Local elections: Parties have their say on the key issues in St Helens

The parties have their say ahead of the local elections
The parties have their say ahead of the local elections

With the local elections on the horizon, the political parties have shared their views on some of the key issues facing the people of St Helens.


A third of the seats on St Helens Council across 16 wards will be contested, with all five major parties represented.

Currently, the make-up of the council is Labour (41), Liberal Democrat (3), Conservative (3) and independent (1).

This year there are candidates from Labour and the Conservatives in all 16 wards.

The Green Party has entered 14 candidates, while the Liberal Democrats will contest six seats and UKIP will contest three.

Two independent candidates will also stand in Rainhill and Moss Bank.

You vote for the candidates in the ward you live in, with those elected to serve on the council for a term of four years.

While the council will remain Labour-controlled regardless of the outcome of the vote, the overall dynamic of the council can shift considerably.

Ahead of the crucial vote on May 2, we asked all of the parties to share their views on some of the key issues facing the borough over the coming years.

Here’s what they had to say.

LABOUR

Housing

Despite government setting the rules and targets for our Local Plan, we have managed to protect over 60 per cent of the borough from future development. The government will now determine whether the plan can be adopted.

We will continue to encourage development on brownfields and will lobby government for the £40 million we need to clean up even more brownfield land for re-use. This will help ensure the limited amount of government-named ‘safeguarded land’ will remain safe from development for at least the 15 years’ life of the plan.

We are committed to ensuring developments are matched with necessary infrastructure. We will allocate £1 million to support the building of much-needed affordable homes, introduce a Tenants’ Charter for rented housing, continue our work against anti-social behaviour and support the national campaign for leasehold reform.

Employment

Labour will continue to deliver on our pledge of 5,000 new jobs in the borough.

We will work to bring the UK’s base for new glass manufacturing techniques to St Helens this year and break down the barriers stopping residents getting jobs, by delivering our sustainable growth commission and implementing its recommendations.

We will work to improve apprenticeships take up by 15 per cent and give the partners of Armed Forces veterans a guarantee of an interview for jobs at the council.

Health and social care

Labour pledges to increase the 72 per cent of our budget we already spend on our vulnerable older and younger residents and children.

We will make St Helens a child-friendly borough to build on the £5 million funding increase we have given to our children’s services and expand our award-winning St Helens Cares services to help people live healthier and longer lives, including giving £50,000 to help community groups combat loneliness and promote dementia awareness.

We will campaign for the reform of adult social care funding.

Town centre regeneration

Labour will agree a major investment deal for our town centres and build on the £2 million investments we have already made in Haydock, Rainhill and Earlestown centres.

We are actively bidding for monies to boost our high streets and will announce our plans for key regeneration steps soon.

Cuts to services

By 2020, the Tories will have cut our core budget by 71 per cent in ten years. That’s £90 million less to cover over 1,200 functions required by law. Yet we still have the lowest council tax rates on Merseyside.

Despite our careful use of resources, we face difficult decisions to protect services with another year of £5 million cuts. This is why we continue to campaign against austerity and the emerging government proposals to move even more funding from northern councils to the south.

Blue light services

The Tories and the coalition government before that together have inflicted the third highest level of cuts in the country on Merseyside Police. 25 per cent of officer posts have been lost. The fire service has had its budget cut in half.

We deplore the pressure this puts on our first responders and the communities they serve.

We will continue to work to ensure the police meet their commitment for new stations in St Helens town and Earlestown and look forward to the new fire station on Watson Street.

Education

Although education is now largely controlled through central government, we continue to press for better outcomes for the borough’s pupils and students.

There has been a £5.4 billion shortfall in school funding in England over the past three years. Special educational need and disabled students in the North face 22 per cent cuts.

So, we will lobby government to give our schools the funding they need for the borough’s pupils and students to excel.

We will agree a deal with employers for care leavers to have equal access to jobs and education.

Environment

We are supporting the Liverpool City Region 2019 Year of the environment.

We will phase out plastic cup use in the council and fund innovations to make waste recycling easier and ensure we meet the government’s 50 per cent brown bin target.

We will lobby the Department for Transport for the £200 million investment needed to improve traffic flow and reduce air pollution.

CONSERVATIVES

Housing

The borough needs more affordable/social housing, it does not need more houses costing £400,000 plus. The group believes that the Local Plan is flawed in many ways.

The group also believes that mass building should not take place on green belt land when there are still acres of brownfield land available.

Employment

Jobs are very important to the borough as is the economy, however the group is frustrated by the fact that the town centre is seeing more and more shops close.

Health and social care

Health and social care is coming under pressure and the group believes that it is time that the council spent some of its vast reserves on these issues, thus spending money on its own residents rather than lending thousands of pounds to other councils.

Town centre regeneration

We hear a lot about the regeneration of the town centre and Church Square has been bought for several million pounds, but nothing seems to get off the ground.

Cuts to services

The council has made many cuts to services and are blaming the government for austerity.

While there may be some truth in the fact that financial cuts from central government have been made, we feel that the council has now gone too far.
Cuts to services like school crossing patrols, park rangers and the suggested three-weekly brown bin collection, together with the charge for the green bin, look very strange when set against the recent appointment of an assistant chief executive.

Other councils such as Wigan Council face the same financial situation but are not cutting services or increasing council tax.

Blue light services

In Rainford we have a good working relationship with the police.

It is true that cuts have been made to police budgets and I am now working with the council to lobby the government for more funding for essential services.

Education

Like the NHS you can never have enough money for education, children are our future. Teach them well and let the lead the way.

More money does need to be found for education. That being said we are full of praise for the work teachers are doing.

Environment

St Helens Council has recently expanded its recycling scheme to include more plastic products and this has to be a good thing, but such schemes need to be expanded by all councils.

Also, we need to protect our roads from carbon monoxide by bringing in stricter controls on vehicles entering towns and cities and also by putting together tighter controls on emissions.

Flora and Fauna are also very important and that is an important reason why we should not be concreting over our green belt land.

GREEN PARTY

Housing

We believe that the current Local Plan does not sufficiently respond to the challenges facing St Helens in the 21st century.

In the context of the climate emergency, worsening air pollution and environmental degradation, sustainable living needs to be at the forefront of all decision making. Local people need to be listened to. Consultation has to be meaningful.

All energies should be invested into promoting a sustainable housing policy, in which brownfield sites are prioritised for development, as well as local contracts for local businesses. For the sake of our children’s future green belt should not be developed.

Examples such as Preston should be looked to as to how we can deal with the challenging financial situation the council finds itself in without devastating our environment.

Employment

We believe in promoting small and medium sized enterprises, the creative arts and environmental start-ups as a way to promote meaningful employment.

If all procurement processes primarily target small businesses rather than the big developers, this would be a good start. We do not think our young people aspire to only working in warehouses.

We need to work to provide better public transport so they can access vibrant job markets in Liverpool and Manchester.

Investing in the town centre rather than out of town shopping malls would have created more jobs in the heart of our town – this needs to be the priority and all small businesses need full support of the council

Health and social care

Public Health needs to be the major concern of all elected councillors and officials in St Helens. The council has a statutory duty to look after its most vulnerable people.

We acknowledge the cuts make this very difficult to do and all services need to work together to ensure nobody is left behind.

Support needs to be given to the many organisations in St Helens that are also working with vulnerable people.

Prevention of illness and poor health should also be at the heart of our policies. Air and noise pollution are serious concerns of local residents.

We need to promote sport, exercise and walking by protecting our green spaces and parks, providing decent sports facilities and making our town an attractive place to walk and cycle for all.

Town centre regeneration

St Helens town centre is in crisis. There needs to be a major consultation with all the small businesses in the town centre as to what support they need and how the terrible trend of devastation can be reversed.

All of St Helens needs equal support. Areas such as Haydock which have seen huge warehousing development and at the same time increasing numbers of empty buildings falling into ruin are a tragedy for our communities.

Communities need to be at the heart of reflections and discussions about how to rebuild our centres.

Cuts to services

We need a much stronger voice in Parliament to stand up to the cuts which are devastating so many local councils.

We need the experiences of those on the front line of those cuts to be more effectively shown to decision makers in Westminster, so this trend is reversed.

In this crisis situation we need to work with all partners in the borough to make sure that we maintain our commitments to the most vulnerable in our communities, and to give our children the minimum they need to flourish.

Blue light services

The government’s cuts to the police, fire and rescue services are short-sighted and damaging.

In this context, the priority has to be on protecting our communities.

Community policing is vital particularly with the rise in knife crime of which the awful consequences are predominantly suffered by young people.

Education

Education should be the major priority for everyone in St Helens. We will support all of our schools as vibrant centres of learning and inspiration.

We need to engage with the increasing mental health challenges facing children and support teachers to deal with the most difficult aspects of their work.

St Helens College should be promoted as much as possible as a beacon of education, learning and culture in the region.

Environment

St Helens must preserve and protect its environment in every level of decision-making. As well as improving all of our quality of life today, this will be our legacy to our children.

We need to protect our green belt, preserve our ecosystems, improve air quality and ensure that all policies truly consider their full environmental impact.

We will work to secure the future of our local parks, retain the Ranger Service and win back our Green Flag Awards.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Housing

We think that a planned approach to sharing housing allocation strategically should be welcomed. That said, this should be done in such a way which is sensitive to both the environment and the wishes of the local community, and where the infrastructure exists to support such developments.

Concerning the release of green belt land for development, it is the view of the Liberal Democrat group that a brownfield-first approach must be fully adopted, and that there should be no development on green belt land until every available brownfield site has been identified and built upon.

This includes any contaminated land, which we feel should be cleaned up and paid for entirely by those developers and house builders that have land interests within the borough.

Town centre regeneration

The Liberal Democrats have a credible plan to save and rejuvenate our town centres, and demand better for our communities.

We would develop a long-term plan for the growth of St Helens town centre and provide businesses with an easier path to setting up on the high street, making use of empty store fronts and supporting local businesses.

Employment

The Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy in a fairer society and are committed to ensuring that people on low and middle incomes face as few obstacles as possible to enable them to thrive in life.

Government policies have traditionally been based on the hope that prosperity will ‘trickle down’ from more successful or advantaged areas and individuals to those less so. This approach didn’t work thirty years ago, and it won’t work today.

The Liberal Democrats’ approach is different. We believe that individuals and local communities have the potential to flourish if they are empowered and provided with the opportunities needed for them to have a fair chance.

UKIP was approached for comment by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.