The last twelve months have been the most challenging many of us have ever seen, and I can only start this column by reiterating my thanks for everyone who has played their part in our community’s response.
These include our NHS and care workers, those who kept the shops stocked up and the transport system running, as well as our school teachers. From our emergency services and utility workers, to our armed forces who supported COVID-19 testing efforts.
There have also been countless people who did the shopping for a neighbour, called to check in on others, and have worked with vulnerable residents to help ensure no one was left behind. Local authority staff have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure those in need of supplies receive these in a timely manner; their work will not be forgotten.
I have been pleased to honour a number of organisations and volunteers for their swift action which has continued throughout the year. My Crawley Coronavirus Community Champions include the Crawley Town Community Foundation, particularly through their Tackling Loneliness Together initiative, and the team at Sussex Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes Hypermobility Community Group for their work supporting people around the county with this condition.
I was also delighted to commend Neil Munday and Susy Radio 103.4, and Paul Masters of 7th Crawley (Furnace Green) Scout Group, for the work they have done to support others this year.
In January, one of the first tasks undertaken by this Government was to enshrine in law for the first time funding increases for the National Health Service. The NHS Funding Act confirms an extra £33.9 billion every year by 2023-24 for the NHS to transform care.
I spoke in the House of Commons to support this legislation; this was also the first time I raised coronavirus in the chamber; a topic which was to dominate parliamentary proceedings for some time to come.
Locally I spent much of the months ahead liaising with local authorities, lobbying Government for further support, and providing assistance to Crawley residents in need of help for their families and their businesses.
In Westminster I set up the Future of Aviation All-Party Parliamentary Group, in recognition of the importance of this sector for the Crawley economy, including workers at Gatwick Airport and across the supply chain.
2020 has been an unprecedented year – the Government have sought to tackle the two big challenges of COVID-19, ensuring the NHS was able to deliver and our economy was supported – to this end Crawley has received over £100 million in direct support.
As the coronavirus vaccine rollout begins across the United Kingdom – the first nation to do so – we are on the threshold of recovery in 2021.
My very best wishes to all in Crawley this Christmas.
Henry Smith MP