• Barclays Bank Earlestown

    I was deeply concerned to hear that Barclays Bank is planning to close its Earlestown Branch at the end of August.

    This is bad news for my constituents in Newton-le-Willows, whose nearest branch will now be in St Helens.

    Following the closure announcement, I met with senior management at Barclays to seek assurances about the impact of the changes and they have assured me that customers wanting to carry out every day, over the counter, transactions will be able to use the Post Office on Haydock Street, Earlestown.

    While the way that many people choose to bank is changing, it is vital those who rely on a more traditional way of banking and might not have online accounts, still have access to banking services.

     

  • European Economic Area (EEA)

    I have consistently said that our future relationship with the EU must put jobs and the economy first and must therefore maintain the benefits of the Single Market and the customs union, which may require staying in both.

    This is a firm test that I am committed to holding the Government’s Brexit deal against when it comes before Parliament for approval. If the Government’s Brexit deal does not meet this test, I will vote against it. Securing a new and strong relationship with and perhaps within the Single Market is not only vital for jobs and the economy in St Helens and the UK, but also for ensuring a continued close partnership with the EU. In my view it is the only feasible way to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland

    I share the understandable and growing concern that the Government’s internal conflicts could lead it to an unacceptable countenance of new trade barriers between the UK and the EU. Not only would that be bad for jobs and the economy, it would also be bad for people’s rights. There should be no lowering of common standards, deregulation or divergence from the rights and protections that the UK helped to shape as a member of the EU. However, I fear that this is the likely path ahead under the Government’s plans.

    It is also vital that strong transitional arrangements are secured on the same basic terms as now, including within the Single Market, to avoid a cliff edge for our economy between Brexit day and the implementation of our future relationship with EU. Unfortunately, key aspects of the transitional arrangements negotiated between the Government and the EU remain ambiguous and unresolved.

    The amendment to which you refer was one of several to be made to the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords, in a series of defeats for the Government. It is unclear when the Government will bring the EU Withdrawal Bill back to the House of Commons for consideration of those amendments. This is a vital piece of legislation and I can assure you that I will be looking at each amendment carefully. In the meantime, I will continue to keep pressure on the Government to secure a Brexit deal that works for jobs, the economy and rights.

  • 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

     

  • My Equal Marriage Bill

    Hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland and across Britain and Ireland who support the right of same-sex couples to marry will be outraged that one Tory MP was able to prevent the progress of my Equal Marriage Bill in the House of Commons last Friday.

    Ministers now need to clarify how they intend to ensure that the right to equal marriage in Northern Ireland – which has the support of the Assembly, Parliament and the public – becomes law. The Government can’t continue to talk out of both sides of its mouth on this issue. It can and should legislate to extend equal marriage to Northern Ireland – because if it’s good enough for my constituents in St Helens and for people in London, Dublin, Cardiff and Edinburgh then it’s good enough for people in Belfast too.

    I will keep fighting alongside and working with the Love Equality NI campaign to get this done. A rally is planned in Belfast on Saturday 2nd June in support of Equal Marriage. My Bill is due to return to Parliament in late October.

    You can watch me being interviewed on The Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC alongside two fabulous women Cara McCann and Amanda McGurk. This is not going away, and we are not giving up.

  • 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.

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