CIVIC dignitaries write their New Year messages for the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald:
Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford: IF one thing can be said with certainty, it is that Stratford-on-Avon residents must now be very familiar with the ballot box. This year’s county elections were closely followed by the snap General Election, and both took place against the backdrop of last year’s historic referendum.
I am delighted and honoured to have been returned in June with my highest ever share of the vote. Whether you voted for me and my party or not, I think we can all commend the fair and well-mannered way in which all the candidates’ campaigns were run and be proud of the high turnout we saw once again in Stratford-on-Avon.
The result of an election or referendum delights and disappoints almost in equal measure.
As an MP for such a judicious constituency, my inbox is always full of inquiries that reflect this mixture of opinion. The issue that has dominated the subject lines is, perhaps unsurprisingly, our withdrawal from EU institutions. It is therefore pleasing that the government has made good progress on this issue, particularly towards the end of the year, and remains firmly committed to making a success of the decision to leave.
Earlier this month, the UK and EU published a formal progress report on the negotiations so far. The agreement guarantees the rights of the EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in other EU states, provides a framework for addressing Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances, and clarifies our financial obligations upon leaving.
The joint report has allowed negotiations to move on to the next phase where future trading arrangements will be decided.
Looking forward, it is these negotiations that will likely dominate the political agenda in 2018. Having played a part in making Stratford’s chronic traffic problems a priority for our local authorities to address, I am delighted that a £3.5million scheme for improvements on the Birmingham Road was secured in October — £2.4million of this will come from a direct government grant and the remainder will be covered by Warwickshire County Council’s own investment fund. Furthermore, we now have a final transport strategy for the Stratford area after a consultation process that spanned the earlier part of the year.
I want to once again pay tribute to the sterling efforts of the councillors and officers involved in delivering this.
To complement this good news for our local infrastructure, the Home Office announced a £450million injection into our national police funding at the close of the year that could boost Warwickshire Police’s budget by £2.9million in 2018/19. We have sadly seen higher crime rates in Warwickshire, according to the latest figures, so this funding will be vital in ensuring our brilliant police force has the funding it needs to keep us safe.
As 2017 draws to a close, the media spotlight is once again shining on the appalling abuse that so many in public life receive.
Last week alone, many of my colleagues received death threats simply for voting according to their consciences. Whilst some of our constituents may disagree with our views, there are no MPs across any of the parties whose actions and parliamentary votes do not accord with their own view of what is best for those they are elected to represent and the country. We are so fortunate to live in a democracy where this holds true.
It is on this positive note that I hope everyone has a prosperous 2018.
Kenilworth and Southam MP, Jeremy Wright: MEMBERS of Parliament are often asked to give annual reviews at this time of year; a summary of the last 12 months, and predictions of where the next 12 will take us.
Given the prevalence and importance of the issues deriving from the vote to leave the European Union last year, I think many of these reviews will have one common theme for the next few years.
We all knew, or should have known, that the process of our exit from the EU would not be straightforward. As Attorney General I have a particular insight into the intricacies of this process, advising the government on how best to transfer the rules currently set in Brussels to our own statute book.
I think it has been made clear by recent parliamentary events that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is not a simple ‘copy and paste’ exercise. There will be further legislation next year, and further negotiations with the EU as to what our new relationship will look like. While difficult, the process has not been disastrous, as some in the press would have us believe. Hopefully the next 12 months of reports will not be so negative.
The terror attacks we have faced in London and Manchester this year shocked us all. I pay tribute to the work of those who keep us safe; both our emergency services who came to the aid of victims, and our security services who stop many attacks before they happen. I have also been impressed by the spirit of Londoners and Mancunians, who responded to adversity with remarkable resilience and resolve.
We were not perhaps expecting a General Election in 2017, but I always enjoy the opportunity to get out and meet people in the constituency through the events and public meetings a campaign entails. I’m thankful for the hard work of party volunteers of all parties, and to the voters who chose to support me.
In the past year I have had the chance to meet several of the successful businesses we have in our area, including Aston Martin, Thwaites Manufacturing and Repairtech. I have also spoken with other business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce, the Warwickshire at Parliament Day, Small Business Saturday and the MEPs Business Breakfast.
I’ve also seen the hard work of our local teachers while attending a debate at Southam College, presenting prizes at Kineton High School and watching Kenilworth School attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the Largest Human Image of a Bicycle.
As with every year there have been high points and low moments to 2017, and I hope we all can have a few more of the former in the year ahead.
Shipston Mayor Dan Scobie: IT was a huge honour and a privilege to be elected as mayor, and I looked forward to the year enormously, and it seems a great time to look back at the last eight months, and celebrate some of the great things that have been taking place in Shipston.
One of the first events I attended as mayor was the brilliant Wool Fair. The town centre was taken over by all sorts of woolly wares, and we were joined by a great many of the local dignitaries. It really is an inclusive event which celebrates Shipston’s long history as a wool town, and the various stalls and demonstrations on offer help to keep the rural heritage alive.
The early summer was also marked out by two other excellent Shipston events; the Arts and Crafts Market organised by Shipston’s Totally Locally group, and the Shipston Proms. There are so many talented people in the area, and it’s great to see these talents brought to the fore at the Arts and Craft Market. It’s home on Sheep Street means the town can keep working in it’s usual way, and add to this with so much more.
My personal favourite of the year though has to be the Shipston Proms. The two weeks of musical events in venues across the area is an organisational triumph for the volunteers who stage the festival and its culmination in the Last Night of the Proms is another time that people displace cars in the town centre to celebrate together.
This year was exceptionally special being headlined as it was by Laurence Jones, Shipston resident, and European Blues Guitarist of the Year. His exceptional rock-blues sound entertained the town in to the night, and made me feel incredibly proud of our town.
It was great to see the staging of the Shipston Flower and Produce Show for the first time in many years. It was well enjoyed, and can certainly provide a fantastic platform to grow from for bigger and better things next year.
The autumn was punctuated as ever with a superb parade to mark Remembrance Sunday. The Town Band did a superb job, as ever, and to see so many Shipston people coming out to pay their respect to the fallen was truly humbling. We’re now fully in the Christmas swing, and so it just remains for me to wish everyone a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Stratford Mayor Cllr Victoria Alcock: IT’S been a whirlwind six months for me. Yes, I am busier than I ever imagined, constantly worrying that I might do something wrong, putting pressure on myself to not let Stratford down — but I wouldn’t change a thing!
Over the last six months I have met some of the most inspirational people, seen how much of Stratford-upon-Avon is cared for by volunteers, how much goes into events that residents enjoy, again mostly done by volunteers, and how much Stratford is still growing.
This town, which I have the honour to represent, never ceases to surprise me. Its never ending support for charities, its small theatre companies that have reduced me to tears with an amazing production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, the enthusiasm for the Victorian Market, and just how many handbags for the homeless I was able to collect and distribute.
So, looking forward to the coming months, I can honestly say I can’t wait to see what happens next; the people I will get to meet, and the events to which I will be lucky enough to be invited.
I am already looking forward to the Pride of Stratford Awards after seeing how many deserving, community minded people have been nominated. Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations where I have the honour to lead the town, and the charity events I will attend.
Becoming mayor has only made me more proud of this town and the people who live here. People say that this town would be nothing without William Shakespeare, I say this town would be nothing without the people who care, the volunteers who help, support and strive to make this town great.
Matt Western, MP for Warwick and Leamington: 2017 has been an extraordinary year. I was elected to represent Warwick and Leamington in June and moved almost overnight into parliament.
It’s been a privilege to represent the people and raise the challenges facing Warwickshire at the highest level. In particular, the government cuts have had a real impact on public services across this county.
As I said in the House of Commons, in his maiden speech in 2010, my predecessor stated that we had excellent frontline services. He was right: in 2010, we did. Seven years on, we do not. We have lost police, in Warwick we have lost the police station. We have lost teachers, full-time firefighters, and health professionals from the NHS.
Warwickshire County Council’s decision to close our children’s centres will bring real hardship and is extremely disappointing — in south west Warwickshire two out of four centres will shut.
We would not close two thirds of our primary schools wholesale across the county. We would not close two thirds of our FE Colleges. So why would we want to put two thirds of our children’s centres at risk?
I’ve been working hard with the Warwickshire-wide campaign to represent the views of parents across the county, both here and in Westminster.
On a more upbeat note, businesses in south Warwickshire, faced with a slowing economy, have bucked the trend somewhat. I recently spoke at a South Warwickshire in Parliament event, which brought together businesses, government, and civil society to celebrate their achievements. It was fantastic to speak to all those people who bring such vibrancy to our area.
It has also been an extraordinary year for politics, nationally and internationally.
Brexit has dominated national politics this year and will continue to do so next year. It’s vital the government gets a good deal from the EU, particularly on trade, to allow for businesses and people in Warwickshire to thrive.
The erratic nature of President Trump is another issue that has been at the top of the political agenda and will only intensify as the prospect of a Trump state visit to the UK looms. I’m quite clear that the President’s politics of hate shouldn’t be given the privilege of a state visit to this great country of tolerance and decency.
I’m sure 2018 will be just as exciting, interesting, and challenging for Warwickshire — I wish you all a very happy New Year.