To call 2012 a challenging year would be a masterful understatement.
We are living through turbulent times and few certainties remain. Our present age of austerity has tested the mettle of local businesses and change has become a way of life. In such times, it’s entirely natural to count blessings. And in Shropshire, we have them in abundance.
Beautiful landscape, vibrant communities, sensational food and exceptional culture are among the county’s many virtues.
Tonight, when people look forward to 2013, they can do so with hope and gladness. We live in one of the country’s most beautiful regions where the quality of life outstrips that of most other British locations.
Pockets of the county have some of the lowest crime rates in England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales and in some of our towns and districts life expectancy is considerably higher than average. We have a robust public sector, a dynamic private sector and during the next 12 months, millions of pounds will be spent on new developments in our two principal towns of Telford and Shrewsbury.
The movers and shakers who help to run our county have plans to revive an economy that has stalled in recent years. We are in good hands.
Shropshire’s high number of small and medium-sized enterprises are the envy of policy makers and business analysts across the UK. Our businesses are more go-getting, more entrepreneurial and more inventive than those in many other places.
As we anticipate the year ahead, we can do so in a truly beautiful environment. From Whitchurch and Market Drayton in the north to Ludlow and Cleobury Mortimer in the south; from Newport and Bridgnorth in the east to Bishop’s Castle and Church Stretton in the west, our picturesque towns are the envy of people living in neighbouring counties.
We are blessed with great community spirit: if David Cameron ever needs an example of people who embody the ‘big society’ approach, he should look no further than Shropshire. People get on with it and make the best of things.
There is much to enjoy right on our doorstep. Our county is a hub of great local arts and culture and we have an energetic food scene that is unquestionably the UK’s best.
Of course, the county has its ills. But when all else fails, we’re able to enjoy the majesty of sights like the Iron Bridge. We can take a walk to the top of the Wrekin, or stroll across the Long Mynd and marvel at nature’s bounty.
Down the years, Shropshire has inspired poets and artists through all generations. And that is little wonder. The River Severn’s spellbinding beauty, Ludlow’s formidable architecture, south Shropshire’s marvellous hills and the clean, fresh air in our countryside are features that money cannot buy.
Shropshire remains one of Britain’s best kept secrets – and that means those of us who though those of us who live and work here can do so in relative peace. There is much to enjoy, much to look forward to.
They say the best things in life are free. And in Shropshire, they are.