• Next Weeks Budget

    Ahead of next week’s budget, the Chancellor must ensure that spending on mental health services is ring-fenced and this vital area is properly funded.

    The Government has announced £1.4 billion funding over five years to deliver the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health and £1.25 billion for the Future In Mind programme for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

    This money is important but will not go far enough to meet rising demands on mental health services, here In St Helens and across the country.

    According to Public Health England 16.8% of people in St Helens have reported suffering from depression and anxiety. In the UK one in four adults experiences at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any given year.

    Conor has signed colleague Luciana Berger’s petition for the Government to use the budget as an opportunity to ring-fence mental health spending, you can sign here too https://you.38degrees.org.uk/…/ring-fence-mental-health-spe….

  • Remembrance Day Services

    Conor joined hundreds of local residents in taking part in Remembrance Day services across St Helens North.

    On Friday, he attended a service at Billinge Remembrance Garden, where local schoolchildren had gathered to remember.

    On Sunday, Conor joined veterans, cadets, community groups, local councillors and residents in Newton-le-Willows at a Remembrance Day parade and service at St John’s, and  laid a wreath at the War Memorial at Earlestown Town Hall.

    The day ended with an interdenominational service of commemoration at St Aidan’s Billinge where those who had died during both World Wars from the parish were remembered.

    Remembrance Day is hugely important to our communities in St Helens North and across the borough, particularly to bereaved families of service personnel and to veterans.

    Conor also thanked all those who organised, took part in and attended events this year.

  • The Living Wage Foundation recommended that the living wage for areas outside London should be £8.75 per hour – which is a gross 40 hour weekly wage of £350.

    But many workers in St Helens are working full time for the minimum wage of £7.50 an hour – which leaves these workers £50 a week short of the Living Wage Foundation recommendation.

    That means less money in the bank at the end of the month, and less money for food, bills and transport.

    Conor is supporting St Helens Council in leading the way as a council committed to a Living Wage, but the Government needs to do far more to raise wages for workers in St Helens and across the country.

    That’s why a Labour Government would raise the Living Wage to £10 an hour, giving workers and families on lower pay the income security they need.

  • Music and the UK economy

    Last week, Conor led a debate in the House of Commons on the contribution of music to the UK economy – which totalled £4.4 billion last year alone.

    The number of people employed across the industry grew last year by 19% to more than 140,000, and despite the uncertainty over Brexit, the music business generated export revenues of £2.5 billion in 2016.

    Here in St Helens, 25,500 people attended live music events in 2016, generating a box office spend of £1.2 million.

    St Helens is also recognised by the Arts Council as a UK leader in arts and culture and despite huge cuts to its budget, the Council has committed to providing whole-class first access to instrumental programmes for key stage 2 children.

    St Helens also fortunate to have fantastic venues like the Citadel and the hugely successful Westfield Street and Reminisce festivals, which are adding to those impressive figures.

    But the Government must do more to support young musicians and underfunded music such as brass and silver bands, like the excellent Haydock, Valley and Rainford bands that are truly the lifeblood of communities in St Helens.

  • Irish parliamentarians visit to Westminster

    Conor hosted the largest ever delegation of Irish parliamentarians to Westminster this week for meetings and events with MPs, Peers and political parties to discuss Brexit and challenges and opportunities facing UK-Ireland relations, including in trade and investment.

    The delegation included members of the Dáil Éireann and the Seanad Éireann, Ireland’s lower and upper Houses.

    It was particularly good to have Éamon Ó Cuív TD there, whose grandfather Eamon De Valera was Taoiseach and President of Ireland. ‘Dev’ made a famous and impromptu visit to Earlestown in the 1930’s when he addressed a large crowd who had gathered at the train station to greet him on his journey between Liverpool and Manchester.

    The visit this week followed a visit of MPs and Peers to Dublin in February, which Conor led, and was a great opportunity for dialogue and discussion at a crucial time in our relations

  • Invest in St Helens Ambassadors

    It was great to open the Invest in St Helens Ambassadors event on Monday, and to see so many local businesses backing the programme.

    St Helens is a fantastic place, with a proud tradition and a great future.

    There is a particularly bright opportunity to bring train building back to St Helens – and back to Newton-le-Willows specifically – and I’m currently working to try and bring about investment in Parkside by a major international train manufacturer that would build on the proud tradition of the Vulcan works and bring skilled jobs for the future at the cutting edge of modern technology.

    This is exactly the kind of investment that we need and I know that all the St Helens Ambassadors will work hard to promote the borough and the opportunities that exist for investment, jobs and growth here.

    You can find out more at www.investinsthelens.com

  • Funeral Poverty

    I share constituents concern about the worrying rise in funeral costs and I appreciate this can leave families with significant additional financial responsibilities at the most difficult and emotional of times.

    In December 2016 I backed calls for child burial fees to be scrapped and supported the campaign launched by Labour MP Carolyn Harris who moved MPs to tears when she told the story of the death of her eight-year-old son in a road crash.

    No parent should have to endure the heartbreak of having to bury their child, that pain is made so much worse if they cannot afford to meet the cost of a funeral at such a difficult time. The Government should be doing far more to help parents in such a difficult situation by increasing the financial assistance available to them.

    Funerals offer families the opportunity to celebrate the life of a loved one, and providing a simple ceremony and proper burial or cremation is a matter of respect for those who have passed away. I believe it is absolutely right that support is available to bereaved families to provide dignified funerals, regardless of income. At the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to fund child burial fees for bereaved parents, and to transform our social security system to ensure it is there for all of us in our time of need. It is very concerning that research from Royal London’s National Funeral Cost Index for 2017 indicated that one in six families arranging a funeral struggled to afford its cost, and a report from SunLife found that funeral costs have risen 70% in the past decade, and 4.7% in the last year alone. I am aware that Fair Funerals is calling for the Chancellor to review the Social Fund Funeral Payment. The Government recently consulted on reforms to the Funeral Expenses Payments Scheme, and intends to bring forward a number of reforms due to take effect in spring 2018. However, the Government will not increase the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payments scheme because it believes that the current amount makes a significant contribution towards a funeral. I share your concerns that this payment has not kept pace with inflation and I agree that the current cap is insufficient. I hope that the Government will listen to the concerns raised by individuals and organisations such as the Fair Funerals campaign and take action to tackle funeral poverty.

  • Armed Forces recruitment and retention crisis

    This week in the House of Commons Conor took part in a defence debate led by Labour’s frontbench.

    Conor raised the Armed Forces recruitment and retention crisis that has arisen on the Tories’ watch, and the fact that more service personnel are leaving and fewer joining both regular and reserve forces year-on-year.

    The Defence Minister said that Conor’s figures were inaccurate. The only problem with that was that they weren’t Conor’s figures, they were his from an official Ministry of Defence report.

    You can see the intervention below and read Conors entire contribution – in which I pay tribute to St Helens veterans’ champion Andy Reid – here https://hansard.parliament.uk/…/44334061-A7…/ArmedForcesPay…

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