I hope that you were all able to enjoy a relaxing Christmas, and that you received the presents you’d been hoping for!
I understand that the rise of the Omicron variant has created much uncertainty in the past few weeks, and that it has been particularly worrying for those in the retail and hospitality sectors. We can still however be thankful for the great progress we have made this year thanks to our vaccination programme, and I want to thank everyone who has been involved in the local efforts to administer the booster jabs.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has really hit our small businesses hard over the last couple of years, whether that is shops that had to close or the impact on our pubs, cafes and restaurants, many of whom also had to close or could only offer a limited service. I know many of them benefitted from being able to put their staff on the furlough scheme, and from the support grants offered, but I heard many first-hand accounts of the struggles that businesses in Halesowen & Rowley Regis were under.
Since the lifting of restrictions, these businesses have gone to great lengths to get customers back and ensure their premises are Covid-secure. It is great to see our high streets busy again, and though we need to remain cautious over Covid, these shops and hospitality venues only stay afloat when we support them.
For those of you looking for a New Year’s Resolution, I think a great commitment we can all make is to shop local and support our small businesses. Every pound spent helps to keep people in jobs, helps to keep a business open, and adds to the vibrancy and uniqueness of our high streets and town centres. Let's ensure they get the year they deserve in 2022.
This article first appeared in the Halesowen & Dudley News on Thursday 30th December 2021.