Andrew Geary - A socially distances visit to Aston Martin, Newport Pagnell

I’m writing this as Christmas approaches, a time to pause and reflect on the year past and look forward to the year ahead. With the majority of 2020 being extremely different, it would be easy to focus on negatives.

But as I hope this column bears out, there have been many positives to come out of 2020 as well. And at just past the halfway point in the mayoral year it also gives Lisa and I a chance to take stock of what’s gone well, what’s perhaps been less successful and what we might want to do in our remaining months of being the Mayor and Mayoress.

As I pen this column we’ve just come out of a second period of national lockdown. Whilst the national situation slowly improves, we seem to be going the wrong way with an increase in the number of cases that is concerning. All we can do is take extra care and caution and hope for better times once the vaccine is rolled out. Currently we remain under Tier 2 restrictions, and although these are reviewed fortnightly it’s highly unlikely that we will move downwards with the current rate of new infection cases.

I imagine the subject of a covid 19 vaccine has been the topic of much debate and discussion for many of you. Is it safe? Would you or will you have it? Will it work? How long will it be before I can be vaccinated? I’m no authority on vaccinations. I use vaccines in my breeding livestock in my role as a farmer, but I do so under guidance from our veterinary practice. In the same way I believe we must be guided by the medics and the scientists in this area and if they say it’s safe and effective, that’s good enough for me. To answer the burning question, ‘Will you have it?’ The answer is a guarded, “Yes, absolutely.”

Guarded only because if there are underlying issues that would make it more risky then they need to be considered and I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of anyone more vulnerable than me receiving it either. As I write, the roll out programme has just launched. Let’s hope the logistics work for a large scale programme of vaccinations in early 2021 and that a brighter year ahead results.

Whilst the whole of our mayoral year to date and the majority of 2020 has been so affected by covid 19, it has been heartening to see how communities have come together in a way that perhaps we’ve not seen for a very long time.

Visiting the Love Local Hub with the Deputy Mayor

Businesses and individuals have taken up the mantle of looking out for one another in new and enhanced ways. From the extra calls to check on vulnerable friends and neighbours, to the food deliveries and armies of volunteers doing practical jobs for those shielding.

The High Sheriff, Andrew Farncombe and I were very touched when we visited Aston Martin in the autumn to hear about how furloughed staff came into work to offer free servicing and repairs to NHS workers cars in order that no doctors or nurses needed to miss caring for the community because of vehicle problems. Or the fashion designers in Olney who switched to making face coverings and gave away more than 10,000 of them in a three month period to help keep the community safe. They are just a couple of the hundreds of heartwarming accounts of kindness that have been displayed by the wonderful MK community that I’ve been so privileged to get to know better in the last six months. 

Like most people in all walks of life we’ve had to find new and different ways to operate. Eight months ago I’d never heard of Zoom or Teams. But I suspect they will remain a major part of everyday life. Our older generation have embraced technology too – if my 78 year old father can get to grips with Zoom and email after years of shying away from it, then it proves there are positives to come out of this pandemic as well. 

For the first time our Armistice Commemorations were live streamed on Facebook. We had almost 200 people watching with us and it’s received more than 6000 views since. And yet 12 months ago we’d have perhaps never even thought of doing so. Charity fundraising quizzes via Zoom are becoming commonplace and the first one for the Mayor’s Charities will have taken place by the time you read this. My thanks to Barclays Bank for their generosity in matching all monies raised in the raffle.

Because of the restrictions we have been doing many more virtual events over the last month, but opportunities are now coming up for more personal meetings and events. It’s good to see new businesses opening; from pop up shops in CMK showcasing and selling locally produced goods and gifts to a first for MK, a Tim Hortons drive-through restaurant and take away. If you’re a coffee or donut lover (and I’m both) then they’re a must!

But I’m aware that for many, despite trying to be upbeat and taking positives from 2020, it has been a truly difficult and challenging year.

To those whose livelihoods have come under threat, to those for whom life will never quite be the same again, and especially to those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic, we look forward to Christmas and the beginning of 2021 as perhaps the turning point.

And, if asked to sum up how those in those positions, and truthfully I suspect that’s most of us, really feel and how we can indeed look forward with renewed optimism then perhaps I can do no better than Edmund Sears did in a verse of a well known Christmas Carol when he wrote: 

And ye, who’s journey now is long,

Whose forms are bending low,

Who toil along the climbing way

With painful steps and slow.

Look now! For glad and golden hours

Come swiftly on the wing

O rest beside the weary road

And hear the angels sing.

A very happy and blessed Christmas to all our readers and here’s to a prosperous and much better 2021. Stay safe and well.

Andrew Geary, Mayor of Milton Keynes

andrew.geary@milton-keynes.gov.uk | 01908 253601

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