CHRISTMAS gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the things important to us. It is a time when we can look back on the year gone by and forward to the year ahead.

In May, I was honoured to be elected as chairman of the district council and since then I have had the pleasure of travelling around Ryedale meeting many wonderful people and visiting fantastic events and places. Only last weekend I attended a Christmas event at Ryedale Special Families, and it is heart warming to witness the work they do to improve the lives of others immeasurably.

The most poignant moment of my year came when I laid a wreath at Malton memorial on Remembrance Sunday. At Christmas especially we must remember the brave servicewomen and men who are striving to bring peace around the world.

Christmas is also a time when we rely on public services more than ever, so in my capacity as chairman of council I will be visiting Malton Hospital and the police, ambulance and fire stations to thank the dedicated public sector workers who work so hard to support those in need.

Looking back, 2014 has been a year when our country surged forward. We have the fastest growing of any major advanced economy in the world. In Ryedale, the number of people claiming job seekers allowance has more than halved in two years, from 622 in October 2012 to 276 in 2014.

We have secured investments in the A64, the FERA site at Sand Hutton and the new livestock market at Old Malton, which will create even more jobs. Our long-term economic plan is working.

But we must not be complacent, turbulent times lay ahead. As a country we are still deep in debt and regardless of election results the need to reduce the deficit further will have consequences for local government among others.

Fracking has proved the big issue in 2014, and with the recent planning application by Third Energy, the arguments are likely to get even more heated and emotive on both sides. The consequences of this debate will have profound implications for future generations, so we must ensure we take informed and rational decisions. I support calls for a public meeting.

The planning application for an asphalt plant at Whitewall Quarry has plagued the towns of Malton and Norton for more than a year, so I hope in 2015 we can finally banish this threat from the community.

Finally, the issue of whether Ryedale has a five-year housing land supply, and if well-resourced developers can get away with questionable planning applications, won’t go away. All these matters have a major impact on quality of life, including those who can’t get a home of their own.

I hope that you will have a decent quality of life in 2015 and I wish you and all your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.