As with every new year, it is also a time to think ahead to what we want for the future.

I wish you all a good and perhaps most importantly, a healthy New Year. This year begins with a shared goal; for us, all to get through it safely together. As with every new year, it is also a time to think ahead to what we want for the future.

We know our villages, towns and the city centre will be different and that now is the time to reflect on how we want to live and treat people locally in the future. The world has changed, and although the fabric that holds our communities together is stronger than ever, we have learned that what was paramount yesterday could now be a barrier to progress. While there are new and exciting endeavours that need our support, existing challenges outside the pandemic bubble remain pressing – globally, nationally and locally.

There is still a climate emergency, and we still need to provide a place fit for people of all ages, for the 21st Century. Finding a way to bring all of this together into a cohesive plan involving the most impacted people has to be a collective, local priority. I am already reaching out to businesses, community groups, charities and a wide range of organisations to work towards this common goal.

The new, more contagious strain of the virus has pushed back many people’s hopes and expectations for the early months of 2021. Of course, this is hard to take, especially for those whose jobs or livelihoods are affected directly by the lockdown. My team and I continue to support hundreds of families and businesses going through extreme hardship; for them right now, it’s hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

While this new strain is a setback, it is not the virus winning; we can get through this—rapid deployment of the vaccine underway. As hard as it is, we need to keep the faith, hunker down, stay home, go out for only essential purposes or exercise and keep out of other homes unless included in a specifically identified exemption.

It is true that because of our efforts to follow the rules, rates of infection here have been lower, but we also now face rising numbers of infections fuelled by mixing over the festive period. A reminder of just how vulnerable we all are and how quickly our fortunes can change. Please keep staying at home.

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