New Year messages from Plymouth's MPs and police
ALISON SEABECK (Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View)
2012 was a year in which there were some major changes in our City. We had elections in May which saw the election of a Labour Council which has picked up on the challenges posed to them by the economy and government cut backs and are working with residents, business and voluntary organisations to try, in a very open way, to maintain services. The City, led by the Council, understands the importance of grasping every opportunity presented as well as the need to, very proactively, market our great City to encourage inward investment.
2013 will be a very tough year as many find their incomes are further cut because of changes to working hours, changes to benefit entitlement for people who are in work and changes in the price of everyday items. We continue to have problems, around our transport systems and the recent severe weather served to highlight just how easy it is for Plymouth to be cut off without rail, road, or air links. Clearly we have to keep pressing the SW case for better connectivity because some important decisions are likely to be made in 2013.
However, Plymouth will see further positive changes as more new homes are built as part of the regeneration of North Prospect. The City’s application to be City of Culture is also very exciting and builds on the success of the Americas Cup and British Art Show both of which let the world know that Plymouth can deliver on a large scale and has the capacity to welcome visitors from around the country and indeed, the globe. Our reputation as a place to come and enjoy good food will be further enhanced as Gary Rhodes opens his new restaurant and with the 2012 Professional MasterChef winner based just outside the City we are going from strength to strength.
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OLIVER COLVILE (Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport)
THE last year has been the most rewarding of my life representing Plymouth Sutton & Devonport in the House of Commons.
Last Christmas I helped convince the Chancellor to give the VAT from the Military Wives Choir’s number one hit “Where-ever you are” to SSAFFA and the Royal British Legion.
In this year’s last PMQs, the Prime Minister confirmed to me that the veterans from the Arctic convoys would receive a medal.
In June we welcomed the Duke of Wessex, the Prime Minister, much of the military’s top brass and over 30,000 people to the Hoe for National Armed Forces Day. It was the culmination of a campaign that all Plymouth MPs, the City Council and community groups had fought for since the previous Labour Government gave it to Chatham at Plymouth’s expense in 2010.
Plymouth faces some real economic challenges. At the start of the economic crisis many analysts and commentators warned that because of our reliance on the public sector, Plymouth would be very vulnerable. That is why we must all work to rebalance our economy by attracting inward investment and campaigning for better road and rail transport links.
As a world leader in marine science engineering research, the south-west’s cultural capital and with one of the UK’s most dynamic medical schools, Plymouth can build a dynamic economy and develop a skills base to attract much needed private investment.
In reflecting on progress half way through this Parliament, we can be cautiously optimistic. I am delighted that I have played a small part in the local political team and have helped champion Plymouth’s cause nationally.
Next year’s ambitions include fighting for better transport links, working with local businesses, the City Council and our dynamic University to attract more private investment and pressing for the Type 26s to be base ported at Devonport. The Prime Minister must remain good to his word - that Devonport would be one of Britain’s principle Royal Naval strategic ports.
But above all, I want to wish everyone in Plymouth Sutton & Devonport a Happy New Year.
So, we face serious challenges in 2013 but there are huge opportunities too and we must all do our best to grasp them.
GARY STREETER (Conservative MP for South West Devon)
A FEW months back one of the work experience people that I often have shadowing me for a day was keen to share with me all day long his dazzling solutions to all of the world’s deepest challenges.
Each pithy summary was delivered with utter conviction and every masterpiece was topped off with the words: Simple As. He was not invited back.
As we look out on 2013, the one thing we know for sure is that it will not be: Simple As. It will be complicated and probably messy. The ever-globalising, inter-dependent world is beset with complex problems: a faltering global economy, the relative decline of the West, the seemingly insoluble euro-zone crisis, conflict in the Middle East, changing weather patterns, mass migration and debt mountains to name but a few.
In the UK our own economy walks a tightrope between growth and recession as the government does its best to get our deficit under control and struggles with a welfare state that we can no longer afford.
Closer to home, in addition to our usual challenges we must now add improved flood defences for our low lying communities and greater resilience to our vital rail link to the list of campaigns for the New Year. Financial challenge; engineering challenge; challenges on all sides.
But when have we ever started a New Year thinking: everything in the garden is rosy. I can’t remember it. So we must also see the positives and opportunities. Many businesses are growing, creating new private sector jobs. Unemployment keeps on falling and apprenticeships are rising. We are transforming the welfare system so that it will be more unaffordable for the next generation and our reforms of health and education are beginning to bear fruit.
Plymouth is still a great place to live and full of potential.
In the end the global and natio0nal landscape is only the backdrop. Our lives are more impacted by the faith we possess, the people we love and the choices we make.
2013 may well be complex, but it can still be fulfilling and rewarding. Simple As.
CHIEF SUPERINTENDENT CHRIS SINGER - Policing Commander of Plymouth
2012 has been a year of real contrast.
Before it had even begun 2012 was heralded as a difficult year as the effects of cuts in public spending began to bite. The UK economy may have avoided a return to recession but very few people managed to avoid discomfort as the nation, indeed the world, tightened its belt.
But 2012 also had a feel good factor too – which kick-started for many in the south west with the Olympic torch relay on 19 May. Who can forget the memorable scenes when the flame arrived in Plymouth and the ensuing party on the Hoe, which attracted 55,000 people.
The games themselves went on to provide sporting heroes from our great city too attracting worldwide attention to its place as a centre for sporting excellence.
This is my first Christmas message as commander of police in Plymouth and, since I took over from Chief Superintendent Andy Bickley, I have been continually impressed by the commitment my officers and staff show to making the city a safe place to live, work and play.
There have been some significant policing milestones and successes in 2012 and, despite significant deployment of Plymouth officers to both the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, overall crime has fallen.
A particular high-spot for me was the October opening, after many years in the development, of the new police station at Devonport. The official opening, coincidentally, was the last official engagement for Police Authority chairman Mike Bull, which was fitting as the authority played a massive role in ensuring this fantastic facility was delivered for the community of Devonport.
The future scrutiny of the service we deliver now falls to police and crime commissioner Tony Hogg, who was elected in November. I look forward to the opportunities this will offer in the future.
It would be impossible to keep people safe, healthy and happy this Christmas without the collaboration of partners around the city – the work that we all do together really does make a difference.
I would like to wish you all a safe and enjoyable festive season and a happy, prosperous new year.