• Use of agency staff doubling in the NHS

    Conor McGinn, MP for St Helens North, has slammed the Government’s continued neglect of the NHS after new figures show spending on agency staff since 2010 has more than doubled at St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust.

    The figures, obtained by Mr McGinn in a Freedom of Information request, show that the total amount spent on agency staff has soared from £4.8 million in 2010/11 to £10.7 million in 2016/17 – more than doubling the cost of temporary staff to the Trust.

    An increase in spending on agency nurses has driven up the figures, with just £0.5m spent in 2010/11 but over £2m paid out in 2016/17 – and the figure is set to increase for the last financial year too.

    Instead of taking action to help hospitals reduce bills and hire more nurses, the Government has scrapped student nurse bursaries – meaning nursing applications dropped by a quarter in 2017.

    The drop in nursing applications and the increase in spending on agency staff shows that our local Trust is being forced to spend more to plug staffing gaps.

    Commenting, Mr McGinn said:

    “Spending on temporary and agency NHS staff has soared on this Government’s watch and it just goes to show that you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.

    “Despite the best efforts of our local Health Trust, hardworking and dedicated NHS staff in St Helens have endured years of real terms pay cuts as prices have risen, while the amount spent on agency staff has more than doubled to meet the increasing demand.

    “This is a direct result of this Government’s failure to properly run our NHS, and the decision to scrap student nurse bursaries will make matters worse, with a quarter fewer nursing course applications last year alone.

    “A dependence on agency workers to plug staffing gaps is bad for the long term future of our NHS and the Government should commit to turning these numbers around and recruiting more permanent staff as a matter of urgency.

    “Local Trusts like St Helens should not have to fork out to fix a problem created by the Tory Government in London.”

  • Beating the Bounds

    I was delighted to join Ste Lingard and so many others from across the borough to take part in Beating the Bounds 2018.

    The 42.5 mile, one-day trek around the boundaries of St Helens reflects an old tradition of teaching young people about the borders of their parishes while bringing the local community together.

    Ste has revived the tradition as a charity event in support of St Helens Mind, with the inaugural Beating the Bounds last year raising almost £2,000 for the local mental health charity.

    This year’s event, taking place in the 150th anniversary year of St Helens, went from strength to strength and it was great to see so many from the local community out to support Ste and other walkers.

    It is also a timely reminder of the excellent work done by St Helens Mind during Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 – you can still support Ste’s fantastic efforts on his fundraising page here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=SteLingard&pageUrl=4


  • Bringing Channel 4 to the Liverpool City Region

    I’m joining the bid by Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram to bring Channel 4 to the Liverpool City Region.

    With the public service broadcaster looking for a new headquarters, Channel 4 would find a soulmate in our region – and I think St Helens has so much to offer this partnership.

    Channel 4 is also set to increase its spending on shows made by TV production companies based outside London from £169m annually to about £350m a year by 2023.

    This represents a golden opportunity for our borough’s creative sector and is an important chance to show our creative potential in our 150th anniversary year.

    I hope that the bid is successful and I’ll be supporting it any way I can to help the business case for Channel 4 to come to the Liverpool City Region.

  • New train service for Newton Le Willows

    It is welcome news that TransPennine Express services will now call at Newton-le-Willows, creating a direct link to cities in Yorkshire for the first time, including Huddersfield, Leeds, York, Scarborough and even as far as Durham and Newcastle.

    The amended train routes will also mean faster journeys from St Helens and Newton-le-Willows to Liverpool and Manchester, with the inter-city journey time being reduced to 35 minutes down from 52.

    I have campaigned for better services for rail passengers across our borough and worked with the TPE and the Liverpool City Region to ensure these new and faster routes which will help boost jobs and growth in St Helens, with faster journeys creating more economic opportunities.

    In this important 150th anniversary year, it is also a welcome boost for the local economy by opening up our borough to more visitors from other parts of the country.

    St Helens has a proud industrial heritage, particularly in the history of the railways, but too often our region has been left behind, with just £682 per person allocated for transport spending across the North West – less than half the £1,943 per person spending in London.

    These new rail links and improved journey times are a step in the right direction and it is important that passengers continue to benefit from increased connectivity across the North West and beyond.

  • our historic twinning with Stuttgart

    Our creative industries foster strong links between our communities, in art, music, sport and culture, across the country and internationally.

    In our borough’s 150th year, it is important that we renew and strengthen these bonds, as well as ensuring our young people can fully benefit from them.

    The twinning of St Helens and the German city of Stuttgart is an excellent example of what can be achieved for our communities and this is underpinned by our creative industries.I spoke in Westminster to highlight the historic partnership between St Helens and Stuttgart – the first such partnership after World War 2.

  • The increased use of food banks

    New statistics released by the Trussell Trust have shown that between April 2017 and March 2018, more than 5,000 three day emergency food supplies were given to people facing crisis in St Helens North. Of these, nearly 2,000 were given to children.

    It is a shocking indictment of this Tory Government’s cuts to our in-work benefits and our welfare system that thousands of people are turning to food banks in our borough in this day and age.

    Hardworking volunteers and community organisations like the Hope Centre do an excellent job and work tirelessly to support those who need help in our society, but time and again we are seeing that people are being forced to use food banks because of the Government’s failed policies.

    With the botched rollout of Universal Credit now extended to St Helens, I am concerned that more families will be left without – with figures showing food bank referrals have increased at more than double the national average in areas in which already have the Universal Credit Full Service.

    Across the country, the Trussell Trust have found that ‘benefit delays’ account for nearly a quarter of food bank referrals, closely followed by ‘benefit changes’.

    This is simply not good enough for our communities in St Helens or elsewhere in the UK. The Government must act to get a grip of this crisis and stop driving up food bank referrals with its botched welfare reforms.


  • Sainsbury’s announcement

    Today’s news of a proposed merger will come as a shock to Asda and Sainsbury workers in St Helens, across the North West and nationwide.

    There is much focus on the fact that the companies have said there are no plans to close any stores but I am concerned that they have not given the same assurances to thousands of staff who work in logistics, distribution centres and delivery, including those situated in St Helens and nearby.

    I have been in touch with local and national trade union representatives and have raised this with Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Rebecca Long-Bailey.

    After months of secret talks, Asda and Sainsbury must now inform staff here in St Helens and across the country of the impact the proposed merger could have on their jobs.

  • A fair deal for St Helens

    One of my top priorities is to fight for a fairer deal for St Helens and to ensure our schools, hospitals and transport system are fully funded and deliver proper services.

    Some of the problems we face and the differences between our area and other regions are laid bare in a recent report by England’s Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield called “Growing up North”.

    It lays out in stark detail some of the challenges facing children in our region and shows that unless we get urgent action from the Government, the gap between children in the North and those in London is likely to widen over the next 15 years.

    Among the report’s findings are that a disproportionate number of children in the North are growing up in communities of entrenched disadvantage which have not enjoyed the same financial growth or government support that have improved opportunities in other parts of the country, especially London and the South East.

    As a result, too many disadvantaged children in our region are being left behind, with many facing an education gap that starts before they even get into the classroom and widens throughout education.

    Too many children drop out of education before they reach the age of 18. The Government needs to do far more to invest in our schools and help transform the prospects of our children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    As I highlighted last year, schools in St Helens are facing crippling budget cuts of up to £9 million by 2019. The huge Government funding cuts are the equivalent of £386 per pupil and could mean the loss of up to 238 teachers, according to figures compiled by the teaching unions.

    If children in our region are to get equality of opportunity when it comes to jobs and training, we need the Government to reverse its funding cuts to our schools. I will continue to fight to make sure we get the best possible deal for schools in St Helens North so children get the best possible start in life.


  • 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.

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