Leading figures from industry, politics and sport have paid tribute to retiring MP Dave Watts.
Council leader Barrie Grundewald, tipped as one of the frontrunners to replace Mr Watts as Labour candidate in May’s election, hailed him as a “tremendous MP”.
“Dave’s decision to step down has come as a shock,” he said. “He has been a tremendous MP and will be missed by everyone who knew him, worked with him or benefited from his hard work on their behalf. I’ve known Dave for a long time and have the greatest respect for him both personally and professionally.
“He is a man of great integrity who has always put the interests of his constituents – and the community - first. He has played a vital role at Westminster fighting for St Helens and in his role as Parliamentary Labour Party Chair.
“Over the years he has played a big part in helping to shape today’s St Helens - securing funding for key projects across the borough.”
Saints chairman Eamonn McManus hailed Mr Watts’ unflagging support for Saints.
He said: “I would like to wish David well in his retirement. He has been unstinting in his work for his constituents over a long period and always supportive of the Saints, which has been very much appreciated by all at the club.”
Kath Boullen, chief executive St Helen Chamber, said Mr Watts had been an outstanding advocate for local business. “Dave has been an excellent MP, and a true supporter of all aspects of ‘St Helens life’,” she added.
And St Helens Council’s chief executive Carole Hudson said Mr Watts would be “a hard act to follow”.
“He has been an excellent ambassador for St Helens,” she said. “He has always put the interests of his constituents first and championed St Helens at every opportunity. Dave has also been a key player in many of the key infrastructure projects now benefitting the town.”