• Universal Credit Roll Out

    This week sees the rollout of the Universal Credit Full Service to St Helens.

    The botched rollout has continued despite widespread problems, including the failure of the online system to accept certain kinds of evidence and long waits for an initial payment with delays in processing claims.

    In some other parts of the country, these delays have added to an already lengthy wait for initial payment that is built into the Universal Credit system.

    The Citizens’ Advice Bureau has already highlighted that these delays have placed people at risk of eviction as rent arrears have built up due to the delays.

    Figures from the Trussell trust also show food bank referrals have increased at more than double the national average in areas in which the Universal Credit Full Service has been rolled out.

    The Government must urgently get to grips with these problems and fix Universal Credit so that people in St Helens are not put at risk.

     

  • Congratulations to Haydock Band

    Congratulations to Haydock Band on the fantastic news that they have been promoted to the First Section as of 2019.

    Brass bands are graded like football teams – the Premiership with household name bands such as Black Dyke and then sections one down to four. Haydock are now one step away from the Premiership.

    Haydock Band has deep roots in our community and their reputation is growing all the time including through recent appearances on TV and radio, and this is one more feather in their cap.

    I also know gaining promotion like this isn’t easy as it is based on the standard of performances over the last three years so this is a fitting reward for the hard work and dedication of Musical Director Mark Quinn and everyone associated with Haydock Band.

    I am delighted for the band, and I will continue to work with them as they build on their success.

    What we now need to see is funding bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England better recognise bands like Haydock and others in Merseyside and the North West by giving them greater support to grow and flourish.

  • My support for Unison’s Ethical Care Charter

    I spoke at the Age UK Mid Mersey conference to highlight the enormous challenges facing social care – with a funding gap of more than £20 million in the health economy across St Helens.

    I also pledged my support to Unison’s Ethical Care Charter which will establish key standards for the safety, quality and dignity of care by improving pay, conditions and training levels.

    Social care has been pushed into a state of emergency. Cuts to adult social care budgets are expected to reach £6.3 billion by the end of 2017/18 and the Tory Government has completely failed to set out a proper plan to fund it.

    This is having a detrimental impact on care quality, and the estimated number of people with an unmet social care need in England could be as high as 2.35 million.

    That’s why Labour is committed to give the NHS over £30 billion of extra investment over the next parliament and invest an extra £8 billion to tackle the crisis in social care.

    We have committed as a Party to taking one million people off the waiting list and guaranteeing that patients can be seen within four hours in A&E.

    In St Helens, we have a £20 million shortfall across the health economy in the borough, piling more pressure onto already overstretched carers.

    There is a crisis in our NHS and social care and we urgently need a Labour government to rescue services.

  • supporting a national centre of excellence for innovation in the home of the UK glass industry.

    It was fantastic to be at the World of Glass with representatives from across the UK glass industry, St Helens Ambassadors, Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham and Marie Rimmer MP as we met to hear about the progress being made to create a national centre of excellence for innovation in St Helens, the home of the UK glass industry.

    The £50 million project, announced in February, would put St Helens at the forefront of glass manufacturing worldwide, and create 50 jobs across the borough. The plan for the new centre of excellence has pulled together leading glass companies such as Pilkingtons and NGF as well as universities, with the aim of developing new high tech products.

    The event gave Chairman of Saints and the St Helens Economic Board Eamonn McManus the opportunity to make the case for St Helens as the ideal location for the project and the benefits it would bring, both to the glass industry and the Borough.

    It is fitting that in our borough’s 150th anniversary year, St Helens is leading the way as a world leader in research and development in glass technology.

  • Corporal John Davies VC

    I was delighted to join the family of Corporal John Davies VC alongside the Mayor and many others including local branches of the Royal British Legion, military personnel, local veterans, support group SAMS and local councillors at the St Helens Cenotaph to attend the unveiling of a commemorative paving stone for his courageous actions for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

    Corporal Davies – known locally as Jack – was among the first to volunteer for the 11th (Service) Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment, more commonly known as the St Helens Pals.

    He was wounded twice during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, returning to active duties after recovering on both occasions.

    On 24 March 1918, Corporal Davies was manning a section of the front near the French village of Eppeville. The following extract from his Victoria Cross citation tells the story of his incredible gallantry, unwavering bravery and total dedication to his comrades:

    “When his company—outflanked on both sides—received orders to withdraw, Corporal Davies knew that the only line of withdrawal lay through a deep stream lined with a belt of barbed wire, and that it was imperative to hold up the enemy as long as possible.

    “He mounted the parapet, fully exposing himself, in order to get a more effective field of fire, and kept his Lewis gun in action to the last, causing the enemy many casualties and checking their advance.

    “By his very great devotion to duty he enabled part of his company to get across the river, which they would otherwise have been unable to do, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of his comrades.

    “When last seen this gallant N.C.O. was still firing his gun, with the enemy close on the top of him, and was in all probability killed at his gun.”

    Incredibly, Corporal Davies survived the assault and was taken as a prisoner. After the War, he returned to St Helens where he lived with his family for the rest of his life. In response to being asked about his heroism, Corporal Davies replied, “I was doing my duty”.

    The people of St Helens will never forget the incredible bravery shown by Corporal Davies or the countless others from our borough who made the ultimate sacrifice.

  • Marking the 25th anniversary of the Warrington bombing

    It was very humbling and deeply moving to be with the families of Tim Parry and Jonathan Ball in Warrington today to mark the 25th anniversary of the IRA bombing which killed both children.

    The event was also attended by HRH The Princess Royal, the Irish Ambassador in Britain, Metro Mayors Steve Rotherham and Andy Burnham, and civic and religious leaders from across our region.

    Many people in the borough of St Helens, particularly where I live in Newton-le-Willows, have strong connections to Warrington and were deeply affected by the bombing.

    I was there at today’s poignant event as the MP for those neighbouring towns to demonstrate that the solidarity our community showed with the people of Warrington in that dark hour is just as strong today.

    Colin Parry’s remarkably generous and moving words were an inspiration to us all. He and Wendy, and the work of the Peace Centre they founded, have made a remarkable contribution to building better relations between Britain and Ireland.

    The awfulness of such terrible destruction could easily have led to hatred and anger. Instead, the determination and generosity of the Parry and Balls families and the people of Warrington helped further peace and reconciliation. That important work has and continues to make a difference, and is the lasting legacy of the two young boys we gathered to remember today.

    (Photo from Dave Gillespie at the Warrington Guardian)

  • Conor meets with Patterdale Lodge Patient group

    I met with Patterdale Lodge Patient Group in Newton-le-Willows to talk about health provision locally and across the country.

    The meeting provided an opportunity to hear from NHS patients about the impact government policy is having on meeting the health needs of our local community.

    Those who attended were keen to praise the hard work of their GPs and staff across the NHS but were concerned about issues ranging from waiting times to the ability to consistently see the same GP when having to see a doctor.

    I know that many constituents are concerned about our NHS, with waiting times soaring, Hospitals in financial crisis and locally a £20 million funding gap in the health economy.

    I have campaigned on the impact of health cuts, and for those working hard in the NHS to receive pay rises.

    I will continue to support the hard work of GPs and those working in the NHS and challenge the Tories to give our hospitals and health care system the resources they need to deliver a health service that our communities deserves.

  • St Helens YMCA

    I recently visited St Helens YMCA to meet Chief Executive Justin Hill and Chair of Trustees Richard Tully to discuss their work supporting homeless people in our borough.

    St Helens YMCA provides a range of services, childcare, sport and training as well as housing provision. This includes supported accommodation with a 56 bed hostel and the Foyer Project – which is a stepping stone to independence and employment.

    Across the country, rough sleeping has increased for the seventh consecutive year and here in St Helens homelessness is a growing problem.

    This increase in homelessness is a national scandal and the Tory Government’s cuts to local government and our vital services is a shameful record that hits the most vulnerable in our society.

    Despite funding difficulties, St Helens Council continues to support organisations like the YMCA who help the homeless in partnership with groups like the Salvation Army, the Hope Centre and Teardrops. See More

  • 200 new jobs for St Helens

    It is hugely welcome news and a real boost to our borough that Movianto will be bringing 200 jobs to St Helens.

    The new jobs mean more opportunities and demonstrate that St Helens is very much a place that companies want to locate and do business in.

    It also goes to show just what can be achieved when our council, our local educational institutions and the business community work together with a ‘Team St Helens’ approach.

    St Helens is open for business, and these new jobs are a shot in the arm for the local economy – particularly following the closure of Palmer and Harvey before Christmas.

  • Tory Government plans to slash budgets for fire services

    Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service does a vital job protecting our communities in St Helens and across the region.

    But new figures uncovered by the Fire Brigades Union show that this Tory Government is planning to slash budgets for fire services – with a 12 per cent cut expected for Merseyside in the four years up to 2020.

    These dangerous cuts, which will leave our firefighters with fewer resources, come on top of more than 11,000 firefighter job cuts since 2010.

    The terrible tragedy of Grenfell Tower last year underlined the importance of a fully funded fire and rescue service, but the new cuts will run down capabilities and damage morale.

    I’m backing the Fire Brigades Union in calling on the Government to urgently reverse these cuts and protect Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.

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