• Cash is a vital payment method for businesses and residents in St Helens North

    I am concerned that the shift towards contactless and chip & pin payments, hastened by COVID-19, is disadvantaging older and vulnerable people locally who still use cash.

    Cash is a vital payment method for businesses and residents in St Helens North, as it is for 18 million people who regularly rely on it across the UK. Yet, one in ten have recently had cash refused in stores and ATM transactions dropped by nearly two thirds during lockdown. On top of this, 25% of free ATMs in our constituency have closed since 2018.

    Increasing contactless and online payments during the pandemic has been understandable, but the Government must have credible plans in place to protect access to cash – especially free ATMs – and the ability to spend it, particularly for those living in deprived, remote or rural communities where alternative banking services are tougher to access.

    This crisis has already impacted some of the most vulnerable people in our society – we mustn’t let them fall further behind.

  • Tory Government has broken promise on TV licences

    I am disappointed but not surprised that the Tory Government has broken promise by refusing to fund the extension of free TV licences for over-75s, with the scheme due to end in August.

    For many of the four million over-75s affected, including thousands in St Helens borough, the television isn’t simply the ‘box in the corner’, it is central to their lives, as both a constant companion and a window to the world – made clearer than ever by lockdown and shielding.

    After years of cuts, it’s disingenuous of the Conservatives to blame the BBC. This will no doubt affect many older people’s well-being and household finances. Instead of passing the buck, we must see a better solution.

  • support for local businesses

    I’m pleased that Labour-run St Helens Council have acted to support local businesses who missed out on support from the national funding scheme.
    I’ve been pushing hard on this since it was raised with me by several business owners and local Labour councillors in April, when the first scheme was announced.
    This second scheme, which is being delivered across the borough, will be open to independent, locally based retail hospitality and leisure businesses with premises from £51k up to and including £100k Rateable Value – and charities that haven’t previously been able to access grant funding.
    This funding will make a real difference to businesses on our high streets and charities supporting our communities.

  • #KeepShopsSafe

    Today, it becomes mandatory in England to wear a face covering in our shops and supermarkets – unless you qualify for an exemption.

    I want to urge all residents across St Helens North to please – if you can – wear a mask and continue adhering to existing social distancing and hygiene guidance to #KeepShopsSafe.

    Be considerate towards those who are unable to wear a mask, and also to deaf or hearing-impaired people who may need you to take the mask off to understand what you are saying.

    Please also respect our shop-workers – it is not their job to enforce and uphold the new rules, it’s our responsibility. Any abuse towards them or their colleagues will always be totally unacceptable.

  • violence towards our hard-working shop workers

    I have been appalled to see the sharp rise in threats and violence towards our hard-working shop workers here in St Helens North and across the country during the course of this pandemic.

    Abuse against shop workers has doubled since the beginning of the crisis, with over half of staff experiencing verbal abuse and nearly a third having receiving threats from customers. This is completely unacceptable and must be met with decisive action from the Government.

    I have worked closely with Usdaw Union and local shop reps on this issue over recent months, and I fully support my Labour colleague Alex Norris MP, who has spearheaded a campaign to tackle this vile behaviour and protect workers through a change in the law.

    Our shop workers, alongside other key workers, have been amongst the heroes of this crisis. They always deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

  • Cycling and pedestrian infrastructure is vital

    Cycling and pedestrian infrastructure must become vital to our recovery post-pandemic, as we seek to improve people’s health and reduce emissions for the future.

    Whilst cities across the UK have accelerated with their cycling infrastructure, areas like St Helens borough have not received the right investment from central government to ensure residents can enjoy the benefits cycling and walking has to offer.

    We already know there is a massive funding gap between the capital and the North, with a mere £376 spent for residents in the North on transport, compared to £903 for those in London. Talk of “levelling up” our region means nothing unless this chronic underinvestment in our public transport is swiftly bridged.

    Many constituents have rightly written to me about this issue, and in turn the Government must now understand that our borough needs tailored plans; not a one-size fits all model.

    As we come out of lockdown, we cannot go back to business as usual. That’s why I will keep working closely with Labour colleagues and the shadow Transport team to ensure buses, trains, cycling and walking can work well for everybody.

  • COVID Summer Food Fund

    After the incredible campaign on Holiday Hunger, and wide public pressure, the Government has now published details on how the new COVID Summer Food Fund will work:

    The scheme will enable children who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals to be supported over the summer, and it will be administered via our local schools.

    Eligible pupils can receive a £90 voucher to cover the 6-week holiday period. If the school’s summer holiday lasts 7 full weeks instead, the voucher amount per child will increase to £105.

    Vouchers need to be ordered at least one week before the child’s school closes and, in some cases, the vouchers can also be broken down into smaller amounts. They can be redeemed at many of our area’s local supermarkets.

    Labour knew how vital these vouchers would be for so many families. I know our schools, working with St Helens Council, will be fully supporting them this summer.

  • the re-opening of businesses across our constituency

    Saturday saw the re-opening of many businesses across our constituency and country. It also coincided with Independents’ Day UK, where we celebrated and recognised the many independent businesses at the heart of our local communities.

    We in St Helens North are incredibly proud of all our phenomenal independent businesses – they add so much variety and vibrancy to our communities.

    We know it’s an incredibly tough time for all our independents, so why not boost community businesses and support them today.

  • Clatterbridge Cancer Centre officially opens

    I was delighted to see the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre officially open last week in Liverpool.

    The state-of-the-art centre will excellently serve residents here in Merseyside and Cheshire by helping to tackle the devastatingly high rates of cancer seen across our area. As the centre of an extensive network of treatment centres across Liverpool City Region, it will transform cancer care for the better and deliver a world-class service for St Helens North residents facing difficult times.

    From my discussions with Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, North West health officials and patients, I know the centre’s opening will be a huge boost to outcomes in our health service, and this success will be testament to the hard work and vision of all those working in our NHS locally.

  • support for The beauty industry

    The beauty industry contributes nearly £30bn to our economy, so it is understandable that many in the industry here in St Helens borough are angered by the disparaging comments made by the Prime Minister this week.

    Whilst hairdressers and barbers are set to open from tomorrow, beauty salons, spas and other wellness facilities are left in the dark, unable to open with no certainty or clarity as to when they can re-open their doors to their communities.

    We know coronavirus increases inequalities for women and that the current public health emergency will likely have a disproportionate economic impact for women, who often work in service industries hit hard by Covid-19, including the beauty industry.

    It therefore adds insult to injury that the Prime Minister appears to be mocking one of the industries that is dominated by women. The Government must take the concerns of this industry seriously and get a plan to re-open these important businesses.

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