This article was written for the News & Star.
It is always a busy time of year as we hurtle towards Christmas. Of course, there is lots of shopping to be done, food and gift preparations for the big day itself, and events to attend beforehand. It is still, I think, a special time of year – particularly for children. However, we should also keep in mind that it can also be a difficult time for some.
Politics is generally all about the future – and that is as it should be. It is about looking ahead and seeing what governments can do through policy initiatives and decisions to hopefully improve people’s lives. But while the New Year is about looking to the future, Christmas can sometimes be an opportunity to reflect on the year that has passed.
There is merit in reflecting on what has happened in the recent past; to be grateful for some things (especially our family and friends) and yes, perhaps to be reflective about those things that have not been so good, in order to hope for better in the future.
The ongoing war in Ukraine and renewed violence in the Middle East have been a terrible feature of this year, and we can but hope that there will be a peaceful resolution to these conflicts in the year to come. Domestically, politics was very much a continuation of previous year which, in my view, is sadly a kind of national fatigue in politics more generally.
However, after a very difficult start to the year economically, we do now end the year in a better place with inflation dropping significantly (and likely to continue to do so). Wages are now also rising above inflation, meaning real terms pay increases; interest rates have peaked; and unemployment has thankfully remained relatively low throughout.
In Carlisle we have the start of the construction of our southern ring road, a £225m project that will ease congestion in the city centre and open up the south and west of the city, as well as other parts of Cumbria. Work has also begun on the £28m railway station upgrades, the plans for the University of Cumbria to move into the Citadels are now properly underway, and there was the £86m investment announced by the MoD for a new facility in Longtown.
Investment has continued in the private sector with announcements such as the new Komatsu Forest facility, the £2million warehouse built at the Pladis/McVitie’s factory, and the plans that DPD have at Kingmoor Park. Given where we were at the start of the year, I am proud of the resilience and strength of our local economy, and I do think we finish this year in a stronger position than at the same time last year.
There remains plenty of work to do to ensure that these investments continue and that our city can be the best it can be. We need to keep our eyes to the future, and that is very much what the New Year will be about. For now, though, I do want to wish all readers a very Merry Christmas, however you are choosing to celebrate.