This year has been unlike any other in our lifetime, and very few of us will find ourselves sorry to see the back of 2020. As we approach an altogether different Christmas from what we are used to, I think it is important to say thank you and pay tribute to all those that have made great sacrifices to keep us safe throughout the year.

For many this has been a year of sadness and loss, loss of loved ones and a feeling that our futures have been put at risk with the economy taking such hard knocks. There will be thousands of businesses that closed their doors for good during the pandemic and a full social and economic recovery will undoubtedly be a long process.

However, there are positives to take from 2020. In this unprecedented year full of challenges and unpredictability we have also seen the very best of people. A community spirit that many thought lost in time has been rejuvenated with mutual aid and citizens alliance networks across Barking and Dagenham and Havering. Neighbours looking out for one another and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

There are genuine signs of hope appearing as we come to the end of this difficult period. Scientists around the world have worked successfully to produce vaccines, and with a global roll out round the corner normality does not seem too far away. That is why it is all the more important that we do not give a platform to ‘Covid deniers' or give way to the voices of anti-vaxxers.

Despite the uncertainty and subsequent economic challenges, Dagenham and Rainham has not been without success stories and is in a strong position to weather the storm. Just last month Barking and Dagenham announced their delivery partner for London's largest film studio which will bring Hollywood investment to Dagenham East, and plans were approved earlier in the year to relocate London's three historic markets to Dagenham Dock.

As we move into 2021, I will continue working to support local people, businesses, and voluntary organisations throughout Dagenham and Rainham. I also plan to keep the pressure on central government and will continue campaigning for greater investment in public services, improved healthcare and opportunities for our young people.

Finally, I want to extend warm wishes to families across Dagenham, Rainham, South Hornchurch and Elm Park this Christmas, and all the best for a happy and healthy new year. Whilst guidance has now changed over the holidays, I would still urge caution and encourage residents to behave in a responsible way that keeps all in our community safe.