BARRIE GRUNEWALD: Why St Helens can revive former glory

Council leader Barrie Grunewald
Council leader Barrie Grunewald

Firstly, I would like to start with welcoming a few new faces to St Helens Council.

I’m sure all the newly elected councillors will all do a fantastic job of representing their respective wards and act as a voice for the public.

I’d also like to welcome our new cabinet members on-board for the 2016-17 year, for what will be a year of change.

A new community safety portfolio strengthens the council’s commitment to safeguarding its residents – and new roles have been created to oversee new ways of working, as well as our new place in the Liverpool City Region.

Whether we like it or not, change is inevitable and we must be prepared for it. One thing that won’t change however is our total commitment to helping those people who, through no fault of their own, need the help that only we can provide. 

We will continue to make sure we meet all the challenges of the future head-on, but we will also be working closely with other bodies and partners to deliver the best possible services for the people of St Helens.

Residents – especially vulnerable groups – will be at the heart of every decision the council takes. The recent creation of the council’s Peoples Services Department is evidence of our determination to put people first.

At the recent annual council event in the town hall I outlined a four point blueprint designed to energise local talent and ambition – and re-kindle some of the borough’s past glories.

Raising ambition,

Growing the local economy,

Delivering a sustainable health and social care system

Ensuring people and communities are better connected – in digital, transport and service access terms.

With 2018 marking the borough’s 150th anniversary, I believe it is about time people were reminded about the debt owed by the world to local industrial pioneers.

I want to re-capture that ambition again – starting today.

We were a centre for industry, for innovation and for art and culture. We were at the forefront of modern technologies and our people aimed high. We were a place people wanted to be and where things got done.

St Helens gave the world the modern railway, canals, and powered the industrial revolution with our coal. We were the first Northern Powerhouse.

In short, this town led the way in new industries and technological change – and we need to have the ambition to do so again.

I have also unveiled a series of new policy measures including a new cultural partnership with the Arts Council, a new youth zone, a £2 million improvement fund to rid the borough of ‘grot spots’, a new People’s Board - to put people at the centre of health and care service re-design and an inspirational Ambassador Programme linking school students with high achievers.

There are also plans to create a housing company that will deliver more homes for people in the borough and a new, local energy supplier – offering fairly priced energy to local residents.

Finally, I would like to congratulate Councillor Dave Banks who has been announced as the new Mayor of St Helens for 2016-17.

Councillor Banks has been a fine representative of the Earlestown people since 2004, while his wife Jeanette, a Haydock Ward Councillor who will be his Mayoress, was also elected to the council in 2011.

For his Mayoral Charity in the year ahead Councillor Banks has chosen Jenson’s Twinkle Stars - a St Helens based charity that provides bereavement services to children and families throughout the North West.

The charity was set up in memory of stillborn baby Jenson Rigby who passed away in 2011. Jenson’s older brother, Jayden, struggled to understand where his baby brother had gone - and why his family was so sad.

Jenson’s Twinkle Stars aims to make a difference to families suffering with similar bereavements - and help them rebuild their lives while remembering their loved one. 

A congratulations is also in order to Billinge Ward Councillor Joe Pearson who will act as Deputy Mayor for 2016-17.