New Year Message

‘Thank heavens it’s nearly over’ comes the cry of the socially distanced masses all over the world who are looking forward to a better 2021. At least that’s the conventional wisdom, and it’s good to see hope abounds. Temper it, though, because we’re not out of the woods yet, and there’s more trouble to come once the economic impact, currently frozen due to state interventions, starts to thaw and rips through communities like a melting ice rift.

I don’t mean to strike a pessimistic tone, but I am not alone in doing so. When I talk to friends and colleagues they are equally pessimistic and some are downright miserable about the prospects ahead. Expectations are on the floor. We are preparing for the worst, but hoping (just a little) for the best.

We’ve all had a tough 2020 and by no means could I suggest for a moment that I’ve had it tougher than most. In fact I’ve got away quite lightly given I haven’t contracted COVID-19 and I’ve been lucky enough to remain in full time work throughout the whole time. It’s not been an easy job, but when you learn I work for a Member of Parliament you might understand why. Let’s just say the inbox has been very full this year, and just when you think you might be on top of the workload a senior Number 10 advisor decides to take a drive to Barnard Castle and the whole thing explodes again.

It’s actually an honour and privilege to be able to serve and help people through my role working for a Member of Parliament at this crucial time for so many people. We’ve been able to help a lot of people, but we’ve also been powerless to help others. When I say it’s not been an easy job I also want to stress that nobody goes into this line of work for an easy life. For me it’s a duty, a calling and a privilege to serve the public. No matter how hard it has been for me, it’s been tougher for many more.

I also serve as a Redditch Borough Councillor for Church Hill and it’s been a privilege to serve this rich and vibrant community since 2018. When the pandemic struck this community really pulled together and knuckled down. It hasn’t escaped notice that throughout this crisis the numbers in Church Hill South have remained relatively low. I think that’s a tribute to the people and the communities at work.

I am especially proud to mention Church Hill Big Local (CHBL) who, in partnership with Reach CIC, has done fantastic work to support people in need. In the first wave there was a virtual army of volunteers who came forward to collect prescriptions, deliver food and go shopping for those who couldn’t go out. Though CHBL has exemplified the best of Redditch’s community it has also suffered with the sad passing of their Chairwoman, Wendy Johnson. I only met Wendy a handful of times, but I’ll always remember the long conversation we had once after one of the CHBL AGMs where we discovered we both had a similar goal for the young people in Church Hill and how we can provide them with a better and brighter future through things like coding clubs. Wendy recognised that it is key to help the children of Church Hill secure better job opportunities through skills development and by providing a ladder out of poverty for young people to climb. One of the things I want to do in 2021 is pick up this agenda in the Church Hill area once again and deliver something that will help to transform young people’s lives locally. It’s the least I can do to honour Wendy’s memory.

Throughout Church Hill the community has excelled itself. From the Church Hill Community Matters group set up by Julia Price to the services and support provided by the Oast House, and much more, there is a lot to be proud about in Church Hill. To try and help local businesses and groups I am going to release a ‘Church Hill Directory’ in the New Year.

Also in the New Year I am going to address my own health and fitness issues. I made a start in October, but when then November second lockdown came it was like the wind was knocked out of me. With gyms closed I spiralled into a depressive state and it’s taking me a while to shake it. I’m hoping with the New Year I will be able to drag myself back to the gym and maybe even start jogging again. I’ve also got to cut out the junk food, which I’ve been using as a comfort during stressful times.

I know I’m not alone in this fight and with my Borough Council hat on I will be working with colleagues to see what the council can do to help people get moving and get healthier after a year when movement was literally restricted.

In closing I hope 2021 is better for you and your family, and for everyone across the world. Whilst I am worried and anxious like I am sure all of us are, I am also looking at the challenges ahead with resolve and determination. Let’s bring it on.