By Leader of Knowsley Council, Cllr Graham Morgan
Like many of us, on Monday evening I watched “Anthony”, the one-off programme looking at the life which could have been lived by Huyton man Anthony Walker, had he not been killed in a brutal and unprovoked racist attack 15 years ago.
The programme was very poignant and really brought home the loss of Anthony’s potential and everything that he had to give. If you watched the programme, I’m sure that, like me, you found yourself asking (and not for the first time) how and why anyone could take a life in that way. It was such a senseless and awful act. The fact that it happened in Knowsley made it personal in many respects to local residents at the time – and that sense has not diminished over the years.
This week was of course the 15th anniversary of that terrible night. In Knowsley, we marked it by lowering the flag outside the Municipal Buildings in Huyton to half-mast in Anthony’s memory.
And with another horrible milestone coming up next week – the 12th anniversary of the killing of Michael Causer – a member of the LGBT+ community – we intend to do the same.
Whilst I’m thankful to report that our Borough records relatively few hate crimes – these two deaths really stand out and tell us that we can never be complacent. Hate has taken these two young people from us over the years and we all have a responsibility to ensure that it can never ruin or take away another life again. Knowsley Council will not tolerate such behaviour and will act whenever we find it.
If we, as humans, can embody even half the forgiveness, love and compassion of Anthony Walker’s mother, Gee, then we would not go far wrong.
We are now four months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and of course, our response to this crisis is ongoing.
At our Cabinet meeting this week, we took time to review how the Borough has responded so far, as well taking stock of the challenges which we know still lie ahead. We continue to make very welcome progress into the “recovery” phase – our town centres have reported a successful few weeks of trading and we saw Volair re-opening the Borough’s leisure facilities last weekend. It’s also good to see that some of our community groups are beginning to meet again in some form and things like the “cardiac walks” (which are led by our Rangers and support people recovering from heart surgery) have re-started. Next week is the launch of the “Eat Out to Help Out” incentive, which means that if you go out to eat in one of our participating local restaurants or cafés from Monday to Wednesday throughout August, you can claim up to 50% off the cost (up to £10 per person). If you are able to support this initiative, please do. A lot of work has gone in to making our town centres as safe as possible and we’ve introduced a new “pavement café culture”, which means that many local eateries are now offering outdoor seating. Perhaps it’s a chance to try out one of our many independent businesses which really would value your support right now.
As I’ve said on many occasions in my weekly updates, this progress relies on us all sticking to social distancing, hand washing and other guidelines, such as wearing a face covering on public transport, in shops and in hospital settings. The news reports this week about possible second waves of the virus in European countries are a very sobering reminder that all of this remains very delicately balanced – we really do all have to continue to play our parts, and we must not relax those efforts.
For now though, we have come a long way in those four months. I’m really proud of how this Council responded – so swiftly, flexibly and effectively – to support local people and local businesses. And, as we said at our Cabinet meeting, the response from the wider community was truly inspiring. So many organisations, community groups and businesses stepped in immediately to offer assistance and hundreds of individuals offered their help – either formally as volunteers or informally by checking in on neighbours, friends or relatives to make sure that they had what they needed and didn’t feel alone.
Finally for now, I’d like to acknowledge and remind everyone that formal “Shielding” comes to an end on Saturday 1 August. This means that some of our most vulnerable residents will be leaving their homes for the first time in four months. Whilst many of us are beginning to get used to the rules of the “new normal” – such as wearing masks in shops and keeping our distance – for the elderly and more vulnerable people, this will all be new. I expect that many people will find it worrying, even scary, to be out and about after so long staying at home. So please – just a reminder to always be kind, think of the impact you can have on others, and let’s continue to support each other through this challenging time.
And for anyone who doubts the power of #KnowsleyBetterTogether – here’s a short film that really sums up what we have achieved together, already.