GOVERNMENT ministers have been quite vocal since of the start of the year about how much the country’s finances have improved.

They are painting a rosey picture for the North and how they are going to pour money into developing infrastructure and improving transport networks that have been neglected.

And they are committed to pumping millions of pounds into a Towns Fund to support areas that have been left behind, where high streets are suffering badly due to changes in retail habits and a squeeze on consumer spending.

St Helens is among the places putting together an application for a share of this funding.

Austerity, so they tell us, is over.

If this truly is the case and public money is available, the brains trust down in Whitehall really do need to think about directing some money back up here to support social care.

Marie Rimmer, the St Helens South and Whiston MP, knows a thing or two about local government (she led the town hall on three occasions).

And she is absolutely right to call the Government out on the issue during a Queen’s Speech debate on social care (see page 7) .

The number of children in care across St Helens stands at 529 and is rising.

Social care costs for the council have spiralled from £10.5m per year to £25.5m in nine years.

At the same time, the council has £90m less in its annual budget than it did in 2010/11.

This council has its faults and we’re sure readers could suggest ways it can save money. The Children’s Services department’s ranking of inadequate by Ofsted is also down to much more than just cuts (the council continues to redirect more money from its budgets to fund social care).

But local government officials need support and a financial commitment from Johnson and Co.

Redressing the decade of funding cuts would help put council workers on the front foot as they try to offer the best solutions to protect the most vulnerable people.

Only when this government addresses these serious social issues can we then start to look towards this decade of optimism for the North that these minister talk about.