Wednesday December 18, 2013
Once more, it's that time of year to gather with friends and family and enjoy some well-earned yuletide cheer. But, as 2013 draws to a close, it's also a time to reflect on the year that's now behind us. As Lennon sang, "So this is Christmas. And what have you done?"
There's no doubt this has been a tough year for Brent. Helping out at a South Kilburn foodbank last week, I met countless parents skipping meals so their kids would have enough to eat. Yet even as rising energy bills, rents and transport fares continue to squeeze family budgets, unprecedented government funding cuts are forcing the council to make changes to the frontline services which local people rely on daily.
I hope this explains why Brent Council hasn't been able to pay for public decorations for any religious festivals this year. I wish we could light up Brent's streets to help spread festive cheer, but we are being forced to choose between putting up baubles and tinsel and providing social care services to our most vulnerable residents- and that's no choice at all.
It would be easy for Brent residents to say "bah humbug" this Christmas, but I know the spirit of the season is alive and well in our borough. I'm proud to live in a place where people volunteer for local charities, participate in community groups and look in on elderly neighbours. These acts of home-grown kindness bring warmth to what otherwise would be a very bleak mid-winter, and capture the festive spirit better than any Arctic reindeer or Norwegian spruce.
I'm confident that by coming together as a community we can turn the challenges we face into opportunities and make 2014 the year in which we emerge from tough times as a stronger and fairer borough. Next year we'll kick off an ambitious plan to build 1000 new affordable homes for Brent families, bring down household bills for more residents through the Big London Energy Switch and create more jobs for local people through new developments like the London Designer Outlet in Wembley.
We've got a lot of work to do together, but for now let's deck the halls and get carolling. To everyone in Brent, I wish you a merry Christmas, and a happy, prosperous 2014.