Another challenging year, but vaccines have brought us to a better place

Posted: Tuesday 14th December 2021
As another testing year draws to a close, it’s fair to say that 12 months ago I didn’t expect to be still be writing about the difficulties posed by the pandemic.

There has though been significant progress. This time last year we were delivering the first Covid vaccines to residents, and the protection those vaccines gave allowed us to come out of national lockdown in early spring and live with only minor restrictions through the summer and autumn. Now we have the renewed challenge of the Omicron variant, and while this is daunting, vaccines remain our best hope, with early studies are showing that the booster jab gives protection against this new variant. Tens of thousands of Trafford residents have already had their vaccinations, and I would encourage anyone who hasn’t to come forward to do so as soon as possible to keep themselves and loved ones safe.

The spread of the Omicron variant has also necessitated the introduction of the Government’s Plan B and these requirements include working from home and masks in more indoor spaces. While it’s frustrating to be back in this place, the end goal has not changed – to reduce the number of serious infections and hospitalisations by keeping the virus at bay. We now know from experience that these measures do help, so please do the right thing and follow the current guidelines to protect us all.

Living through the pandemic has brought some major challenges into clear view, and earlier this year led us to revisit our plans and aspirations for the borough. Our new vision is defined as Trafford – where all our residents, businesses and communities prosper and to help us achieve this vision we have defined three key priorities to be our focus:

  • Reducing health inequalities - Working with people, communities and partners, particularly in deprived areas, to improve the physical and mental health of all our residents.
  • Supporting people out of poverty - Tackling the root causes to prevent people from falling into poverty, and raising people out of it.
  • Addressing our climate crisis - reducing our carbon footprint and tackling the impact of climate change.

These are huge and complex issues, and we will be relying on the help and support of partners across our communities as we work together to create opportunities and improve lives in Trafford.

Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, there is still much to celebrate with some amazing work taking place in 2021.

Our Adult Social Care team has been working harder than ever dealing with the challenges the service faces and we helped more than 5,000 people to live well at home with a package of homecare.

The pandemic also shone a light on homelessness, and Council officers from HOST (Housing Options Service Trafford) have worked hard this year to assist rough sleepers. They have taken to the streets overnight on a number of occasions, most recently in October, to search areas where homeless people might be sleeping to offer help and advice.

Our Exchequer Services team delivered £8m of grants to support Trafford businesses during the pandemic.

We have high ambitions to make Trafford as environmentally-friendly as possible, and with this in mind it’s exciting to see recent proposals to install around 150 new electric vehicle charging points across the borough. It was also brilliant just this week to see our One Trafford team recognised at the National Recycling Awards, winning a ‘campaign of the year’ award for our drive to improve blue bin recycling.

An incredible 11 parks and green spaces in Trafford this year took home green flag awards. The Covid lockdowns certainly taught us the value of our green spaces and their immense benefit to residents, so we are proud to have so many achieving nationally recognised standards of excellence.

Just this week the Council has announced exciting proposals for a multi-million pound refurbishment of Altrincham, Sale and Stretford Leisure Centres, which would absolutely transform these facilities and future-proof them for generations to come.

One thing that has endured despite the pandemic is sporting excellence at the heart of the borough, and we have more to come in 2022 with Old Trafford fixtures for both the Women’s Euros and then the rearranged Rugby League World Cup – definitely something to look forward to!

On a less positive note, budget pressures will continue to be an issue next year, and a huge challenge for the Council, but we will again be working hard to use our resources as efficiently as possible to protect and improve services.

All in all it has again been quite a year. But thanks to vaccines we are in a much better place than 12 months ago, and I am confident that in 2022 life will continue to improve as we work our way through the pandemic and out the other side.

 All that is left for me to do is to wish you all a happy and safe festive season and best wishes for 2022.