The plain facts on cigarette packaging
WE’RE working hard to even out some of the health inequalities that exist in St Helens. And one of the issues that undoubtedly hits poorer communities hardest is smoking.
I’m proud to say that St Helens was one of the first local authorities in the country to sign up to the Local Authority Declaration on Tobacco. This document strengthens the lobby for a tobacco policy at national and European level.
And now we’ve thrown our weight behind a campaign to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes. In Australia, where they’ve had plain packs since 2012, tobacco sales have fallen by 3.4 per cent.
Now Public Health England have revealed that if we saw a similar reduction in this country it would not only save many lives, but benefit local economies by millions of pounds.
They broke the figures down to local authority areas and the reckoning is that in St Helens we’d be £2.2 million better off! That’s money saved by smokers that they would be able to spend on other things.
Attractive packaging helps to portray smoking as something glamorous and harmless - and is one of the key reasons why over 18,000 North West children are tempted to try smoking every year - leading to a lifetime of addiction which ends in death for half of all long-term smokers.
WE’VE had some more good news on the house-building front – showing yet again that St Helens continues to outperform many other authorities.
Latest quarterly figures show that 155 new homes have been built. That’s a sharp increase on the same period last year when we completed 115 new dwellings – and 2013 was our best year since the recession hit!
There’s no sign of things slowing down either – with a further 388 new houses currently under construction.
Thanks to a proactive policy of working closely with local and national housing developers, as well as housing associations like Helena Partnerships, we’ve been able to improve choice and provide a great mix of available housing for our residents.
We’ve also launched the Lend a Hand mortgage scheme – which helps first-time buyers get onto the property ladder with a deposit of just five per cent. With many lenders either not offering mortgages - or demanding big deposits - buyers often struggle to get their first home.
ONE of the most common complaints we get from residents involves dog fouling.
We know most dog owners are responsible, caring people, but there’s always a hard core who refuse to clean up after their pet. It’s something that can really blight neighbourhoods and affect quality of life.
We do what we can. There are now 440 dog waste bins across the borough – which help to collect over eight tonnes of waste every year. We believe we’re also the only council in Merseyside that continues to hand out free pooper scoopers – last year over 550,000 were provided to residents.
But when it comes to those who refuse to take their responsibilities seriously, we won’t hesitate to take action. We recently helped to prosecute a man who failed to clean up after his pet in Newton-le-Willows.
It turned out to be an expensive mistake on his part. He was fined £600 for the fouling offence by St Helens magistrates, ordered to pay £600 costs and pay a victim surcharge of £60.