Barrie Grunewald: A true champion for St Helens

Former St Helens Council leader Marie Rimmer, who is a candidate to become St Helens' next MP
Former St Helens Council leader Marie Rimmer, who is a candidate to become St Helens' next MP

I was delighted to see that my colleague Marie Rimmer has announced that she is to stand as parliamentary candidate for the St Helens South constituency.

Marie would be a tremendous ambassador for the town. She knows St Helens like the back of her hand and has spent most of her life championing our borough and fighting for local people.

St Helens is probably one of the safest Labour seats in the country and it might be tempting for the party nationally to parachute in someone from elsewhere. But I believe it would be a real missed opportunity if someone with Marie’s experience were to be overlooked.

I know Marie will fight for our town and her track record over the years is second to none when it comes to delivering results. There really is no one better for the job.

g Getting on the housing ladder is getting harder and harder for young people. It’s a real concern that lenders are either not offering mortgages or are demanding sky-high deposits way out of reach for first time buyers.

In St Helens though we’re determined to try and change that. So we’ve teamed up with Lloyds Bank to help young house buyers by asking for deposits of just five per cent.

Our new local Lend a Hand scheme will help buyers who can afford a mortgage - but have not previously been able to build up the necessary deposit.

Subject to Lloyds Bank’s usual lending criteria, borrowers will be able to select any existing property in the area covered by St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council up to a maximum loan of £125,000.

First-time buyers simply put down a minimum five per cent of the property price, and the council provides a cash backed indemnity of up to 20 per cent as additional security.

g Finally, I was glad to see The House of Lords has backed a Labour plan to ban smoking in cars carrying children - despite opposition from the government.

Research by the British Lung Foundation shows around half a million 11-15 year olds are exposed to second-hand smoke in family cars every week.

Banning smoking in cars carrying children would protect young lungs from the dangerous cocktail of chemicals found in second-hand smoke.

The Labour amendment enables the government – at a later date - to make it a criminal offence for drivers to fail to prevent smoking in their vehicle when children are present. But it does not compel the government to do so.

Labour however, has said that if the measure does not become law before the next election, it will be included in its manifesto.