• 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.

  • 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.

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