• Conor welcomes grant to Heart of Glass

    Conor McGinn has welcomed a grant of almost £500,000 to Heart of Glass that will help St Helens women learn about their past.

    The award from Arts Council England is part of a national scheme to stimulate ambition and excellence in the arts.

    Heart of Glass will use the £487,500 grant for a major two-year project starting next year.

    It will work with ANU productions and a contemporary art organisation, idle women, to use genealogy and other historical research to explore the everyday histories of the women of St Helens.

    The project will form the basis for a new set of productions in 2018 to coincide with the borough’s 150th anniversary.

    Conor said: “It never fails to impress me just how engaged and invested residents can become in collaborative public art projects and culture – something that we’ve all seen before with previous Heart of Glassprojects like ‘Your Name Here’.

    “It’s fantastic to hear that local women have the chance to learn and develop new skills and to delve into the everyday histories of their ancestry.”

    Heart of Glass hopes the groundbreaking project will help make St Helens a centre of excellence for collaborative art schemes and help develop new digital ways of involving local people in the scheme.

  • Conor calls on Govt to boost turnout for Metro Mayor election

    Conor McGinn chamber

    Conor has urged the Government to boost voter turnout in the election for Liverpool’s first metro mayor.

    The St Helens North MP warned ministers must strive to avoid a repeat of the first elections for Police and Crime Commissioners when voting levels across the country were very low.

    Conor said that it was vital that turnout was high in next year’s contest to be the first metro mayor to ensure the winner had a “resounding mandate from right across Merseyside and the whole city region”.

    In a parliamentary debate on Thursday, Conor told MPs that – despite some doubts on Merseyside about the Tory government’s move to impose a mayor in an area where it did not have a single MP – he welcomed the idea.

    Conor said: “I firmly believe that a metro mayor serving the whole of Merseyside and the Liverpool city region can bring us tremendous opportunities for trade and investment and for creating a civic identity for the region.”

    He added that a “healthy rivalry” existed between St Helens and Liverpool on a number of matters, while people in Rainford, Billinge and Newton-le-Willows all identified with different areas like Lancashire, Wigan or Warrington.

    Conor said that all the candidates standing to be the Labour contender for the job had made a virtue of including the whole Merseyside region in their plans.

    But Conor urged government ministers, local councils and MPs to strive to make sure as many voters as possible had their say in who becomes the first metro mayor next year.

    In Thursday’s debate, Conor made his point to Communities and Local Government Minister James Wharton.

    He said: “With regard to turnout at the election next year, there is a duty on local authorities and all of us as elected Members from Merseyside, but also on the Government, to ensure that we do not have a repetition of the first elections for the police and crime commissioner, so that the new Mayor, whoever he or she is, has a resounding mandate from right across Merseyside and the whole city region.”

    Tory Minister Mr Wharton said he agreed with Conor about boosting voter turnout and said: “It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that people understand the huge opportunity being presented to them, and why it matters that they get the right person to drive forward the economy in the Liverpool city region. I thank him for taking the time to make his comments.”

     

  • Conor joins pensioners for bingo at Haydock Community and Sports Club

    Bingo

    Conor called in at Haydock Community and Sports Club to meet pensioners at their bi-weekly get together and bingo session.

    Community activist Barbra Burgess organises the sessions to bring together local residents, PCSOs and ward councillors to give them the chance to meet and chat at the club in Ireland Road.

    Around 30 to 40 people regularly turn up at the meetings to catch up with friends, talk about local issues, enjoy a game of bingo and raise cash for charity at the club which used to be called Haydock C&B.

    After meeting the group, Conor said: “Events like this are so important to local communities.

    “They provide an opportunity for residents to get together, enjoy a few hours in good company and if their luck is in win, a few prizes at the bingo.

    “But, of course, none of this could happen without the dedication of volunteers like Barbra who gives her time to run the club and make sure everyone has a good time.

    “And, Barbra is just one example of the many individuals right across the constituency whose efforts help shape the area we live in by bringing people together, providing things for residents to do and helping create that vital sense of community.”

     

  • Conor reaffirms commitment to WASPI campaign

    WASPI

    Conor has again met campaigners battling unjust pension changes that hit women born in the 1950s to reiterate his support for their fight.

    He is backing the campaign mounted by Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) against the impact of the coalition and now the Tory government’s move to raise the state pension age for women.

    WASPI wants the government to address the unfairness of the decision that means many women born between April 1951 and 1960 could see their pension age suddenly raised by up to six years.

    The move to accelerate the rise in pension age has meant many women have not had enough notice of the changes and given them little or no time to amend their plans.

    The increase in the state pension age (SPA) for women from 60 to 65 – phased in between 2010 to 2020 – was included in the 1995 Pensions Act.   But in 2011 the Tory-led coalition government speeded up the changes so that the SPA for women will increase to 65 by November 2018.  The pension age for both men and women will then rise to 66 by autumn 2020.

    Some women affected by both increases say they will suffer a financial loss of as much as £30,000 because they will have to wait longer for their pension.  Many have complained they were not given enough notice of the changes.

    In March, the Works and Pensions Select Committee published a report on the state pension age. Conor joined Labour MPs in welcoming the committee’s call for the government to deal with its mishandling of the changes and the injustice to millions of women.

    After meeting WASPI campaigners, Conor said: ‘Talking to those hit by these changes like Barbra and Margaret really brings home just how wrong the government is on this issue.

    “For them to be treated like this after a lifetime working and contributing to their pension pot is simply wrong and the government must act.

    “I am glad the government is going to instigate an independent review into the future of the state pension age. But it won’t help these women today.

    “I would like to see this review also cover what can be done to help the 2.6 million women across the country who will be affected.

    “The Pension Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech was a missed opportunity for the government to act.  It must now look again at this issue as a matter of urgency”.

     

  • Conor backs arts in St Helens and meets World of Glass boss

    World of Glass

    Conor has met World of Glass boss Ron Helsby to talk about its role in St Helens’ bid to stage the Great Exhibition of the North in 2018.

    The visit came after Conor had already thrown his support behind the exciting bid to host the exhibition that would coincide with the borough’s 150th anniversary and provide a great opportunity to showcase the arts, design and innovation in the region.

    Conor was keen to meet World of Glass’s executive director because the venue plans such a key role in the arts scene in St Helens, as well as acting as host for the boroughs archives, housing our museum, telling the history of our community and the history of glass – and hosting fantastic exhibitions such as Pop! Goes St Helens.

    Conor said after the meeting: “I’ve enjoyed visiting the World of Glass on a number of occasions and I wanted the opportunity to talk to Ron about his vision and ideas for the future and just what the World of Glass will bring to a Great Exhibition of the North.

    “Working with all those involved in the arts the World of Glass is an important player in building on the emerging cultural scene in the borough and is central to creating a sustainable and long-lasting arts scene in our community.

    “Venues such as the World of Glass are important because I believe that everyone must have the opportunity to enjoy the arts – not just people living in our major cities.

    “Unfortunately, funding cuts to the Arts Council and local authorities have created real problems and put arts in the region under threat, forcing, for example, some museum collections to be moved to London.

    “That’s why projects such as the Great Exhibition of the North are so important in focusing attention on the vibrant arts and culture we have here in St Helens and across the North West.”

     

  • Conor shows support for Wargrave Big Local

    Wargrave big local

    Keen to find out the latest news about Wargrave Big Local, Conor McGinn met Damien O’Connor to talk about jobs.

    Two years ago, Wargrave secured £1 million over ten years from the Big Lottery Fund to create a plan for what the area needed.

    Local residents volunteered to run community events and put the first plan together through a partnership board, backed by Helena Partnerships and St Helens Council.

    The project has five themes: financial inclusion, environment, health, community safety and employment.

    Conor met local resident Damien who volunteered to chair the employment sub-group, working alongside Helena, Jobcentre Plus, St Helens Chamber of Commerce and training providers to raise aspiration and help those looking for work.

    A recent success has been the work with JD Wetherspoon and its new pub, the Nine Arches, where a collaboration between the pub chain, Helena Housing and Wargrave Big Local has led to several local residents getting jobs at the new bar on Legh Street.

    As well as talking about the project’s successes, Damien raised concerns over the Government’s proposed welfare reforms that could see more benefit cuts and hit the work of the Big Local Wargrave in helping people back into work.

    Conor said: “It was good to meet up again with Damien to talk about the Big Local project and how it is making a real difference to people lives in Wargrave.

    “The collaboration with Weatherspoon’s has proved a real success and shows what can be done when the community, private sector and other agencies work together.

    “But we don’t want to see this good work undermined by central government and that’s why I will be closely scrutinising the upcoming green paper on welfare changes and talking to people like Damien and all the volunteers at Big Local Wargrave who are working hard to improve job opportunities for local residents.”

     

  • Conor visits St Helens Women’s Refuge

    Woman's refuge

    Conor visited St Helens domestic violence refuge to meet staff working with victims and to talk about the help and support they provide and the challenges they face meeting victims’ needs.

    Helena Extra manage the refuge and this emergency accommodation is just one part of the support available in St Helens which also includes a 24-hour helpline where victims can speak to someone immediately if they need help.

    Each year, more than two million people across the country suffer domestic violence, with the victims far more likely to be women.

    Conor talked with Jacquie Byrne from Helena Partnerships and other members of the dedicated team of workers at the St Helens refuge about the women and children they help.

    He was joined on the visit by local Windle councillor Gill Neil, and Cabinet member for community safety Lisa Preston.  They have been working closely with the refuge recently to help families moving from the refuge back into the community.

    Conor heard at first had some of the difficulties they faced, including the problems experienced since the closure of St Helens magistrates’ court and the impact benefit changes have had on domestic violence victims.

    Speaking after the visit, Conor said: “You cannot fail to be impressed by the hard work and dedication of the staff at the refuge and all those working with victims of domestic violence.

    “They provide safe accommodation for those who need it and invaluable support in helping them deal with the consequences of their partners actions.

    “It was, however, concerning to hear about the impact benefit changes have had – something we in the Labour Party warned about when the welfare bill was introduced.

    “The introduction of Universal Credit and changes in guidance for tax credits are both having a negative impact on victims and in some cases forcing victims back to their abusers. This cannot be right and is something I shall be taking up directly with ministers.”

  • Conor welcomes town’s bid to host Great Exhibition of the North

    Conor has welcomed the “fantastic news” that St Helens has joined the battle to stage the Great Exhibition of the North.

    The St Helens North MP has thrown his full support behind the bid submitted by St Helens Council last week.

    Towns and cities across the North West, North East and Yorkshire have been invited to bid to put on the two-month exhibition in 2018.

    Conor said: “It’s fantastic news that our bid has gone in for St Helens to stage the Great Exhibition of the North.

    “I’m right behind these exciting plans that could see us hosting a huge event to showcase the region’s creative and cultural talent.

    “The Great Exhibition would give St Helens a chance to mark the borough’s 150th anniversary in 2018 by celebrating the best of design, innovation and art in the region.

    “It would provide a springboard to boost regeneration and help drive forward our local economy.

    “The bid aims to build on our history that saw St Helens lead the way in the industrial revolution.”

    “Now, we can be at the centre of the latest innovation and design projects that will draw the local community in to all the different events during the exhibition.”

    Towns and cities across the North East, North West and Yorkshire have been invited to bid to put on the exhibition.

    The Government is contributing £5 million towards the exhibition itself and another £15 million for a legacy fund to attract further investment to the North.

    Those backing the bid include National Museums Liverpool, Dadafest, Live Art Development Agency, University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University and the Institute of Cultural Capital.

    St Helens will find out if the bid has been successful when the winner is announced in the autumn.

    Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, has been appointed by the Chancellor George Osborne to chair the Great Exhibition Board that will report to Ministers on the applications.

  • Conor takes questions from Hope Academy students

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    Last week, students and staff from Hope Academy organized a whole-school EU Referendum; this was one of the biggest democratic exercises undertaken within the Academy since its inception. Each student was given the opportunity to have their say on whether they thought Great Britain should leave or remain within the EU.

    Students from the Hope Current Affairs Society led assemblies throughout the week where they presented the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ arguments. In the lead up to the referendum on Thursday, during form time each morning students reflected on the main points from each campaign and discussed the consequences of both. Each student was given a ballot paper on Thursday morning and given the opportunity to vote. The mock referendum created much interest around the Academy whilst ensuring that students had an active role in the national democratic debate.

    To culminate their referendum week, the Hope Academy Current Affairs Society and the Student Council held their own Question Time with Conor McGinn, MP for St Helens North, and Councillors Jeanie Bell, Gill Neal and Andy Bowden. Conor took questions from a range of students on whether we should remain or leave, the impact this would have in Britain and the impact the EU has had since its inception. The event was a fantastic experience for students and staff alike.

    Commenting Conor said:

    “It was great to visit Hope Academy and take part in their Question Time. The questions from students were insightful and challenging. The school is doing some great work in encouraging young people to engage with politics. I hope the students found the day informative and interesting, and I hope good work being done by the Current Affairs Society continues.”

     

  • Conor marks Armed Forces Day and gives backing to Royal British Legion campaign

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    It was great that St Helens played its part in joining thousands of people up and down the country to mark Armed Forces Day.

    I joined the public at local events in St Helens and Newton-le-Willows and was delighted to be with regular and reserve forces, sea cadets from TS Scimitar and TS Warspite and veterans and their families.

    But servicemen and women need support every day, not just on Armed Forces Day. They need to be sure that help there is on hand when they need medical treatment or special care.

    We have the Military Covenant – introduced under a Labour government in 2000 and enshrined in law five years ago – that means we have an obligation to the armed forces and their families to make sure they are properly looked after.

    It exists to deal with the disadvantages that they can often face which do not affect ordinary members of the public  – like having to move home frequently because of military postings.

    The Covenant also allows for special consideration to be given in some cases, especially to the injured and bereaved.

    But, for it to work properly we need to know more about more about how many veterans, reservists and dependants there are and where they live.

    At the moment, we don’t have that information and it makes it hard to target help for them properly.

    Under the current set of questions asked in the national census, we know more about who claims to be a Jedi as their religion than how many former soldiers there are.

    That’s why I’m supporting an important campaign by the Royal British Legion called Count Them In.

    The campaign aims to help charities and local authorities get that basic information by adding some extra questions to the next census.

    Building up a clear picture about the number and whereabouts of current and former military personnel will help better direct care and improve support for them.

    Although the next census won’t be carried out until 2021, possible changes are being discussed now.

    So, I’m supporting the call for the Government to include extra questions in the next census that will help veterans and current service personnel who make up an estimated tenth of the population.

    As the Royal British Legion says, making these changes would also show the armed forces and their families that we count on them – and we want to count them in.

    You can find out more about the campaign here: http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/count-them-in/