LIVERPOOL City Region Combined Authority will continue to invest in St Helens as it braces itself for massive job losses due to coronavirus, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has said.

St Helens is projected to have the second largest economic slowdown in the city region, putting more than 25 per cent of all jobs at risk.

Today, Mr Rotherham and Greater Manchester’s regional mayor held a joint a press conference to discuss the ongoing impact of coronavirus across both areas.

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During the meeting, the Local Democracy Service pressed Mr Rotheram on the devastating economic impact it is feared the pandemic could have in St Helens.

“Just in St Helens, it was one of the fastest growing local authority areas in the country,” Mr Rotheram said.

“It was doing really well, pre-COVID and so it will see a slowdown like everywhere else in the country, and we’re going to see job losses as well.

“But St Helens as a council, I think, have been really progressive.

“They’ve started to look beyond COVID and what the needs of the business community currently are and how they can attract inward investment into St Helens.”

Looking to the future, Mr Rotheram highlighted the Glass Futures project, which he said would be “absolutely massive” for St Helens.

He also said the proposed development at the former Parkside Colliery in Newton-le-Willows – which has been called in by the Secretary of State – could be “hugely advantageous” for the borough.

The combined authority awarded the council £24 million to build a vital link road to boost connectivity at the site in 2018, and Mr Rotheram said it will continue to invest in St Helens.

“We can support the local authority, and the local authority are part of the recovery plan that we will submit to government,” Mr Rotheram said.

Liverpool has already put a case to the government for huge investment in profitable projects to help boost the city region’s post-COVID recovery.

“The same is happening to St Helens and Halton and Knowsley and Sefton and the Wirral of course,” Mr Rotheram said.

“We’re pulling all this together so that you can see the wider and more strategic overview of what we’re doing and as a combined authority we will also continue to invest in St Helens.”

St Helens Star: The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority awarded St Helens Borough Council £24m for the Parkside Link Road project in 2018The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority awarded St Helens Borough Council £24m for the Parkside Link Road project in 2018

One of the main talking points during today’s virtual press conference was the flow of coronavirus test data from central to local government.

Greater Manchester’s regional mayor Andy Burnham said the flow of information has improved significantly in recent weeks.

However, he said councils are still not receiving the national Pillar 2 test data – those carried out by commercial partners – that can be attributed to a specific named person.

Instead, he said councils are getting, individual level, pseudonymised data linked to postcodes.

He said the data is often incomplete, particularly in relation to ethnicity and occupation, and currently only provided to councils on a weekly basis.

The former Health Secretary said this data is crucial if local authorities are to “quickly get to grip” on a local outbreak.

In St Helens, Public Health England figures show that 1,195 people had been confirmed as testing positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday.

This data includes Pillar 2 and Pillar 1 tests, which are analysed in NHS or PHE laboratories.

As we head into the winter period, if there is a surge in cases in St Helens or if the UK does see the much-feared second wave, then lockdown measures would likely be tightened.

That means the economic outlook for St Helens would look even bleaker than it does now, although just how much worse remains unclear.

St Helens Star: The regional mayors say local authorities are still not getting all of the data they need to help tackle coronavirus The regional mayors say local authorities are still not getting all of the data they need to help tackle coronavirus

Mr Rotheram said: “We don’t know because we don’t know when this period, which is pre-vaccine – hopefully we’re going to get a vaccine at some stage – but we don’t know in between now and when that’s going to last.

“So we don’t know how detrimental COVID will be to the economic fortunes of any particular area.

“But it’s not good is it? Let’s face it, we have to do what we can do with the resources and funding that we’ve currently got, but also attract the government to look to areas to help support and invest in.

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“And that’s why having a combined authority is probably a more productive route.

“Myself and Andy (Burnham) sit on something called the M9. We have conversations directly with the cabinet, the Prime Minister, the Treasury.

“And that’s the way I think, building those relationships, we probably get a fairer share of funding, and then the government can claim truly that they’re levelling up.”