Thousands of pounds are being given to community groups across Wirral in an effort to tackle organised crime.
Over £60,000 is being given out as part of the EVOLVE project, an initiative by Wirral Council, Merseyside Police, and part-funded by the Home Office which will see multiple community groups awarded funding of up to £2,000 to help improve their areas.
Three events are being held in different communities affected by crime in Wirral as part of police efforts following the murder of Elle Edwards in December 2022.
At a community event at the Carrbridge Centre in Woodchurch, dozens of people voted on their favourite proposals supporting independent shops, football clubs, community hubs, and activities for those who can’t afford to go on holiday. Two more events will be held on the Beechwood and Noctorum estates on 27 January and 3 February.
Josie Tuplin is the assistant priest at the Holy Cross Church, which runs a community cafe with the help of work-experience pupils from the nearby Meadowside Special School.
She said, “The Woodchurch gets a bit of a bad rep in the press. It’s not undeserved but there is so much good going on,” adding, “It’s a good community with a lot of family values, it’s quite old fashioned.
“There’s such a lot that is really good, it’s got a big heart the Woodchurch. I think everyone is going to come away thinking they have a community that has a lot to offer.”
The church will use the money to promote the café with advertising and better signage, increasing capacity but also “to make it more café like with flowers on the table so when people come in, they don’t feel like they are coming to a church hall.”
John Eccles, the co-founder of Woodchurch Juniors FC, (pictured with his family, lead image) will use the money to help the club use facilities like the estate’s new football pitches and double its numbers from eight to 16 teams in the next two years.
He said, “I just want to get the kids out of bed. There’s not a lot out there for them,” adding, “We have never had one on the estate, there was never a junior football so we decided to start putting it together. A few people wanted to play, we started some teams and it just went from there.
“We want to get the kids off the streets, gangs and stuff. It’s attracted a lot of kids even those who don’t really play football.”
With the new pitches set to open, Mr Eccles expects interest to keep growing, adding, “It’s having a massive impact. For the kids, it’s giving them something else to do. They love football. They all wear the shirts.”
Woodchurch Methodist Church was awarded funding to help provide a holiday at home service which will organise three day events and activities for those who might be elderly, unwell, or not have enough money to go abroad.
Deacon Ellie Griffin said this can leave people feeling hopeless, adding, “It’s about breaking the isolation. It’s about hope. If you are stuck at home everyday with nothing to look forward to, that is a difficult existence.
“We are offering people hope and something to look forward to. It reminds people they are not alone and people out there care about you and you are still part of the community.”
Jay Currums joined the 5th Birkenhead Scouts when he was six, but 14 years later he’s helping them improve what they have to offer. Their money will be spent increasing security as well as improving the club’s outdoor space to create “a safe space for local kids”.
He added, “It was a good place to make friends. It was a nice fun thing to do. It meant I was having a fun time with people my age. I wasn’t a very social kid so to have a place where I could community with kids with similar interested.
“We have got a reputation for having high antisocial behaviour so having a place for kids to go to get away from that is really important.”
Nearly £2,000 will also go into renovating the Arrowe Park Shopping Precinct near Church Road. Fiona Duffy who runs Sianee’s Silk Flowers said the area was turning around after being run down for 20 years.
She said the latest money will go towards improving the area with planters and flowers as well as hosting community events including an Easter Market, adding, “The antisocial behaviour has gone. The gangs who would hang out of the shops have disappeared and the businesses are looking out for the area. You see it’s now a safe environment so we want to make it more welcoming.
“I think businesses are to me part of what builds a community. If you look at the services and the amenities people need in their local area and they saw it’s a nice welcoming environment, then it’s going to attract more people and show actually the Woodchurch is a nice place and it’s not a scary place.
“I have lived here my life and I have seen it go through all the stages. It brings back that community through businesses. If the businesses flourish, the community flourishes.”
Upton councillor Stephen Bennett, who is from Woodchurch, was at the event alongside deputy council leader Jean Robinson and Mayor Jerry Williams. He said, “I think the community are really involved, it shows that aspect of the community and what they do. It’s good to see positive news coming from the estate, the community involvement and the community banding together.”
He praised the different groups working together, adding, “It shows the true nature of the estate. It shows the true nature of this community. It shows the positivity.
“It’s not a negative place, it’s a positive place and it doesn’t deserve the headlines it gets. This is about rebuilding the community and rebuilding the community spirit.”
Lead image: John Eccles, co-founder of Woodchurch Juniors FC, pictured with his family in front of the estate’s new football pitches