• marking the centenary of the Armistice – the end of the First World War – and Remembrance Day.

    I joined thousands of people across the borough at dignified and poignant commemorative events this weekend to mark the centenary of the Armistice – the end of the First World War – and Remembrance Day.

    Last night at I attended the Haydock Male Voice Choir’s Eve of Armistice concert, alongside the Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside, the Mayor of St Helens and Lord Watts at a packed St Helens Town Hall.

    This morning I joined the Deputy Mayor of St Helens, Armed Forces, veterans, cadets, community groups, schools, local councillors and the largest crowd seen for many years at the Newton-le-Willows Remembrance Day parade where I laid a wreath at the War Memorial at Earlestown Town Hall and attended the remembrance service at St John’s Church.

    I also attended an ecumenical service of commemoration at St Aidan’s Church in Billinge this afternoon, and events were also held at the Haydock Garden of Remembrance and at All Saints Church in Rainford.

    This evening, as part of the national “Battle’s Over” programme of events, beacons of light were lit in Taylor Park, Earlestown Market Square and on Billinge Hill.

    Tens of thousands of young men from St Helens, Newton and surrounding villages and parishes fought in the Great War. Thousands did not return home and lie buried in cemeteries or battlefields in France and across the world. Many thousands of others who did return home were scarred by what they experienced and were never the same men again.

    Today, a hundred years on, the people of St Helens came together in those same parishes, villages and towns of our borough to honour and remember their sacrifice.

  • Roger Phillips show

    This week I took part in a live phone-in with Roger Phillips on his daily show on BBC Radio Merseyside.

    I know lots of people across St Helens listen to the show and it was great to have constituents ringing in, and to chat with them and Roger about everything from housing to Brexit and council tax to the railways.

  • new Community Police hub in Rainford.

    St Helens North MP Conor McGinn joined Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy to open a new Community Police Station in Rainford.

    Community Police Stations are designed to be accessible, visible centres which are co-located with partners in busy neighbourhood hubs which are already well used by the communities they serve. They are a key part of the strategy to transform Merseyside Police’s stations with the aim of saving £2.5m on running costs every year, money which can be redirected straight into frontline policing.

    Jane said: “I’m delighted that we have now opened the doors to this Community Police Station in Rainford and my thanks to Conor McGinn for working with me on this.

    “We are not hiding the fact that these changes are driven by austerity. Merseyside Police’s workforce has been cut by nearly a quarter since 2010 and the pressures they face continue to grow. That means the Force has to work more smartly and efficiently than ever before and Community Police Stations are designed to help neighbourhood officers be closer to the communities they serve, while also reducing our annual running costs.

    “The Chief Constable and I remain committed to providing a visible and accessible police force, as best we can with the resources we have available. While the service we can offer has changed, I think Rainford Village Hall is an excellent location for a Community Police Station. It will put the neighbourhood team right at the heart of the community in a busy location which is clearly really popular with local people, is already used for a host of activities and events and which has been recommended by local councillors. I hope it will be a real asset to the community.”

    Conor McGinn MP said: “It is vitally important that our towns and villages have a visible and responsive policing presence and the reopening of Rainford Station, even on a limited basis, is recognition of the need for police officers to be in our communities and working with our communities.

    “I am grateful to the Police Commissioner for her strong leadership and engagement with me and St Helens Council in ensuring that we meet the policing needs of local people in tackling crime and keeping them safe.

    “The consequences of central government-imposed cuts to Mersey Police have been felt acutely in St Helens over the last number of years. The Commissioner, the Council and I will continue to work together to mitigate the effects of continuing cuts across Merseyside, and to ensure visible, responsive and well-resourced policing across St Helens North from Billinge to Newton and Parr to Rainford.”

    The Community Police Station in Rainford will be open on a regular, but not continuous basis and will include public meeting rooms and facilities from which officers can parade on. It will not house any custody suites or cells. Surgeries will be publicised at the centre, on local billboards and through the Force’s website.

  • Moss bank fire

    On Wednesday night a devastating fire completely destroyed a parade of shops including the Post Office at Wythburn Crescent in Moss Bank. These businesses were a real community hub, providing essential services to local residents.

    Along with the Cllr Derek Long, the Leader of St Helens Council, I called an emergency site meeting with councillors, Torus Housing, the police and local residents and employees of the affected businesses to talk about the impact the fire has had on the community and how – working together – we will support local residents, the shop owners and the 30 staff employed at the site in the weeks and months ahead.

    I was struck by the determination shown by residents to pull together and support those most affected. It is a tight-knit community and the shops were an important part of it, particularly for the many older people who live in the area. Making sure they are up and running again as soon as possible is vital.

    Torus have confirmed to me that the buildings will need to be demolished. I have asked for this to be done urgently and for extra police resources to be put in the community to prevent any vandalism and for the site to be properly secured. I have also contacted the Post Office seeking assurances that facilities in the area – at least a mobile post office until we are able to reopen a permanent one – will be available as soon as possible.

    I will also want a clear plan from Torus – the owner of the building – about the plans and timescale for the rebuild. Residents groups working with local councillors will also be organising a meeting with further information in due course. In the meantime, residents and anyone affected by the fire can contact my office and we will do our best to help provide any information we have or help we can give.

  • Norman Harvey VC

    I joined hundreds of people in Newton-le-Willows for a series of events to honour Norman Harvey VC, a local man who received the Victoria Cross a century ago for valour and gallantry while serving in the First World War.

    Born in Newton on 6th April 1899, Norman enlisted in the 4th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment in November 1914, when he was only 15. He was transferred to the 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in April 1918.

    Norman was 19 when he won his VC medal on 25th October 1918.

    Norman’s award recognised his actions in Ingoyhem, Belgium. When his battalion was held up and suffering severe casualties from machine-gun fire, he ran forward and engaged the enemy single-handed, killing two, wounding one and capturing 12 men and two guns.

    After the War, Norman lived at Old Station in Parkside Road.

    He re-enlisted for World War Two and was killed in action in 1942.

    The commemorative events at the weekend began with the unveiling of a commemorative paving stone by the Mayor of St Helens at the War Memorial in Earlestown before a very moving service at St Peter’s Church in Newton, with Haydock Male Voice Choir and Valley Brass Band providing music and Captain Harry Smeldey reading the VC citation.

    The service was followed by a parade led by the 103 Regiment Royal Artillery Pipes & Drums to Mesnes Park where, in the presence of Norman’s daughter Geraldine and other members of the family, the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside and the Colonel of 2 Royal Irish Regiment unveiled the dramatic sculpture of Norman Harvey created by Ray Lonsdale.

    It was a very special day for Newton and a testament to the local community which turned out in huge numbers to respectfully honour the service and bravery of one of their own in his home town.