I hope readers have enjoyed a peaceful Christmas. This is the week in which our TV screens and papers will be dominated by reviews of 2018 and looking forward to the year ahead.
2018 proved, I am afraid, a fractious year in politics. Our future relationship with the European Union is of immense importance to us all. It is right that it should be passionately debated but the year ahead needs to be a time of coming together, nationally, as we settle our new relationship.
One of the negative effects of “Brexit” has been to squeeze out news of so much that is positive.
Locally there is so much that is undertaken by volunteers, by companies and the public sector of which we can be so proud.
Nationally we have seen the successful conclusion of campaigns in which I have played a part on behalf of our community. In the last month West Sussex has become a “pilot” to retain 75 per cent of business rates: this (and the broader funding settlement) will help our councils in their vital work. Sussex Police has won additional funding to support early intervention programmes – ensuring young people involved in petty crime don’t ruin their lives before they have properly begun. Last month the Government established a Rail Ombudsman: a powerful additional voice to help passengers as we continue to drive investment and performance in our railways. I have been delighted to see progress in two areas I have particularly championed – an individual “pensions dashboard” to help demystify and make accessible pensions and new regulations to tackle the poison of predatory door-step lending. Only this week fresh measures have been announced to reduce packaging and waste – a simple step which I know will be widely welcomed in Horsham. Meanwhile the UK’s employment rate is the highest since records began, pay is increasing in real terms, the national finances are back under control and the NHS will be benefiting from record increases in spending.
2019 will be as full of challenges as 2018 but in welcoming the New Year let’s not to forget the many positives – nationally, locally and in our own communities.
Photo caption: Visiting Billingshurst Sorting Office in the Christmas Rush!