NEWTON-LE-WILLOWS was not put forward for this year’s Great British High Street Awards, it has been confirmed.

St Helens Council explained it has not submitted a nomination as its focus is on “regeneration priorities” for the borough’s town centres.

Last year St Helens North MP Conor McGinn wrote to the council’s chief executive Mike Palin, urging him to put Newton high street forward for the government’s awards.

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At the time, the council said it did not think it would do the area “justice” to rush any bid and said it would be better instead to prepare a bid for 2019.

For this year’s awards, which are run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in partnership with Visa, high streets in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in the running to win £15,000.

However, St Helens Council did not submit any entries for the second year running.

A council spokesman said: “The council has not submitted an application into the Great British High Street Awards, which can also be bid in to by community and business groups.

“Our focus currently is on bringing forward the regeneration priorities for our town centres.”

High Streets Minister Jake Berry recently confirmed the 40 high streets shortlisted for the awards.

For 2018 and again this year, there will be winners selected across two categories – Champion High Street and Rising Star High Street.

Richard McCauley, cabinet member for economic regeneration and housing, criticised the “paltry” £15,000 prize money up for grabs.

St Helens Star:

Thatto Heath councillor Richard McCauley 

Cllr McCauley said: “The bidding process required quite a significant amount of material to be submitted and the ‘prize’ from being successful is up to £15,000.

“It shows the government’s lack of commitment to town centre regeneration that such an initiative can only receive such a paltry amount.

“Our priority is to deliver the regeneration of our town centres and £15,000 clearly is not going to do that.”

Newton high street has seen a number of new ventures open in recent years.

Just this month, planning officers gave the green light for a £1.25 million renovation of the Pied Bull.

St Helens Star:

Pied Bull in Newton-le-Willows

Newton councillor Sev Gomez-Aspron said it is “disappointing” to hear the excuse given for not entering the awards for the second year running.

The Labour councillor argued awards such as these are as much about raising the profile of an area, to help secure future funds.

Cllr Gomez-Aspron said: “Considering the amount of pressure that myself and Conor McGinn MP put on the council to submit a nomination last year for Newton high street, and especially in relation to the reasons given, it is disappointing to hear the excuse this time for not submitting a bid again.

“Newton High Street is booming. It’s by far the best business centre in the surrounding area and undergoing an increase in patronage and investment.

“The businesses know that we as Labour councillors back them 100 per cent. The wider council now needs to demonstrate such commitment.

“These types of awards are all about raising the profile of an area to secure future funding.”

Cllr Gomez-Aspron said the council needs to “up its game” when it comes to bidding for funds.

The former cabinet member for growth highlighted the recent failed bid to the government’s Future High Streets fund.

St Helens Star:

Newton councillor Sev Gomez-Aspron

“The council needs to up its game dramatically and swiftly,” Cllr Gomez-Aspron said.

“I will be raising this on behalf of Newton residents and will get to the bottom of what has happened and why.

“The council needs to assess its ability to submit successful bids for awards and fundings.

“We can’t afford to miss out on a single penny of funding during devastating government funding cuts.”

On Saturday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced new plans to give councils the power to reopen abandoned shops to revive Britain’s struggling high streets.

The announcement builds on Labour’s five-point plan for Britain’s high streets, which was announced in June 2018.

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Mr Corbyn said the plan will revive Britain’s struggling high streets by “turning the blight of empty shops into the heart of the high street, with thousands of new businesses and projects getting the chance to fulfil their potential.”

Cllr McCauley, elected member for Thatto Heath, welcomed the plans.

He said: “Labour’s radical plan will turn around the mess that the Tories have created with their austerity policies and will give local authorities the tools to make our high streets the pride of our communities that they once were.”