This time of year is, traditionally, one for both reflection on the past year and looking forward in anticipation to the future.
It has been my first full calender year as your Member of Parliament and who could have predicted such seismic upheavals, tragedy and uncertainty in just 12 short months.
Clearly, the pivotal event of the year was the EU Referendum in June. Whether you were pro-leave or a ‘remainer’, I am sure we can all agree that the decision was monumental and will have profound, but as yet unknown, impact on the United Kingdom. The result caused the toppling of a Prime Minister and the welcoming in of our country’s second ever female PM. The referendum also, tragically, coincided with the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox; an act which has left us all shell-shocked and a family without a caring wife, mother, sister and daughter. Parliament is certainly worse off without her presence.
2016 was also the year that brought us President Trump, Europe-wide terrorist attacks, unparalleled slaughter in Aleppo by Russian-backed Assad forces, the spectacular success of Team GB and Paralympics GB in the Rio Games with many athletes from Wiltshire taking part, as well as the death of many leading lights of stage, screen, the arts and culture.
In September I hosted the first ever Wiltshire Festival of Engineering with thousands of local pupils gaining an insight into the exciting world of engineering and manufacturing, inspired by dozens of local engineering companies.
I surveyed thousands of Bradford on Avon residents in the hope that we can finally begin to find an agreed solution to the town’s traffic woes. Chippenham’s parking problems have eased slightly but there is still more to do as the town welcomes new restaurants and shops to the town centre. I have met with over 80 local businesses; held over 30 surgeries, meeting with hundreds of constituents, attended over 60 community events and tried to answer each of the over 45,000 emails, letters and calls, which I have received in 2016.
We have made progress in a number of key campaigns; Wiltshire Schools will begin to see the benefits of a fairer school funding formula when the model for new school funding is introduced, the Corsham Town Team has made real progress in the campaign to see Corsham Station re-opened by 2026 and there are more people employed in Wiltshire than at any time before. I remain optimistic that next year we will see further progress in the important WASPI, Design and Technology and high street improvement campaigns.
This year has been a turbulent year and I am sure that 2017 will also be fraught with challenges, obstacles and opportunities. I aim to remain an accessible, local and active Member of Parliament but I cannot achieve anything alone, so thank you to all those who have contacted me and my office in 2016 and are helping to keep Wiltshire on the up!