Christmas message from Councillor Simon Geraghty
As we head towards the end of this exceptional year, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the way that Worcestershire has responded to the pandemic and I would like to wish everyone a safe and peaceful Christmas.
In recent weeks we have seen the number of coronavirus cases in the county come down significantly. The number of positive cases has dropped in all parts of Worcestershire, which has been very encouraging to see. Like everyone else I am delighted that we now have a vaccine and that the vaccination programme is underway.
We need to continue to be vigilant and do what we can to protect our loved ones and to contain the virus but let’s not forget that progress is being made and we can be optimistic as we head into the New Year.
I am very pleased that school attendance in Worcestershire has regularly been above the national average this term. I want to thank our schools and Early Years settings, as well as the Public Health teams who have been working closely with them, for enabling the vast majority of pupils to be in school in Worcestershire throughout this term. Our colleges and the University have also worked hard to ensure learning can continue in a safe way.
I have been reassured to see that care homes across the county have been going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that their residents continue to have vital contact with their relatives, especially at this time of year.
During the pandemic, I have heard of many examples of new and innovative ways of staying in touch introduced across care settings in the county. These have included garden visits, Face Time calls using iPads or phones while some homes have enabled visiting to take place, using Perspex screens.
One of my top priorities for the County Council is to protect the most vulnerable in our society and to help reduce the impact of loneliness and isolation in these challenging times.
During the recent national lockdown our Here2Help Worcestershire service once again provided much needed support. During November we received 636 requests for help. The support given by Here2Help ranged from organising the delivery of shopping and medical supplies, to giving guidance on mental wellbeing for those self-isolating. Here2Help Worcestershire remains open for those who need our help.
Following the end of the lockdown, working together as “One Worcestershire” the County Council, district council colleagues and our partners have reopened our towns and our high streets as we prepare for the festive period. Our town centres are safe places to visit and to shop as long as we all keep to the guidelines.
It has been a very challenging year for many businesses including our retailers and the county’s hospitality sector. So please do help our local businesses and shop local if you can this Christmas. If every household in the county spends just £10 extra with Worcestershire businesses, the local economy could be boosted by around £2.5m this Christmas and this could help retain more local jobs.
The County Council continues to support our business community. I am proud of our Here2Help Business Programme which is enabling businesses to recover from the pandemic. At a time when job opportunities are difficult to come by for young people we are enabling graduate placements. Working in partnership with the University of Worcester Business School and Worcestershire Ambassadors, we have launched an innovative mentoring project which matches local business owners with experienced Ambassadors to offer them invaluable expertise and guidance.
I’m determined to ensure we continue to do all we can to support the local economy and continue to invest in improving our infrastructure to help businesses to grow again and create employment opportunities.
We will continue to work with our district, town and parish council colleagues and all those other partner organisations as ‘One Worcestershire’ to coordinate our response to the virus and enable our economy to recover. Working together I am confident that we can bounce back in 2021 and ensure Worcestershire continues to be an excellent place to live, work, visit and invest in.
With all my best wishes for Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, Leader of Worcestershire County Council