2021 has been another difficult year for many people in many different ways – but there have also been some great moments.

The year began with the Government announcing another national lockdown, which saw the great support effort swing into action again to ensure everyone in the city, especially the most vulnerable, got the help they needed.

Covid has of course been the main issue that has shaped everyone’s lives for another year. Many people have suffered, died or lost loved ones while sacrificing some of their freedoms for the sake of others. The vaccination programme has been a great national and local effort and has proved to be the key to protecting ourselves against the virus. As the New Year looms, getting ourselves vaccinated remains really important, if 2022 isn’t also to be dominated by Covid.

What the pandemic has also continued to do, though, is show what great community spirit exists in Nottingham and I’m proud of all the key workers, community groups and volunteers, who once again stepped up and did their bit to help. The council helped to support local businesses, rough sleepers, and other vulnerable groups, as well as implementing active travel schemes to improve alternative, Covid safe travel options. One nice moment this year was a mural being unveiled as a thank you to key workers, as well as brightening an underpass.

Throughout 2021, we continued to make great strides towards our target of Nottingham becoming carbon neutral by 2028. We took delivery of two of the world’s first electric bin lorries, carried out lots of work to improve the energy efficiency – and energy bills – of many homes across the city and implemented more transport improvements to further improve our green credentials.

Incredible progress was also made in the Broad Marsh area, with the opening of a new College Hub, extensive public realm improvements and only a couple of months ago, the opening of a brand new car park – itself home to the UK’s largest number of vehicle electric charging points in a single location. And things haven’t stood still on the site of the former shopping centre. The council continues to demolish part of it and an exciting new vision was recently unveiled by Thomas Heatherwick which has really taken on board what many people said in our consultation.

We have seen other major developments taking shape too – the HMRC’s Unity Square offices near the station and the first phase of the Island Quarter, as well as hundreds of new homes across the city in areas such as Bestwood, Colwick, Clifton and The Meadows. One of the most exciting things to happen in 2021 was the reopening of Nottingham Castle after three years and £30m of development, with great new exhibitions and a much-improved visitor experience attracting new and existing fans of this jewel in the city’s crown.

Another great crowd pleaser has been the T Rex exhibition at Wollaton, which will continue next year – although of course sadly we had to cancel many of our main city events this year due to Covid safety concerns.

It’s been an undeniably tough year for the City Council as we not only set another difficult budget for the forthcoming year, but also carried out huge changes within the organisation to respond to the recommendations from the Government review and forge a new way of working to provide services for local people in the best way possible. We remain steadfast, determined and focused on this and will emerge a stronger, more efficient council which still stands up for and delivers for Nottingham people.

The New Year will no doubt present more challenges and opportunities. I remain hopeful we will rise to the challenges and embrace the opportunities as Nottingham always has.

And I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a healthy and peaceful New Year.