It’s been a sad week or two so far, with the borough saying farewell to one of its favourite sons – Saints legend Steve Prescott(pictured).
Yet at the same time it’s been deeply moving to see how many people’s lives were touched by Steve’s superhuman efforts as he battled cancer and forged a lasting legacy through the Foundation that now bears his name.
He will be sadly missed and, as I said in this column last week, the council will be doing all it can to support the Foundation as it carries Steve’s legacy forward.
Steve passed away on the same weekend that the borough paid tribute to the gallant servicemen and women who gave their lives for this country. It added to the solemn and moving atmosphere at the war memorial in Victoria Square as we gathered to mourn the fallen.
It’s noticeable how many more people have been taking part in the Remembrance Day proceedings over the last few years. The recent conflicts in the Middle East have brought the sacrifices of our service personnel into sharp focus for a new generation and it was heartening to see so many young people paying their respects at the service.
g It’s strange how events can coincide. My colleague - and current Mayor - Andy Bowden went to Stuttgart last week to represent the borough at the funeral of Manfred Rommel, who has done more than many to heal the wounds of the Second World War.
Herr Rommel became Mayor of Stuttgart after Dr Arnulf Klett, who welcomed our then Mayor Alderman Walter Marshall in 1948 to establish one of the first, and ultimately most successful, twinning relationships between a British and German town.
Today St Helens and Stuttgart retain many links including educational trips between the two areas, plus cultural and important business links.
g A few months ago you may remember that I was pleased to see the Archbishop of Canterbury planning to expanding local credit unions to compete with Wonga, the online lender.
The Most Rev Justin Welby, a former financier who sits on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, said he wanted to force the company ‘out of business.’
As I said at the time, St Helens and other parts of the UK badly hit by the recession, are vulnerable to pay day loan companies and loan sharks offering quick, easy credit.
Now Ed Milliband has stepped into the debate by warning that Labour will outlaw adverts for payday loans during children’s programmes.
He’s quite rightly accused lenders of ‘putting pressure on our kids’ with child-friendly, animated commercials to take advantage of families feeling the squeeze.
These loans are slickly marketed but cause many people pain and misery. As Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, says, they are the ‘crack cocaine’ of lending - creating a huge new market that didn’t really exist five years ago.
Unfortunately it just seems to be our country where they thrive – with other countries having far more effective controls.