Star comment: We must rise to the challenges of this new year

The post-pandemic era was supposed to be a time for bouncing back and renewal.

It was anything but that. 2022 was remarkably challenging on the domestic front and internationally, as Russia waged war and as the cost of living spiralled.

The UK saw three prime ministers through the doors of Number 10 and leadership marked by scandal and unforced error.

The consequences were disastrous for business and individuals, as the UK lost tens of billions of pounds and fell from grace on the international stage.

At home, industrial disputes became the norm as our economy stuttered.

The Government and unions were deadlocked over fair pay for the public sector while private firms found recruitment and retention increasingly difficult.

Individuals in our region were among those who suffered.

There is less money to go round, people have less disposable income and too many people locally face the stark choice between heating and eating.

As public services are cut back, charities and food banks are expected to pick up the tab.

As we begin 2023, there is renewed hope.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak presents a safer pair of hands than the two previous occupants of Number 10.

He is intent on fiscal discipline, driving down inflation and putting UK PLC back on an even footing.

While there may be a long, deep recession, there is stability rather than volatility.

As individuals, and as a community, we have it in our power to act. We can help local businesses by shopping locally, supporting our local pubs and restaurants, and backing the High Street.

There are other indiscriminate acts of kindness that can make all the difference.

We can give a gift to a stranger by donating to food banks or giving blood, we can look after our friends and neighbours by offering a few kind words or a cup of tea and a listening ear to anyone who is struggling.

There are tough times ahead and it may be that 2023 is just as challenging as 2022, or even more so.

And yet, our track record is good.

During the pandemic, we came together and got through the worst of times.

Hope springs eternal and there is far more good in our community than bad.

We are capable of making a difference in our own lives and in those of others and must embrace new challenges.

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