From corner shops to cafes, small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the heart of local communities across the country. Small Business Saturday was a celebration this weekend of the incredible work they do and an opportunity to say thank you for creating jobs, giving life to our high streets and helping us make a full economic recovery from the impact of Covid. I spent some time in Monmouth town centre talking to business owners, including Prae at The Whole Earth Thai Bistro. During lockdown she started selling frozen takeaway meals and it became hugely successful. I tried a Thai green curry and it was delicious – a real taste of Thailand in your own home! We have all been humbled by the resilience, resolve and determination people like Prae have shown in innovating and adapting to the challenges of the pandemic. I also popped into Neil Powell Master Butchers where they have a fantastic range of meat and can make things up to order. A huge pack of lamb sausages and gluten free burgers went in my shopping bag! After a difficult couple of years, I encourage everyone to buy their seasonal gifts and produce locally this Christmas. Monmouthshire County Council is providing free weekend parking in all council-owned car parks in Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth throughout December, including Boxing Day. So do please support our wonderful independent businesses during these crucial months of winter trading.
The annual spectacle of hundreds of Santa Clauses running through Monmouth made a welcome return on Sunday. Organised by the Spirit of Monmouth Running Club, the popular family event is an established part of the build-up to Christmas in the town and it was wonderful to see so many people in their festive fancy dress costumes. I managed to complete the race in a reasonable time, although I am getting a bit slower these days. There were some youngsters on the start line who took off at tremendous speed and I never saw them again!
Following the tragic death of PC Andrew Harper in 2019, the UK Government has backed ‘Harper’s Law’ in England and Wales. His widow Lissie Harper has campaigned tirelessly for justice and I absolutely welcome this. The new law, when passed early next year, will introduce mandatory life sentences for those who kill on-duty emergency workers while committing a crime. It includes police, prison officers, firefighters and paramedics. I served as a Special Constable for nine years and such legislation is long overdue. Not only does it give greater protection and peace of mind to our emergency workers, but it serves as an important reminder of the risks they take every day to keep us safe.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 8 December 2021 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 9 December 2021*