IT'S that time of year again when, after the Christmas festivities, our thoughts turn to the new year and what we hope it will bring.

For many, this may be something that they want to improve on for themselves from the year before, while for others it might be a positive change they wish to see in wider society.

Personally, despite the pandemic and other issues we have faced together during the past year, I think there are some reasons to be hopeful for 2022.

We all faced significant challenges over the last year, not least in the last month when the North East was battered by Storm Arwen, causing unprecedented power outages across the region. As in 2020, when Covid-19 really struck the country for the first time, I have been reminded of the strong sense of community in Durham. When it became clear that the official response to the storm, both locally and nationally, was totally inadequate, local people stepped up to help. Volunteers opened community centres; councillors and community leaders arranged for food supplies. Then there was the way friends and neighbours helped each other and looked out for more vulnerable people across the county – it was another example of what is best about the North East.

I was reminded of this again at the end of December, when I joined members of the Labour Party in Durham Market Place to collect donations for local foodbanks. The generosity of those who were passing, or in some cases, who came into the city to specifically make a donation, was truly inspiring. I’ve already spoken about the impact of the Government’s decision to cut Universal Credit by £20 per week and about how a large number of those claiming Universal Credit are in work, and now alongside this we have seen rising fuel prices and household bills. Despite this, large numbers of people made the journey into Durham to donate food. In some cases, several bags of food.

So as we look to the new year there is little doubt that 2022 will bring challenges. People will still be struggling due to Government inaction; public services will still be underfunded and under resourced; we will still be living in an area where, for the first time in generations, life expectancy has begun to fall.

Of course, there will still be public health concerns, with the Omicron variant spreading throughout the UK, and posing a significant risk to the NHS as well as those who have yet to have the vaccine. But we have seen another heroic effort by the NHS to roll out the booster programme, and the vaccine drive itself has been a big success. I hope that we see an even bigger uptake of vaccines and booster shots in the new year.

The Northern Echo: City of Durham MP Mary Kelly Foy

I know that we can face this and other challenges the way we have faced those over the past few years: together, as a community.

And my resolution? To keep doing my best to make sure that my constituents have their voices heard in Parliament, and to keep demanding that the Government gives the North East, and particularly Durham, the same attention as other regions of the country.

  • Mary Kelly Foy is the Labour MP for the City of Durham