Tax hike not taken lightly

THIS week the council agreed a 1.99 per cent Council Tax increase for the borough’s residents for 2015-16.

It’s another increase – but it’s worth pointing out that we will still enjoy the lowest Council Tax rate in Merseyside.

No one at the council is happy about the rise. But we simply have no option.

The proposed increase has been forced on us as we attempt to maintain services for residents in the face of continuing Government cuts to funding.

Our income is declining, while the demands on our resources are increasing. We are having to deal with unprecedented numbers of children who need to be looked after and protected. There have also been major increases in demand for adult care services.

We also have a duty to invest in the borough’s future. Which is why we will continue to support our apprenticeship scheme which, with the help of partner St Helens Chamber, has provided work opportunities for hundreds young people.

We will also maintain our graduate placement scheme - which has brought significant benefits to both the town’s employers and the graduates themselves.

And, of course, we want to help our local businesses to grow so that they provide jobs for our residents – so we will be maintaining a scheme that helps companies to start trading and to expand.

The increase in Council Tax works out at an extra 30p a week for the average Band A property in the borough. However annual bills will still be lower than those for equivalent properties in Liverpool, Knowsley, Wirral and Sefton.

WE’RE taking a lead role in trying to halt a very worrying trend - the increasing number of attacks on guide dogs and assistance dogs by other dogs.

It’s a national problem and even though the law was changed last year – to bring in tougher penalties - guide dog owners still face danger from stray or out of control dogs.

So next month our Dog Welfare and Enforcement Officers will be unveiling a new tool that will be made available to guide dog owners in the borough – an oil of cloves spray which, while completely harmless, can often act as a dog repellent.

We believe we are the first authority in the North West – and one of the first in the country – to take such decisive action.

The effects of an attack on an assistance dog can be devastating – for both pet and owner. Both are likely to be traumatised – and in many cases the dog is unable to work again, which effectively wastes £20,000 worth of training and leaves the owner frightened and housebound.

The aerosol is not CS gas or a pepper spray, but it should deter an attacking dog - and give a visually impaired person and their dog those vital extra seconds in which to get themselves away from the situation or summon help.

government figures show that major planning applications are dealt with more speedily in St Helens than most parts of the country.

Data released by the Department of Communities and Local Government reveals that the borough was placed 30th out of 335 local authorities for the period between October 2012 and September 2014.

The performance monitoring survey gauges the speed and efficiency with which large scale applications are handled by council planning departments.

The results are largely due to the fact that we are one of the few authorities in the country to provide free pre-application advice to developers working on major, complex projects.

This, coupled with our policy of engaging with developers early on in the application process – and building a good working relationship, has helped to put us in the top nine per cent of authorities nationally when it comes to speeding up new development.


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