Thursday, 30 December 2021

Happy New Year 2021/22

The New Year has always been seen as a chance for renewal, an opportunity to turn over a new leaf or to make a fresh start. At a personal level, many people will resolve to stop smoking, join a gym or make other changes to their life.  After two very difficult years for our country as we have wrestled with the Covid pandemic, here are a few areas where I think our country should resolve to make changes.
Firstly, we all need to learn to live alongside the threat of new variants of Covid and carry on with our lives. Emergency powers should never be used lightly and the restrictions required over the last two years, while necessary, have been quite draconian.  Now that the vast majority of the population is vaccinated and receiving booster vaccinations, we should resist the inclination to bring in restrictions on people’s lives and allow people to manage their own risks in their own way.  We do not want another year where people are told whether they can go to church or attend band practice.
Secondly, we need to finally fix the problems that have caused pressure on the NHS by joining up adult social care and health services.  While there has been a huge increase in funding for the NHS over the last decade, the demands have also grown and there are pinch points that need to be addressed.  A number of doctors surgeries are struggling to recruit the next generation of GPs and too many are relying on part-time GPs.  We are then getting too many people turning up at A&E and, because of staffing problems in nursing care, hospitals are also not able to discharge patients as quickly as they should.  This situation is exacerbated because the clinical staff at hospitals are sometimes too risk-averse in prescribing how much care support a patient needs when discharged which makes it hard to discharge them at all.  The government is making a further huge cash injection into the NHS funded through a new social care levy on National Insurance but we need to ensure that the structural issues that exist in the system are fixed as part of that package.
Thirdly, the problems of mental health have worsened during the pandemic and we need a concerted effort to get it back on track.  Some of it is down to the frustrations of modern life.  For the elderly, it can often be linked to loneliness and for the young, teenage anxieties are exacerbated in the age of social media which can be needlessly cruel.  Then there are all of the issues associated with drug abuse and we have been affected by the “county line” drug problem like many other communities.  Trying to nurture a culture across our society where we focus on wellbeing, recognise the value of friendships, family and nature in helping people stay grounded and encourage people to look out for one another is key.
Finally, here in Cornwall, we need to make further progress in addressing our housing shortages.  Some of it is due to second home ownership in coastal villages but it’s also more complex than that.  There are also many people who are choosing to retire to Cornwall for understandable reasons and in some of our towns, the problems of family breakdown mean more households divided which places pressure on housing availability.  We do need to build new homes but must build on brownfield sites before greenfield sites and we must go the extra mile to ensure that homes that are built are aesthetically beautiful and fit the local built environment.
The end of 2021 was a difficult one for the Prime Minister and the government with controversies and challenges on multiple fronts.  For our part, we will be wanting to put some of these problems behind us in 2022 and get to work on the big issues our country faces as it gets back on its feet.
I wish you a very happy New Year and a successful 2022!

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