Rainford Action Group press release
“Social media slur” shows council are losing the argument, say campaigners
The leader of St Helens Council has been heavily criticised after branding thousands of the borough’s residents “nimbies”.
Councillor Barrie Grunewald used the insult to describe people campaigning against his council’s hugely controversial plan to build on swathes of St Helens’ green belt land. These include people he is elected to serve as a councillor for Rainhill.
Campaigners have called on him to withdraw the slur and apologise. They are also calling on St Helens North MP Conor McGinn to condemn Councillor Grunewald’s behaviour.
Councillor Grunewald used the insult on his official Twitter account, on which his describes himself as the “Socialist Leader of St Helens MBC. Former Labour Party Director. Campaign Strategist & All Round Guru.”
It is the Twitter account he uses for official council business. At 1:40 am on Wednesday morning, he replied to an old Tweet from the Rainford Action Group, in which the group shared a photo of a farmers’ field that the council has allocated for hundreds of new homes.
Councillor Grunewald wrote: “As I say you are nimby’s.”
The comment has prompted a furious response from campaigners who say it shows the contempt in which the leadership of St Helens Council holds people who disagree with them.
James Wright, chair of Rainford Action Group, said: “We think this behaviour is unworthy of the man who leads St Helens Council. He is paid by council tax payers and in return insults them with late night social media slurs. We demand that he withdraws his insult and apologises immediately.
“We’re ordinary working people deeply concerned about his council’s plans for Rainford and the rest of the borough. We live in a democracy. We should be able to express our objections without being called names by the man in charge.”
Councillor Grunewald’s council wants to take seven large sites in Rainford out of the green belt and allow developers to build an industrial unit and at least 1,140 houses. The land is currently used by local farmers and is rated grade one agricultural land, the highest quality land possible.
St Helens Council has admitted it has no plan to help the rural village cope with the impact of such expansion. Residents say not only would the plans decimate the local farming industry, and destroy productive and beautiful green spaces, they would also put an impossible strain on local infrastructure.
Rainford Action Group has been campaigning on the issue since December. The group has repeatedly made clear it is not opposed to development in the village and would welcome new housing on a sensible scale and in the right locations. Yet the group’s attempts to meet St Helens Council and find common ground have been refused.
The group has organised two rallies outside St Helens Town Hall, attended by 400 people. It is working with other groups from across the borough against the council’s plans.
James Wright said: “His insult implies desperation and that the council has lost the argument. It’s clear their Local Plan is in chaos. They never expected such a reaction and have never experienced such scrutiny. They don’t like it and are lashing out at ordinary working people who have shown there is no justification for their green belt grab.
“We hope our MP Conor McGinn will join with us is calling for Councillor Grunewald to apologise. He has insulted the thousands of St Helens residents who have serious and genuine concerns about his council’s plan for the borough.”
Cllr Grunewald, who is originally from Scotland, lives in Rainhill. He returned to work several months ago following a period of illness.