discuss economic growth in the region.

Cllr Ferrett also pointed to the fact that Mike Hancock, former Liberal Democrat MP for the seat, served in both roles for 17 years.