Home Editor's pick So much achieved – but Leader remains ambitious for Knowsley
Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council

So much achieved – but Leader remains ambitious for Knowsley

by Gemma Melling

Councillor Graham Morgan was re-elected as Leader of Knowsley Council for a sixth consecutive year at the Council’s Annual Meeting on Friday 19 May 2023.

Since taking up the role in 2018, Councillor Morgan has led the local authority through some of its most challenging times and unprecedented world events.

More than two of those years were dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, when Knowsley was harder than most other areas of the country as the virus impacted on areas of deprivation and health inequality.  Councillor Morgan chaired the Outbreak Management Board which was charged with overseeing the Borough’s monumental response, which saw the Council working alongside local businesses, organisations and thousands of individual volunteers to support the most vulnerable people in the Borough.

And once the day-to-day pressures of COVID-19 subsided, he shifted to leading the Council in its response to the cost of living crisis, another set of issues which impacted more severely in Knowsley than many places elsewhere.

Councillor Morgan said: “The challenges of the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis have called for a greater level of local leadership than perhaps ever before in Knowsley’s history – we have seen the real difference which an effective local council can make to the lives of residents when we work together to support the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“Our Knowsley Better Together ethos was something we already had before the pandemic, but we could all see just how important that approach was when we really needed it.

“We stood shoulder to shoulder with Knowsley’s communities and built outstanding partnerships with many local agencies and businesses, all of us sharing the same goal – to help people in Knowsley, not just to survive, but to thrive.”

And as well as feeding people in need, organising an army of volunteers and supporting the testing and vaccination programmes, the Council kept one eye on the longer term prosperity of the Borough so that, when the time came, Knowsley’s recovery was faster than seen in many other places.

“The need to respond to the immediate problems caused by the pandemic saw us go into emergency mode – my colleagues on the Council and our Council’s officers and service teams moved heaven and earth in just a short space of time to make sure that people and businesses were supported,” he said.  “But at the same time, we also knew that making a strong recovery from the pandemic was going to be crucial – we needed to ensure that our Borough survived – that our businesses survived, that the jobs survived, and that our hope for the future survived too.”

So, whilst managing the COVID-19 response, the Council also continued to deliver key projects aimed at its longer term ambitions.  Work continued apace on the Shakespeare North Playhouse, which opened to huge critical and local acclaim last year.

The Kirkby Town Centre redevelopment continued throughout the pandemic and is also now built and open, thanks to the Council’s decision to invest a substantial sum in purchasing the land and buildings from the private sector in order to put an end to years of false starts.

An emerging night-time economy has been established in Huyton Village with eight new food and drink outlets having opened over the last five years.

More than £15m has been secured through the Levelling Up Fund which will now be used to support Halewood’s development.

The Council’s ambitious house building programme continues, with more than 4,000 new homes constructed in the last five years and demand for homes in the Borough at an all-time high – house prices have increased by 22.2% since 2020 (compared to 11.8% across the country).

Thousands of residents have been supported into work or to secure training.

And Knowsley delivered a triumphant Borough of Culture year in 2022, packed with spectacular activities – most of which were completely free for residents to enjoy.

All of these projects and programmes have been delivered whilst still setting a balanced Council budget – a significant achievement when also investing in essential services and support for communities.

Looking ahead, Councillor Morgan still has much he wants to do – his Council has major plans to revitalise Huyton Village Centre and there are ambitious plans for Halewood.

The Council recently purchased Prescot Shopping Centre and a public consultation is being used to shape detailed plans for this site.

Halsnead Garden Village will bring homes, employment sites, and a new country park to Knowsley.

Plans to support the climate change agenda are also progressing with a net zero plan approved which will see many Council buildings having energy efficiency works completed.

And the Borough’s cultural assets and rich history will also continue to be celebrated with an engaging events programme planned as the Borough of Culture legacy continues in Knowsley.

Recently, with the cost of living challenge not going away any time soon, the Council launched The Knowsley Offer, which ensures that local people have easy access to the services and support they need.

“I know personally from the conversations I have “on the doorstep” that the public appreciate what this Council does – and the way in which we do it,” said Councillor Morgan.

“Our plan is to continue working hard to create a Borough where people can raise families with optimism and opportunity for their future… whatever challenges come along!”