Last Thursday, voters went to the polls in our city to elect their local representatives to Sunderland City Council and their police and crime commissioners.
Public service is one of the most rewarding and challenging things that anyone ever chooses to do.
Can I wish all of those elected the best of luck in their endeavours and to those who did not get elected, thank them for their efforts.
Can I also put on record my thanks to those people no longer on the city council for the time and commitment that they gave to the people of Sunderland.
Our attention now turns to the upcoming EU Referendum which will take place on 23 June.
Whether or not the UK should remain in the EU is the biggest political decision of our lives.
I firmly believe that we are stronger, safer, and better off as members of the EU. Our membership is vital for jobs in our region where up to 160,000 jobs rely on trade with the EU.
The EU protects working people. It has given British workers vital protections in the workplace such as paid holidays, rights for agency workers, equal pay, anti-discrimination laws, and protection for the workforce when companies change ownership.
If we were to leave the EU, I am under no doubt that this Tory government would launch an assault on these rights secured by Labour and guaranteed under EU law.
Having access to Europe’s free trade single market of 500 million consumers enables British businesses to expand and increase employment, meaning lower prices, more jobs, increased investment and financial security.
The ease at which businesses can trade in the single market means the scrapping of taxes and duties on imported and exported goods to and from Britain.