BARRIE GRUNEWALD: St Helens is no place for hate

Towns across England have stood up to the far-right BNP. Pictured is an anti-BNP rally in Sunderland.
Towns across England have stood up to the far-right BNP. Pictured is an anti-BNP rally in Sunderland.

FROM my window I can see the growing number of floral tributes at the Cenotaph in Victoria Square for Drummer Lee Rigby.

Like everyone else I was appalled by his brutal slaying in Woolwich.

The fact that a British soldier can be killed on the streets of our capital, just because of the job he did, was absolutely chilling.

Those who committed this atrocity were seemingly driven by blind, brainwashed hatred.

But the reaction we’ve seen in some part of the country from far right organisations is just as bitter and twisted.

That’s why I was appalled to see a BNP march in St Helens last week to the town’s Muslim Centre.

Like everywhere else in the UK, St Helens is enriched by the ethnic diversity of its population – something most of us appreciate.

Drummer Rigby’s murder has been universally condemned - by Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and just about every other faith you care to name.

What happened in Woolwich had nothing to do with faith or race.

So let’s make sure we maintain our tradition as a place that welcomes people, wherever they are from, and send a clear message that St Helens is no place for hate.

CONTRARY to what many people might think, everyone at the council is painfully aware of the state of some of our roads around the borough.

Many of us drive cars and we all have those gritted teeth moments when one of our wheels hits a particularly deep pothole. Believe me, I know what it’s like and it’s not nice.

But what may surprise many are the lengths we go to to combat this problem.

We have a tried and tested policy for repairing potholes – and anything that needs repairing urgently is attended to as soon as we can physically get there.

Successive severe winters gave us a real headache, but our roads are inspected constantly and, as soon as we become aware of particularly bad holes, our repair teams are on to them within a couple of hours.

But we also know that a sticking plaster approach is no long-term solution.

So I’m delighted that one of my first jobs as leader has been to help steer through an £8m programme to improve our highways.

There will also be money for street lighting, reconstruction of footways, road gritting energy saving street lighting and road safety features plus much more.

For potholes we are earmarking £800,000 for their speedy repair.

But to that we are adding £1.2m on our main roads, to improve them too.

This follows an earlier £5m investment decision in February this year, which will improve a significant number of residential roads over the next two years.

Keeping our highways in the best possible shape is obviously vital from a safety point of view.

But well maintained highways also benefit the local economy and make our borough a place that people are more inclined to drive to for work and leisure purposes.

It also makes sound financial sense too.

By spending money now, we’re heading off potential problems in the future.

We calculate that today’s action will create long-term savings of more than £20m.

Barrie Grunewald - Leader of St Helens Council writes for the St Helens Reporter - follow the leader @CllrBarrieG