York Press column – As we say goodbye to 2020, we look to 2021 with hope and optimism
December 16, 2020
Although for many it may seem much longer, last weekend marked one year since the 2019 General Election. While nobody could have predicted how 2020 would unfold, it still remains the honour of a lifetime to have been elected for a fourth consecutive term and to continue serving the residents of York Outer as I champion our great city in Parliament.
This year has understandably been difficult for many; with not being able to see family and friends as often as we would have liked, the financial impact the pandemic has had on many businesses, and the unfortunate loss of loved ones.
2020 has also given us the opportunity to show how strong our communities are, with us all making sacrifices to protect our NHS and many residents going the extra mile to help neighbours with shopping or simply checking in to make sure they’re okay. Soon we will welcome in the new year and it is my hope that while we will move on from the worst of the pandemic, we will remember the best qualities that have emerged in our fight against the virus and take them with us into 2021 and beyond.
It is important to note that 2020 was not simply a year defined by COVID and we have had good news locally that we can all celebrate. In these difficult times, it was welcome news that following a long campaign coordinated by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and endorsed by Sir David Attenborough, the application for a development near Askham Bog was dismissed by the Housing Minister protecting this special place for many years to come.
This year also saw the opening of York College’s Institute of Technology (IoT) facilities after the college had been selected to be the first IoT in the Yorkshire and Humber region. IoTs are a new concept which see local colleges, universities and businesses work together to offer high-quality technical education and provide the skills required in the regional economy. I firmly believe that York’s IoT will be a driving force as we recover from the pandemic and build back better.
Another event this year which will help lead our recovery was the announcement by the Chancellor in the March Budget that he had approved an investment from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock the York Central brownfield site. The York Central site is brimming with potential and provides a great opportunity for our great city through offering high spec office space within two hours from London to attract the high-quality jobs we need to emerge from the pandemic on a stronger economic footing.
The economic impact from COVID, which hit York’s large hospitality and tourism sectors hardest, make it all the more important to ensure that we maintain and develop a diverse, high-skill economy locally with York Central playing a key role with the potential to deliver over 6,500 jobs, making York a centre for the new digital economy in the North of England.
With much hope for a bounce back in the new year, it is important to note that this optimism is only possible because of the recent breakthroughs in vaccine development which will see the most vulnerable vaccinated this month. We all owe such an incredible debt of gratitude to the fantastic teams across the world who have managed to develop a vaccine within a matter of months and I am proud Great Britain is leading the way being the first country to begin a public vaccination programme. As our vaccination programme progresses in tandem with the continued roll-out of mass testing, it should cement the hard graft and determination of residents who have made such an effort to supress local infection rates.
As 2020 draws to a close, let us remember the times we helped one another and pulled together as a city, taking newfound friendships with us into 2021 and leaving the worst of the pandemic behind.
It may be slightly different this year, but I wish you and your family a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.