Easter marks so many things in our calendar. For Christians, such as myself, it remains a period for reflection and renewal given the importance of message of sacrifice and resurrection. For others it means the start of the better weather – and after the Beast from the East we certainly need that. It is the time to look forward to the summer and beyond.
This year, Easter has marked a febrile political atmosphere but little, in reality, has changed in the political landscape. There is no sign of an early general election, the Brexit negotiations grind on and we seem to face global challenges on a regular basis.
Locally, we face cuts in social benefits and council spending, as well as increased pressure on charities and the voluntary sector which are bearing the brunt of austerity. The level of uncertainty over so many areas of social policy continues to cause concern and I am finding more and more constituents facing the sharp end of change. Working patterns are becoming more difficult and I see families under pressure in ways that they weren’t previously. People are marvellously resilient, but unsustainable levels of household debt can only be worrying in the future.
People are trying to cope with the squeeze on living standards caused by wages stagnating and rising prices of basic commodities, especially food. Brexit could make this worse if we are not careful. The idea of there being advantageous trade deals which will also bring cheap food remains illusory. In fact, there are more threats than opportunities and if trade deals lead to lower animal welfare and environmental protection standards it would effectively count British exports out of the EU market. This would be catastrophic for the county as well as the country.
So, there is much to confront. Business remains reasonably confident it will see through the worst, but the tunnel is long and there seems to a shortage of light to help firms navigate the darkness. So, Easter at least marks the beginning of what will probably be one of the most important periods in British economic history. A year on we will know if this was the case.