THIS year has been an exciting one for the Valleys and Vale with more evidence of innovative ideas, environmental concern, active communities and caring for those in need, than ever before.

Our high streets have been well supported, with initiatives such as In Our Towns promoting their value, and our Farmers’ Markets continue to go from strength to strength.

I hope that remains the case in the coming year.

We can congratulate our schools, especially Marling and Archway on their OFSTED results and I will continue to help our schools improve over the coming year.

At the start of the year I pushed the Antarctic Act through Parliament - legislation which matters more than ever as we continue working to protect the environment here and around the world.

The recent work of local companies on the Festival of Manufacturing and Engineering is an effort which I am sure has contributed to the year’s decrease in unemployment.

In March we take the event to Dursley with high hopes.

The festive season provides space for renewal, encouragement and reflection.

After the year gone by, packed as it was with major events including the birth of Prince George, the death of Nelson Mandela, unrest in Syria, Thailand and now Ukraine, and appalling storms in the Philippines, we should look ahead with hope and humility.

Next year should bring economic growth and a rise in living standards, and in foreign policy our troops will finally fully disengage from Afghanistan.

Christmas is a time for families and friends, but our thoughts and actions should also go to those in difficult personal situations.

It is a time to remember the commitment of our emergency services, armed forces and other service providers still at work over the Christmas period.

Locally, we have had a good year and I hope that 2014 will bring much more good news.
Happy Christmas and best wishes to you all.