Barrie Grunewald - Budget vote affects us all

St Helens Town Hall
St Helens Town Hall

The words ‘council’ and ‘budget’ probably won’t inspire many people to read on. But hang on a moment…this stuff is really important.

It’s important because it affects every single person in this borough. One way or another council services touch everyone’s lives. And the amount of money we have to spend on those services is getting less and less each year.

Why? Because central government is giving us less and less money each year to provide them. Simple as that.

That’s why, last week, we had to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent. We know full well that people are struggling - and no increase in household costs is welcome.

But we also know there are very many people out there who depend on us to help them, particularly in these testing times. These include elderly people, people with disabilities, people with mental health issues and children who are at risk.

The government doesn’t seem to realise this. Or if they do, they don’t seem to care.

Those in power at Westminster should hang their heads in shame as we face soaring youth unemployment, record debts, worsening living standards, welfare cuts to those in need and a national budget which supports the wealthy and devastates the poor.

Speaking of which, it’s also worth mentioning the jaw droppingly unfair distribution of grants across the country. It’s quite apparent that northern councils are bearing the brunt of government cuts. On a per household basis it works out that we’re losing sizeable amounts, while affluent southern areas like Surrey will actually get an increase of £50.

Despite all this we’re still managing to do the right thing. As well as protecting those services that vulnerable people depend on, we’re committing an additional £1 million to the Business Development Fund to support retail in the town centre, £6 million to the Parkside development and £1 million to provide affordable mortgages for first time homebuyers.

g Great to see that the memory of our very own local hero Steve Prescott will be further celebrated by the Rugby Football League’s proposal to rename Man of Steel award in his honour.

It’s a fabulous honour and another fitting tribute to an extraordinary man. Well done to the 14 Super League clubs who gave the decision their unanimous backing at their extraordinary general meeting.

g And finally…if you’re battling withdrawal symptoms by taking part in today’s National No Smoking Day – keep it up, you’re doing really well. If you have cracked, don’t worry – tomorrow’s another day.

If you do want to give up smoking, there’s plenty of help available. Call 01744 814837 or email smoking.support@bridgewater.nhs.uk