Happy new year to all residents in Sunderland. 2015 was an extremely busy year, and 2016 looks like it will be no different.
The defining issue for this year is likely to be the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
I will be campaigning for our continued membership, as I believe the EU is crucial for Sunderland and the wider North East when it comes to jobs, investment and workers’ rights.
I believe it also says something about who we are as a country – that we want to be part of a multilateral approach to combatting some of the world’s biggest challenges, from climate change to terrorism.
While the Tories do have a majority in Parliament, it is only a narrow one. I will be working hard with my Labour colleagues to stand up to the worst excesses of this Government, and force them to U-turn like we did on the tax credit cuts.
In Sunderland, work is stepping on up on the new bridge between Castletown and Pallion, the first to be built over the Wear in the city for 40 years, and part of a broader strategy to reduce congestion and regenerate the area.
Development also continues at the Vaux site. The £100m redevelopment will provide office space, restaurants, retail and leisure facilities in the centre of the city.
The planning application submitted for the site has been recently validated, and now includes a masterplan and the fixed positions of roads, buildings and land uses. I’d be interested to hear your views on the site’s development.
Sunderland’s bid to be named the UK’s City of Culture in 2021 is gaining pace, and I am confident that with the support of the Sunderland Music, Arts and Cultural Quarter, our thriving independent music scene and of course our passion for sport, we have a great chance of winning.
My focus for 2016 is to help bring further jobs and investment to Sunderland. I believe that the construction and regeneration works that are taking place, as well as our continued membership of the European Union is the best way to do that, and I am grateful for your continued support.