As the Cost of Living crisis continues to bite; it would be easy to feel despondent this December.
Many families are struggling more than ever, and what should have been a celebratory Christmas - for many of us our first all together since the pandemic - has been tempered with worries about putting food on the table, buying presents, and paying the bills.
But among the concerns that are so real, for so many, it's also important to remember how much has been achieved this year, and how much there is still to come.
For 2022 has been the year that the much-heralded regeneration of Oldham town centre has undoubtedly begun to take shape.
It's been the year that we've emerged from the pandemic with events that have been better than ever before; celebrating the cultures across our borough.
And it's been the year that we've invested in the people that matter the most - ploughing money and resources into creating the future Oldham that our children need and deserve; with great new schools, more social workers working directly with families, better pay for foster carers, more investment in youth services, and an all-new sixth form college in partnership with Eton and Star Academies.
Working together, we've achieved so much.
Back in January, we saw the launch of Working Wardrobe - an innovative scheme to help unemployed Oldhamers find work, by providing clothing and careers advice for job interviews. In February, businesses across our borough met with Frank Rothwell - now owner of Latics and winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Oldham Business Awards - as he got started in his new role as Council business ambassador.
And in March, we gave independent businesses across our borough a boost with the opening of Oldham Made - our fantastic pop-up shop giving traders prime space in the heart of the town centre. Since then we've continued to fly the flag for our independent retailers, with high-profile promotion encouraging people to shop local.
In April, we acted on our promise to deliver better services for residents, bringing the Unity Partnership - which used to deliver services for us including customer support - into the Council. That was a crucial step in our pledge to put residents first in all that we do - and there's much more to come, including the opening of our new Access Oldham customer support centre in the Spindles, next year.
In May, I became Leader of the Council and set out my promise to Oldhamers to put our children and young people first - which has since been bolstered with an investment of almost £15m into our children and young people's services. In June, celebrations rang out across the borough as Oldham came together for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. I'm so proud that we held one of the biggest events programmes in Greater Manchester and the North, marking the Queen's incredible 70 years of service. I'd like to think you all did her proud; and those events are made all the more poignant now Her Majesty is sadly no longer with us.
We were one of the first councils to take decisive action to tackle the Cost of Living Crisis, holding a summit in July which was followed up with a £3m package of support for our residents that need it the most - one of the biggest support efforts by any council in the country.
In August, the regeneration of our town centre took a huge step forward as works began on Spindles - which are already taking shape quickly, with many retailers having relocated to new units and new council offices having opened on the upper level.
September saw us get underway with the second year of our popular Don't Trash Oldham campaign to clean up the borough, and in October we launched our pioneering Social Work Academy; to encourage people to forge their social work careers right here in Oldham.
In November the first phase of works was completed on another of our fantastic regeneration schemes, at the Old Library, which is being transformed into a new community and civic space, including a new Council chamber and a new home for Oldham Theatre Workshop, right in the heart of our cultural quarter.
And as the year draws to a close, we've made sure we focus on those who need us the most - our children and young people - with free holiday activities including a hot meal; free tickets for family fun activities; and a Christmas toy appeal which saw hundreds of presents donated to children in our borough who may not otherwise receive anything this Christmas.
With clear priorities - putting our residents first, supporting our children and young people, and driving forward our ambitious regeneration schemes - we've made great strides in 2022, even in the face of so many challenges.
And by working together, putting what Oldhamers need and deserve at the heart of all we do, I know that in 2023 we can achieve even more.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,