We need to stand in solidarity with key workers | Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar

As the year draws to a close, it seems an opportune moment to pause and reflect on the past 12 months, as well as look ahead to what the new year may have in store for us.

We were only just getting back to some form of normality following the pandemic when we were hit with the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis. We are once again in unprecedented times, with every one of us feeling some impact from the rise in inflation and the increasing fuel and energy costs.

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As we approach Christmas, we know some of our key workers are set for industrial action. We need to stand in solidarity with them, it is not a decision they will have taken lightly, and it is about time they were given a fair deal. After all clapping for them doesn’t pay their bills or put food on the table.

Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar

As a council, we are focusing a large part of our effort on supporting the most vulnerable in our communities. We are ever grateful for the support provided by our partners and the outstanding voluntary community and faith sector we have here in Burnley and Padiham.

It has been overwhelming to witness the generosity shown by residents. Whether that be donations to Burnley Together, or the way community groups have responded to support the most vulnerable by opening their buildings as warm spaces. This generosity along with the support for families from Ukraine and other parts of the world just goes to show how hospitable, welcoming, and inclusive we are as a Burnley community.

None of us knows what is round the corner but we do know that as a council we face some very tough decisions early in the new year, when we must set our budget for 2023/24. Smart financial planning means we are in a better position than others around us, but we know that with costs continuing to rise there will be difficult decisions ahead, especially if we are to continue to fund our essential services and make improvements going forward.

Despite financial pressures, we are committed to delivering on the promises we have made to our residents. Our flagship project, Pioneer Place is on schedule and will be a great addition to the town centre offer. Work has started on bringing Newtown Mill back to life as part of the Canalside Campus and means we are a step closer to realising our ambition of becoming a thriving University Town. In the new year the 'Town to Turf' project along with the improvements at Burnley Manchester Road station will also start to take shape.

Through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, we will be able to work with partners to create jobs and develop skills to grow the economy. All the while we will continue to address the issues that matter most to our residents, including clamping down on fly tipping and doing what we can to tackle climate change.

Whatever your plans over the festive period, I hope you are all able to enjoy spending some time with your loved ones and would like to wish you all a Happy Christmas.