In his column for this week’s St Helens Star, Council Leader David Baines writes about two major decisions made in the past week – adoption of the Local Plan and a new Library Strategy and Delivery Plan.
“Two major decisions were taken last week regarding the Local Plan and the council-run Library Service, and I know they’ve both been the subject of much debate.
In the case of the Local Plan this debate has been ongoing for at least 6 years, and in that time every resident, community group and politician had every opportunity to present their evidence and make their case to the independent planning inspectors. After an exhaustive process, the independent examiners have said the Local Plan is sound and ready for adoption. That means there was no rational or legal basis for councillors to oppose it.
The debate at last week’s council meeting was revealing and I encourage everyone to watch the webcast at https://sthelens.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=116&MId=12733&Ver=4.
Labour was the only Party to support an evidence-based approach and be straight with residents. Politics is easy if you just tell people what they want to hear, but that’s irresponsible and dangerous. It’s a fact that we need new homes, new jobs and new opportunities in St Helens and Labour won’t be apologising for doing everything we can to deliver that for current and future generations.
As for libraries, there’s no doubt that withdrawing council staff from some buildings is one of the most difficult decisions we’ve made – and given the massive cuts we’ve had to manage since 2010 that’s saying something. I wrote here last week that this is perhaps the most visible example of austerity residents will have seen. 800 libraries have closed since 2010 under the Tories and it’s credit to our council and its staff that we’ve kept 13 council-run buildings open for so long.
We hope that the six former council libraries will be taken over by community groups such as Parish Councils, but whatever happens all residents will still have access to an outstanding library service and we’ll have 7 new hubs to visit – including a renovated and improved Gamble Building.
Our Labour council is doing its very best to target the resources we do have at those who most need them. When faced with seemingly impossible choices, supporting our most vulnerable is the right thing to do, whilst also trying to grow the borough’s economy and wealth for the good of all residents.
Best wishes to all Star readers.”