• 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.

  • Conor attended the launch of Clickworks

    Conor attended the launch of Clickworks, a new hi-tech, digital hub for local businesses in St Helens town centre.

    Clickworks, based in Hardshaw Street, is an initiative of St Helens Chamber and offers a range of facilities and equipment for such as video-conferencing, meeting space and 3D printing. The new hub will also provide training courses to help people develop their digital skills.

    The centre was part-funded through the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and was opened by Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham who spoke of the importance to of the digital economy to our region.

    Speaking at the launch, Conor said: “This is a fantastic new facility that can really benefit local businesses and those looking to improve their digital skills. The funding from the city region is to be welcomed and having Steve here today demonstrates his commitment to all areas of the LCR. St Helens Chamber also deserve huge credit for its role in delivering this new venture, proving once again why they are considered one of the best chambers of commerce in the country.”

  • policing concerns

    At a recent constituency surgery in Rainford, I met with a group of residents to talk about policing in the village, the number of burglaries and anti-social behaviour taking place.

    I am a strong supporter of our police officers, PCSOs and civilian staff and have raised my concerns in Parliament over police cuts – and the impact of those cuts on policing our community and on the officers themselves. Merseyside police have seen officer numbers drop by over 270 in the last three years alone, while at the same time crime has risen by nearly 14%.

    I will be taking up residents’ concerns with the police, the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner and the Home Secretary. The issues raised in Rainford are the same raised by residents in areas across the constituency – residents at surgeries in Billinge, Moss Bank and Blackbrook reported the same problems and issues.

    The thin blue line is being stretched to breaking point. Jack, the young son of one of the residents, read out a letter (pictured) he asked me to send to the Chief Constable about crime in the area. If a primary school pupil can see what the problem is, why can’t the Home Secretary?

  • Conor’s visit to Rectory CofE School

    Conor visited Rectory CofE School in Garswood to meet the children at the school and talk to staff about additional needs provision.

    As well as mainstream provision, Rectory also offers specialist education for children with autism and moderate learning difficulties. Conor visited a number of the classes and discussed the challenges faced by the school in meeting the needs of the additional needs pupils given the increased pressure on the schools budget.

    He also took questions from the year 5 and 6 pupils – and some of their teachers!

    Conor said: “I really enjoyed my morning at Rectory and the dedication of the head teacher Mrs Sweeney and the staff is clear to see. The school has strong links to the local church and wider community, and the children were a real credit to their families and carers. But like so many other schools in the borough, funding cuts are impacting on the resources our education establishments need. I’ve said time and again that our schools must be properly funded to give our teachers the resources they need to give children the best possible start in life – and it’s a message I’ll be taking from Garswood to Westminster.”

  • Mersey Gateway Bridge tolls

    On the first anniversary of the opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge, I joined a group of Labour MPs in writing to the Transport Secretary to call for the scrapping of the tolls.

    Many of my constituents have been left financially worse off by the tolls, and I know of businesses that have relocated because of their impact.

    While the bridge is to be welcomed for its impact on improving the region’s transport infrastructure, the tolls are in fact a barrier to economic growth.

    An early end to tolls on the Severn Bridge between England and south Wales has been announced but here in the North West we are already short-changed when it comes to investing in transport infrastructure and the tolls mean we are over-charged too.

    If the Government is serious about its commitment to the Northern Powerhouse and increasing regional productivity then it needs to scrap the tolls, and put the money back in the pockets of local residents and businesses.

  • launch of a new not-for-profit company in our local communities

    Conor joined representatives from local housing associations, the voluntary sector, St Helens Council and Jobcentre plus for the launch of a new not-for-profit company aiming to provide jobs, education and training in our local communities.

    As well as back to work programs, Genesis plans to organise courses on everything from first aid and food hygiene for local businesses. It will be working closely with local employers and assisting those they work with look for jobs, improve English and maths skills and will provide IT support.

    Among the sites it will work from is Derbyshire Hill Family Centre in Parr.

    Conor said “it is important that we give local people the chance to take advantage of the employment opportunities being created in the local area. Initiatives like this are vital to improving skills, building confidence and enjancing employability. I wish Genesis well in playing its part in supporting residents into work.”

    Company founder, Roy Williams, added “it was good to see so many people at the Genesis launch event to hear about the work we are doing to support local people and improve their skills and help employers find new staff. I would like to thank Conor for his support and commitment to initiatives like this.”

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