A WIDER debate needs to take place about the sale of fireworks to the general public in St Helens, a senior firefighter has said.

Currently, the St Helens Borough Council has no powers to licence or set conditions on private firework displays.

In January, a motion was passed by full council that called for various actions around the use of fireworks, which was tabled as part of the RSPCA’s ‘Bang Out Of Order’ campaign.

One of the actions called on the council to write to the government asking it to bring forward stricter controls on the sale of fireworks and to legislate to enable local authorities to licence all public firework displays and be given powers to enforce the conditions of the licence.

All public events were cancelled this year, such as the popular Spark in the Park event held every year at Sherdley Park, with St Helens placed under Tier 3 restrictions in the run up to Bonfire Night before entering a national lockdown.

Cllr Paul McQuade, Labour councillor for Blackbrook, told the council’s place services scrutiny committee on Monday that he saw an increase in people contacting him over the use of fireworks.

He also claimed “small children” were letting off fireworks in Haydock.

Cllr McQuade said: “Over the Bonfire period, me personally, saw an increase, certainly in people getting in touch with me, not so much bonfires, but regarding the loudness of the fireworks and the fact they were going off until midnight on three days before and after the bonfire

“I’m just wondering, is that because people are finding it easier to buy them?

“I’m just concerned about lots of small children on the graveyard in Haydock letting fireworks off on the Sunday night for an hour-and-a-half.”

Ben Ryder, group manager at Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, said he is due to speak on the issue of fireworks sales at a meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s strategic board next month.

However, he said this year will be “uniquely different” because the pandemic prevented people from going to large-scale events.

Mr Ryder said: “I understand your point around the use of fireworks.

“I think we have to be conscious of the fact that we had limited ability to put on diversionary activities, and put on what you would consider your normal, large displays for families, etc, to attend.

“In terms of firework sales, obviously the fire service works with the police, closely, and trading standards around firework sales, licenses, or the licenses to sell fireworks etc.

“I think it’s probably necessary for the Fire Authority and councillors to have a wider debate around whether fireworks should be sold at all to the local community.

“But obviously that is a different discussion point but something that perhaps be considered by the Fire Authority.”

In reality, all the council and the fire authority can do at present is lobby the government to change the law and continue to campaign locally.

This year, the council’s community safety outreach team delivered 12 sessions during the Bonfire period, focusing on parks.

Cllr Jeanie Bell, cabinet member for stronger, safer communities said the council targeted areas where young people are known to congregate.

Trading standards officers visited smaller local businesses registered to sell firework to remind them of their obligations in the run to Bonfire night.

Samantha Murray, assistant director for community safety, said the anti-social behaviour outreach team also liaised with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service on specific areas and incidents.

Merseyside Police recorded a significant rise in anti-social behaviour related incidents during the Halloween period, with fewer incidents recorded during the Bonfire period

In addition, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service recorded a total of 31 reported deliberate fires in the borough over the Bonfire period.

This is a decrease of 11.4 per cent compared to the same period in the 2019 when there were 35 reported deliberate fires, and bucks the trend seen across the Liverpool City Region.

Most reported incidents were in Parr with nine incidents, followed by the town centre ward, with six incidents.