• Congratulations to Haydock Band

    It is fantastic news that Haydock Band have won the Butlins National Championship Trophy – their first accolade of 2018 after a very successful year in 2017 – and a great start to the St Helens 150th anniversary year.

    Brass bands like Haydock and Valley Brass in our borough are immensely talented and the dedication of band members is a testament to the excellent grassroots music scene in St Helens.

    But bands in St Helens are facing financial difficulties that mean the groups often have difficulty finding permanent homes and storing instruments – and local bands have lost out on Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery grants.

    Conor written to the head of Arts Council England calling for alternative funding streams to be put in place for our local brass bands, making sure that our communities can benefit from them in years to come

  • Conor elected to Council of europe

    Conor McGinn, St Helens North MP, has been elected to represent the UK at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a key international body that promotes democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

    Mr McGinn vowed to use his new position to fight to protect the rights of workers in St Helens and across the UK.

    He was elected to serve on the influential Politics and Democracy Committee and the European Social Charter Committee.

    The Council of Europe is a 47-member international organisation that aims to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.

    Mr McGinn’s role on the Politics and Democracy Committee will see him involved in dealing with urgent political situations and crises in the organisation’s member states which include the UK.

    His work on the European Social Charter Committee will give him the chance to continue his efforts to protect the hard-won rights of British workers – a key issue ahead of Britain’s departure from the EU next year.

    Mr McGinn will be the whip for the 18-member Labour delegation, which is now the second largest delegation within the Socialist Group on the Council of Europe.

  • School funding crisis

    Conor met with secondary and special school headteachers from across the borough to hear about the impacts of the schools funding crisis in St Helens.

    The meeting, which was hosted at St Cuthbert’s School, was also a chance to catch-up about local developments in education, and to hear about some of the great achievements of our schools and young people.

    But the Government’s refusal to properly fund our schools is having a direct impact on teaching and learning, with a number of teachers facing redundancy and class sizes being increased.

    As a result of the Government’s failure to raise the pupil premium, there are now fewer subjects on offer at some schools.

    The frustration of our local headteachers and teachers – who work hard and want pupils to have the best education – is clear to see. The Government needs to act now and ensure schools in St Helens are properly funded.

  • State of Mind working to improve mental health

    I met with Simon Barbour and Phil Cooper from charity State of Mind to discuss their excellent work improving the mental health and wellbeing of rugby league players, supporters and their communities.

    Simon, who is the Chief Executive of the North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Trust, and Phil, a co-founder of the charity, do excellent work across St Helens in raising the profile of mental health Issues.

    NHS figures show that one in four people will experience a mental health condition at some point in our lives, so education and awareness is key.

    State of Mind is a fantastic programme and a testament to the positive effect Rugby League has on our communities across St Helens – you can find out more about their work here http://rugbyleague.stateofmindsport.org/areas/st-helens/

     

  • National award for Rainford high

    It was great to visit Rainford High to meet a team of pupils who won a national award in a global health and development contest.

    Zach Cunningham, Evan Cunningham, Rebecca Spencer, and Katie Wilkinson won in the Silver category of the Youth Grand Challenges competition – organised by the British Science Council.

    The team came up with the idea of Soap & Suds toys, to help stop the spread of deadly infectious diseases by encouraging children in developing countries to wash their hands more often.

    The team were supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and Unilever to successfully trial the Soap & Suds toys with young people in Ghana.

    The team have done a fantastic job and are a great example of just what young people across the Borough are capable of – especially when they get the right support, as in this case with head teacher Ian Young and STEM coordinator Hazel Duffy.

    I have written to the Secretary of State for International Development to make her aware of the project and asked her Department to help its development.

  • fighting to protect local music venues

    I’m backing plans for a new law that will help protect our local music venues.

    We are lucky to have great venues and music projects in St Helens, like Jamm Studios and the Citadel – where the Stone Roses are among the bands that have taken to the stage – and opportunities for new talent to perform at the Westfield Street and Reminisce festivals. But some venues are struggling and I want to do my best to help, which is why I am backing the Planning (Agent of Change) Bill.

    More than a third of music venues across the country have shut down in the last decade, and venues in St Helens are still at risk of closure when nearby developments pile extra costs on to them.

    This is a huge risk to the musical heritage of St Helens and the North West and as secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Music, I am sponsoring the proposed law by John Spellar MP to help protect our venues.

    The Planning (Agent of Change) Bill would mean developers would have to take account of the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses, like music venues, before going ahead with their plans. That could mean, for example, the developer taking responsibility to pay for soundproofing to avoid the risk of new neighbours complaining about noise from a music venue.

    This is a vital step towards making sure our music venues survive and thrive and I hope the Government gets behind the proposals to get them on to the statute book.

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  • Conor warns over drop in number of people starting apprenticeships

    St Helens North MP Conor McGinn has warned of the potential impact on jobs and skills in St Helens after figures show the number of people starting apprenticeships across the borough has dropped by a fifth.

    The Department for Education statistics show there were 2,850 apprenticeship starts in St Helens during the 2011/12 academic year, but this has dropped to 2,280 for the 2016/17 school year.

    The figures show a growing skills crisis in St Helens, with 20 per cent fewer apprenticeship starts across the borough, some four times higher than the national average.

    Young people in St Helens are particularly badly affected, with 22 per cent fewer under 19 year olds starting apprenticeships, when the national figure is just 7 per cent.

    Mr McGinn has criticised the Government for leaving St Helens behind and not doing enough to support young people into apprenticeships across the borough.

    Meanwhile, Labour has pledged to invest £1 billion in vocational training and to reintroduce Educational Maintenance Allowance for young people as part of a new National Education Service, ensuring everyone can access high-quality education.

    Commenting, Mr McGinn said:

    “St Helens is a great place to learn, work and do business, with innovative local firms and a proud industrial heritage.

    “But a shocking 20 per cent drop in apprenticeship starts across the borough in the last five years shows the Government is leaving St Helens behind and if this is not halted it will mean a jobs and skills crisis for future generations.

    “This is also a let-down to St Helens College, the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses supporting apprenticeships.

    “My top priority is to bring more jobs and investment to St Helens. Following the launch of the Government’s industrial strategy this week, I will be pressing ministers to make sure that strategy includes improving transport links and attracting investment to St Helens and across Merseyside.

    “Young people deserve better, which is why Labour has pledged to reintroduce Educational Maintenance Allowance – which was scrapped by the Tories – and to invest £1 billion in a new National Education Service.”

  • Internet Service Providers have misled customers for too long with inaccurately advertised “up-to” internet speeds, instead of a reliable average speed.

    The industry must act to end this scandal and stand up for consumers who are too often paying top prices for low speeds or an unreliable internet connection, with research showing up to three quarters of households pay for an internet speed they never receive.

    I welcome moves by the Advertising Standards Agency to ensure providers instead advertise average speeds, so consumers can make a more reliable choice and get better value for money.

    A decent broadband connection is vital for businesses and customers in St Helens and across the country, and I raised the importance of this in the House of Commons and urged Ministers to introduce a change immediately.

  • There is a real need to reform Parole guidelines

    The appalling decision to release the dangerous criminal John Worboys has highlighted the need for reform of parole guidelines and criteria, and more transparency about decisions made by the Parole Board.

    We have been campaigning for Helen’s Law – a “no body, no parole” rule – for more than two years, and although the Government previously promised to review parole guidelines there has still been no change in the law.

    I raised this with the new Secretary of State for Justice in the House of Commons and highlighted the case of Marie McCourt, who has been bravely campaigning against the release of her daughter Helen’s killer and for other families in similar circumstances.

    The Government must now urgently review the guidelines and criteria around parole and introduce a “no body, no parole” rule so that convicted killers cannot be released without giving information about the location of hidden remains.