So it’s farewell 2021 and hello 2022. No doubt, this time last year, I would have been reflecting on a disappointing 2020 and hoping for a better year to come. Admittedly, it’s not been perfect, and it has been a challenge, but there have been some positives to come from the year. Ever the optimist, I wanted to share a few highlights.
Let’s start with the vaccine roll-out. This has been an extraordinary achievement from those in our GP surgeries, our NHS staff and the hundreds of volunteers across the constituency. All are magnificent. Our local pharmacist in Ticehurst, Hardik Desai, got namechecked by the Prime Minister in one of the Downing Street press conferences. Our vaccination centre in Rother, set up by the Sussex Community NHS Foundation, got mentioned in the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for Health. Being a largely rural area, we had a slower start but we became, by summer, one of the top ten constituencies out of 650 for our high vaccination rates. The booster programme has been a similar success. We have the best record in the South East. Many teams from our GP surgeries and NHS gave up a large chunk of their Christmas to continue the roll-out. I was pleased to help out at the Heathfield GP clinic at the Community Centre a couple of times on Christmas week. I was proud to stand alongside these great people. Those who came in were in high spirits; boosted for Christmas.
Next to our other public service providers; they have continued to teach our children, operate our transport system, deliver our mail, ensure our refuse is collected and our local authority services are delivered. All have been led by strong management and elected representatives doing their best to lead. All of this has been undertaken with a set of rules which kept changing, a workforce diminished by ‘pingdemic’ and a requirement to test. I hope those within this category will not mind me singling out our teachers and school staff. One of the biggest tragedies of 2020 was the lost time in the classroom. Thanks to the testing which our schools have provided, pupils have mainly been back in class. Adults can largely catch up on missed opportunities. Adolescent years cannot be repeated. It has been good to see our young back in our fine local schools again.
Our local business community and our cultural icons have once again conquered the challenges to keep the doors open and keep us enriched with local produce and events. People rightly champion the public sector services, such as those I have listed above, but none of it would be provided were it not for those who work hard, keep the community in employment and pay the taxes which fund our essential services. Not enough praise is given to entrepreneurs and organisations who take risks and pay out to society when the rewards are shared. It’s been a tough end to the year for many of our businesses. I am so glad that we were patient with the Omicron data and kept Christmas and the New Year open for business.
A final shout out to the people who put this fine newspaper together. A free press is not just an essential part of our democracy, it keeps us informed of what is going on around us. It encourages us to use our voice to fight the injustices. This could be an ill-thought out planning application or a closure of a club or society due to a lack of volunteers. It acts as a call to arms for our community to protect the things which are in danger of being lost. To Colin and everyone in the Bexhill and Battle Observer, thank you for keeping us in the loop (and sorry for the late copy).
Happy New Year to everyone in this beautiful part of the world. It has been a challenging year but we are lucky to have a stunning coastline, beautiful countryside and towns and villages rich in history and community spirit. No matter what 2022 chucks at us, this will always be ours to cherish.