I hope people in Hartlepool had an enjoyable and relaxing Christmas. Thoughts now turn now to 2016, possible New Year resolutions and what will be achieved in the new year.
A new year is a time for renewed hope and expectations for the future.
I hope that in 2016 Hartlepool is able to experience a better and more prosperous economy, with more people able to enjoy more opportunities and well-paid work, together with public services, which we all rely on, funded properly and located in the town.
Those will be my priorities in the House of Commons as Hartlepool’s MP for the new year, together with providing a service for constituents on individual concerns.
The world will face some significant challenges and opportunities in 2016.
There will be a Presidential election in the United States, and because President Obama has served his two terms we can guarantee that there will be a new occupant of the White House.
The Chinese economy may continue to slow down, which has repercussions for the world, not least, as we’ve seen, steel manufacturers in the UK.
The price of oil is forecast to continue to fall, which is great when you’re filling your car up with petrol, and which should generally help the economy with cheaper costs.
But, as I mention later, it might not be so welcome if you are one of the many workers or firms in the North East who rely on the oil and gas industry.
Closer to home, Hartlepool, along with many parts of the North East, has suffered in recent years.
2015 was tough for many people in the town: for an economy still largely built on manufacturing, the crisis in the UK steel industry - particularly the closures of Caparo in our own town and SSI in Redcar - have badly affected workers in those factories and throughout the local supply chain.
In 2016, the problems in the North Sea oil and gas industry, in which many Hartlepool people are employed, will cause severe pressures.
2016 needs to be the year in which the Government’s talk of a Northern Powerhouse needs to move from mere talk to action and reality.
I would be the first to back a proper powerhouse for our area, utilising the region’s skills, assets and potential, but the Government needs to act.
The recent floods in the North show vividly how important well-funded public services are.
From the professional emergency services dealing with the immediate crisis, as well as the armed forces and the NHS staff catering to people who are suffering, and the local authorities trying to literally stem the wife of rising water – all demonstrate how much this country owes the public sector and the people who work in it.
I hope 2016 is the year the Government recognises that a vibrant public sector is not somehow a negative, but a civilising force for good.
That should mean that local councils, particularly Hartlepool, should get the funding settlement they need and deserve to provide decent public services.
It also means the NHS is restored to full health, with services provided safely, professionally and fully staffed in Hartlepool, rather than further afield.
I will use 2016 to raise awareness of the importance of these issues in Parliament.