County council leader reflects on year of ‘meeting tough challenges of living alongside Covid-19’

At this time of year, we often reflect on the recent past as we anticipate a New Year ahead. Like the Roman God Janus, we find ourselves in state of transition, looking forward and backwards to prepare for new beginnings.

Paul Marshall
Paul Marshall

In my view, 2021 will be remembered as a year like no other. We’ve spent all 12 months in a pandemic world, working on many personal and professional levels to meet the tough challenges of living alongside Covid-19.

Sometimes the latest news or a new change in guidance can send ripples of anxiety through our communities. When residents speak with me about their concerns, it’s a fulfilling part of my role to be able to offer reassurance about how we’re making a difference here in West Sussex. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been ensuring we continue to deliver services for residents locally while taking action to support measures to counter transmission of the virus.

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As leader of West Sussex County Council, I have seen incredible commitment and dedication in public services, local organisations and businesses across the county. Time and time again, the priority has been on caring for the vulnerable and showing compassion to all in these ever-changing circumstances.

I’ve heard too many stories of tragedy that have moved me deeply. And yet also, there are stories of bravery, kindness and hope - often all merged in together.

In December 2020, now more than a year ago, the first vaccines became available and a real sense of hope in the darkness began to take shape as the vaccine programme rolled out. I’ve been to have my jabs as soon as the NHS has confirmed I’m eligible each time. Vaccines are our best form of defence.

But there’s no ignoring how it’s been a terrible time. We’ve all lost loved ones and the sadness is beyond measure. Livelihoods and the key life event celebrations have also been lost in a way that will echo on through our families in the future when this is part of history rather than our day to day reality. As I look forward and back, I know that I will never forget the heavy load so many have carried to help bring us to more positive times ahead.

As leader of the council I have been humbled by the year gone by and it has reaffirmed my commitment to all our residents. Because amid everything we have faced, I have seen our council deliver and grow.

While the pandemic has been front and centre, we’ve been steadily providing stability and planning for the future for the good of all residents. Our focus has been on delivering adult social care, services that have proved more needed than ever. We’ve been tackling climate change and looking at the best ways to make effective change at a local level. We’ve introduced Our Council Plan which sets out the priorities for the council over the next four years and the outcomes we want to achieve for people who live and work in West Sussex.

At the heart of everything we do is our belief in making our county better for the people who live here. We are a county of many communities and united by more than geography. So I choose to look ahead with confidence, knowing we are making plans and decisions for the good of all.

While we wait for the New Year to begin, I would like to take the chance to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, however you are spending your time. May the season bring you peace and hope.