Independent candidate wants to give Rainhill 'a voice to challenge back'

Donna Greaves
Donna Greaves

It came as a hefty blow to Labour when independent candidate James Tasker took Rainhill at last year’s local elections.

While losing the seat was bad enough, it was the nature of the defeat that really stung, with Labour’s Stephen Glover losing by a landslide.

This year, a new independent candidate will be looking to replicate Coun Tasker’s success by delivering another knockout blow to the Labour-controlled council.

Prominent green belt campaigner Donna Greaves will go up against Labour’s former chief whip Joe De’Asha, with Conservative Henry Spriggs also in the running.

Ms Greaves told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she decided to stand as an independent because the current system has left Rainhill residents feeling “disillusioned and feeling ignored”.

“So much is imposed from St Helens town hall and it’s about time Rainhill had a voice to challenge back,” Ms Greaves said.

“For too long decisions have been waved through because one political party has had every level of the consultation process covered from the parish council to inside the council chamber.”

Like Coun Tasker before her, Ms Greaves has built her campaign around green belt issues.

This makes sense, given her involvement in the green belt group, Rainhill Save Our Green Belt.

She said: “It’s no secret I have been heavily involved with the preservation of green belt against the Local Plan and despite having two of the three local sites removed, I find it incredulously arrogant that councillors and prospective councillors are still behaving like it’s not an issue in Rainhill.

“They use the excuse that the remaining site is predominantly sited in the Liberal Democrat-controlled Eccleston Park, so therefore not a Rainhill issue.

“However, this completely ignores and negates the concerns of all the Rainhill residents that will be impacted on by the increase in traffic, pollution and demand to our over-stretched healthcare provisions and our already cut-back fire and police services, so it is our issue.”

Ms Greaves said the council should utilise all of the brownfield land in the borough before any green sites are developed.

As well as protecting the green belt, she said this would help revitalise and improve areas that have become eyesores within the community.

Another issue that is concerning Ms Greaves has been a perceived lack of progress in the regeneration of Rainhill district centre.

She said that, despite being one of the largest districts in St Helens, Rainhill does not seem to get the investment that other areas in St Helens get.

Ms Greaves also criticised some of the decision-making within the town hall, saying their needs to be “better prioritisation”.

“Cuts appear to be the first port of call, rather than looking at how we could do things better, with recycling and three-weekly brown bin collections being a classic example,” she said.

“We have St Helens first magazine, which is a poor utilisation of resources, whilst lollipop men and women are cut. How is that right?

“It’s things like this that have been passed without being contested because the people of Rainhill have been largely unaware of what’s proposed in their name.”

With one week until voters head to the polls, Ms Greaves hopes she has done enough to convince voters to move away from the status quo and vote independent.

Ms Greaves said: “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, just pump it up again, give it a polish and get it back to being at its best.

“What I lack now in council knowledge of process, I’ll make up for in enthusiasm and fresh perspective because I’m not jaded, and I genuinely haven’t heard it all before.”

Ms Greaves is not the only independent councillor who will be looking to be elected next week, with Paul Wilcock standing in Moss Bank.

The local elections will take place on May 2.