Hi, I'm Paul Woodhead, leader of the Chase Community Independents Group, a district and town Councillor for Hednesford. And on behalf of our group, I'd like to wish you and your family a Happy Christmas.

It has been said too many times that this has been a difficult year. The word unprecedented has been used too often, and we have introduced new words to our vocabulary, which we have never heard of or used before. Social distancing, self-isolation, R rate, furlough, and even Zoom, are new to us all. This year has been challenging to us all. Most, if not all of us, know someone who has been ill from the virus, and some of us have lost loved ones. Some relationships have flourished while others have wilted on the vine. But we were all there for each other when it mattered most. Our thoughts, at a traditional time of joy and glad tidings will be tinted with these experiences. And we will each hold a moment of reflection for everyone who started 2020 with us, but will not continue with us into 2021.

As we have moved through the crisis this year, I have been lifted by the great generosity of spirit, the compassion and selflessness of our community. When each of us needed to reach out for a little support, that accumulation of each of these small acts of kindness, echoed so loud, but it has stayed with us all as we rekindled the neighborliness we all recognise around us. Whether it is essential medicines picked up and dropped off, food shopping for those shielding, or gifts collected for children, each thoughtful act has helped ease even a little bit the hardships suffered by those most vulnerable to the impact of the virus. Whether that is social, economic, or our mental and physical wellbeing. We would like to share our thanks and appreciation to the volunteers who helped keep the vulnerable safe.

Our key workers, who kept our bins emptied and our shelves stocked. [inaudible 00:00:02:21], HMRC, and DWP staff who processed all those payments for furlough and business grants, and supported those hardest hit financially for the benefit system. And of course, the men and women who serve in our national health service. We would also want to thank those working within the education system who have faced many challenges. And of course our children in the community who have shown remarkable resilience. Thank you, is too small a phrase to cover the contribution you have made to keeping us going this year, but it is probably the most appropriate.

Many of us have found a new balance of working from home. Less time commuting and more time with those closest to us, as the pace of life this year has slowed down a little. Although we have not been able to reach out and comfort close family and friends outside our support bubbles, it has been a time of reflection and recognition of the things in life that are most important to us. And a rediscovering that time is the most precious commodity of all. We might've found new hobbies or interests. Our gardens might've looked better than they have ever done, and we might've finished that DIY project that we never had time for.

In the face of all this adversity, I take great pride from 2020, that all these aspects of our human spirit have shown brightly. And I hope that you also take the positives into the New Year, which will continue to have the challenges of the old year, and I guess, a few new ones thrown in too. But I firmly believe this year has brought out the best of us, and it should give each of us great strength and fortitude as we work together as a community for whatever the future holds. Merry Christmas and a happy prosperous New Year. Thank you.