Barrie Grunewald - Price freeze is good for all

Good to see that the UK’s second biggest energy provider seems to be taking note of Labour leader Ed Milliband’s recent call for a prize freeze.

SSE’s five million customers won’t see any increases in their gas and electricity prices until 2016. Let’s hope their competitors follow suit.

Many people in areas like St Helens really do struggle to pay their bills. The Department of Energy and Climate Change estimates that 16.5 per cent of homes (around 13,000) in this borough suffer fuel poverty – which is well above the national average of 14.6 per cent.

The simplest definition of fuel poverty is when a household has to spend more than 10 per cent of its income on fuel bills to heat the home to an adequate level.

It’s a scandal that this can happen in this day and age and something needs to be done soon to help those who can’t afford to keep warm.

We’re doing all we can. We’re making people aware of the grants that can help with new insulation and boilers, and we help to coordinate the regular mass switching schemes that can see residents across Merseyside saving hundreds of pounds on their bills.

The most recent one has just closed, but keep your eye out for new schemes in the future.

g As I mentioned last week, all the talk about the name of the new combined authority covering St Helens and its neighbouring authorities has detracted from the more serious business – which is improving our region’s economic outlook.

So when I attended the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s first meeting yesterday (1 April) I was keen to get that particular issue out of the way once and for all.

I submitted a motion to scrap the tongue-twisting name imposed on us by the government (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral Combined Authority) in favour of the rather more straightforward Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

It follows a u-turn by the government who now seem more willing to let us choose our own title.

I’ll give you some more detail next week.

g I know there are many people throughout the borough working hard to protect and promote the borough’s heritage.

And come September there’s a great opportunity for the various groups to showcase their buildings and projects.

Heritage Open Days is a national project that we’ve played a full part in over the last few years. It sees historic venues opening their doors – free of charge – to the public

We’re coordinating events in St Helens, which take place between 11 and 14 September, but want to see even more venues taking part in 2014.

So we’d welcome additional enquiries from those who haven’t been involved in the past.

Last year over 20 historic venues across the borough opened their doors to the public, including St Helens Town Hall and the Gamble Building.

Others included The World of Glass, the Smithy Heritage Centre, St Helens Masonic Hall, St Helens Parish Church, Mill Street Volunteer Hall and Mansion House.

Any groups or organisations who want to get involved should contact Gary Maddock on 01744 676731 or email garymaddock@sthelens.gov.uk