Since March 2020 we have become used to things that once would have been thought impossible. It is a tribute to human resilience and ingenuity how we have managed to come through this.
But we should not forget how terrible this year has been for so many people: those who have lost loved ones or are suffering the effects of long Covid or who lost their jobs or whose mental health suffered or who struggled with educating their children from home.
They should all be in our thoughts.
I am incredibly proud of the way Ipswich Borough Council responded to Covid.
We completely changed the way the council worked while maintaining vital services such as bin collections, benefits, and parks, and introducing new ones such as delivering food parcels, the Home But Not Alone phoneline, and distributing grants to local businesses.
None of this would have been possible without our hardworking and dedicated staff.
Covid has caused a £16m hit to the council’s finances with Government support only covering £10m of this. Unless we had taken the tough but necessary action to make savings the Council could have faced bankruptcy.
As we venture back out after lockdown, we will be able to see, in the large number of empty shops, the devastation wrought on retailers. Bringing the town centre back to life will be one of our toughest challenges.
As we rebuild, it must be better than before.
This pandemic has been a severe test for our country and the virus has ruthlessly exploited the weaknesses that were already there. Years of underinvestment in public services and our low-paid, insecure job market have both contributed to Britain being more severely affected than many countries.
But Covid has not affected everyone equally and those who already had least are those who have suffered most. The fundamental lesson we need to learn is that our society is only as strong as its weakest member.