First of all a happy, healthy and peaceful to New Year to everyone in St Helens!
As 2014 gets underway I’m sure everyone is looking forward to better things – certainly on the economic front. Despite our best efforts to protect the most vulnerable members of our community, it’s clear that everyone is enduring the worst cost of living crisis in a generation.
We keep hearing that the economy is improving, but for most people that simply doesn’t ring true. The price of food, energy, clothing and fuel are all going up – yet wages are not keeping pace.
We’re doing all we can here in St Helens to soften the blow of central government’s austerity policies, but increasingly our hands are being tied by draconian cuts to our budgets and hundreds of job losses at the council.
But we’ve still managed to strike a major blow for the local economy – my number one priority – with a £1m shot in the arm for small and medium sized businesses in St Helens.
Our new Business Development Fund will help our local employers develop local export markets and supply chains. It will also assist small businesses in attracting foreign investment – safeguarding existing jobs and creating new ones.
If we can get the local economy moving in the right direction, everything else falls into place. More jobs mean better prospects, better health, better education and a feelgood factor that works its way through the borough.
And in the very near future we’ll be announcing some exciting new developments in the borough that will further increase the number of jobs on offer for local people!
g Finally, many congratulations to two people who have been rightly recognised in the New Year Honours List for the contributions they’ve made to our community over the years.
Margaret Houghton, Head of French at Carmel College, was awarded the OBE for services to education, while Graham Fenney, Chair of Rainford Rangers Junior Football Club gets the BEM for services to grassroots and youthfootball in St Helens.
Well done to them both!
g If you’ve set yourself some New Year resolutions, the best of luck! And don’t forget, if they involve giving up smoking or cutting back on the booze, there’s plenty of help available. Just go to the Public Health pages of the council’s website where you’ll find some useful links under the ‘staying healthy’ section (http://www.sthelens.gov.uk/Health).