As we approach the end of 2021, it may feel like we are sliding backwards in our battle with Covid.

New variants, cases soaring, restrictions creeping back in, and businesses left reeling without any additional help.

The Government has lost the vital moral authority to demand sacrifices in the face of Covid by failing to lead by example and follow the rules. These past few weeks of scandal and sleaze just makes it harder on all of us to do what is right. But we must not let the bad example of the Prime Minister and his Government dilute our commitment to doing all we can to beat this virus. The best way we can do so is to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as eligible.

I’ve written frequently about how our 3 R’s – Response, Recovery and Regeneration – are guiding the work of the council in these difficult times. All three of these must be working right to ensure we rise to meet the challenges we face and crucially, take the opportunities to improve our borough. I want to make sure 2022 is the year of opportunity for Bury.

This means getting to grips with the latest wave of Covid, but also recovering stronger and fairer. One major risk right now is the rising cost of living and the Government’s unfair proposals to hike up council tax and National Insurance, as well as cut Universal Credit by £1,000 a year. We should keep demanding the Government stops this squeeze.

By freeing up household budgets from unfair hikes in tax, this would give a boost to our struggling businesses. Many are really struggling right now with huge drop-offs in trade. Nearly three weeks ago now I wrote to the Government asking them to change rules around business grants and help free up £6m currently ‘on the books’ but unable to be spent. The Government has so far ignored my letter, but I will continue to press the case so we can get support to businesses as soon as possible. I welcome talk of extra business support, but this would be a simple and quick way of getting help to those who need it most.

Providing support to firms doesn’t even have to come with extra Government borrowing. Online and tech giants are still not paying their fair share of taxes. A modest one-off contribution from them could help save our high streets from taking yet another hit. Our regeneration ambitions for the borough show the council is playing our part in leading the renewal of these spaces. Now the Government must back us up and show us that they are serious about “levelling up”.