May I start by wishing everyone in Warwick and Leamington, Whitnash and surrounding villages a healthy and happy new year. These are wishes often written with sincerity but rarely reflected on. They also, presently, seem more resonant than in years past. We find ourselves now in our third, and an entirely avoidable, longer national lockdown. The Warwick and Leamington community I’m sure is braced for what will be one of the most challenging periods in its recent history. But there are certainly developments to be hopeful about on the horizon.
I’m sure 2020 was a difficult year for everyone in the Warwick and Leamington community. Many will have lost loved ones. Many of our businesses were (and remain) on the brink. And covid 19 tore through local care homes – and continues to do so. As I said in my Christmas message, although challenging times lie ahead, I want to pay tribute to everyone who helped us through this difficult year. Our public servants have worked tirelessly, as have other front-line workers, to keep our community going. And many volunteer groups and businesses stepped in to help alongside the support provided by our councils. Thank you.
Elsewhere, our educators and senior leadership teams in schools, colleges, universities and nurseries spent the Christmas period grappling with ill-conceived and half-baked plans for the beginning of the new term – only to be dashed by yet another disastrous government U-turn. But with covid 19 cases rising once more, schools are certainly no longer safe. I want to thank teachers and governors for all their efforts this past year in such challenging circumstances and wish them luck with the transition to digital learning.
But it is clear covid 19 has laid bare the vast and long-standing inequalities in our society – inequalities that have been brutally exposed following ten years of austerity. This new year, I will be working to protect local jobs and minimise the economic damage on our local businesses caused by the pandemic and leaving the European Union. I will also continue to champion the need for a sustainable economic recovery through Labour’s proposals for a Green New Deal.
Although difficult months lie ahead, there is hope that if we can roll-out vaccines fast enough, this next year will be better. But the challenges we face remain significant. Locally, the news Leamington will be home to one of the UK’s two covid 19 mega labs is extremely welcome – along with the prospect of 2,000 high quality jobs. The government has also announced that Leamington will receive a £10million from its High Streets Fund; this is also very good news. And I am encouraged to see the scheme result in potential upgrades to the town centre.
Thank you. And I wish you good health and happiness this new year.