Last Thursday (7th May) should have been Election Day for me. Instead, like so many other events, it was an early casualty of coronavirus.
Like many of the thousands of GCSE and A level students whose exams were cancelled, I felt a sense of frustration that having worked hard, stayed the course, prepared well and had a reasonable – though not certain – level of confidence in the outcomes we never had the chance to prove it. At least I get a second chance next year.
This frustration, however, pales into insignificance compared to the challenges imposed on our county by Covid-19. It is a complex picture confined not only to medicine and science but also to pretty much every aspect of life as we knew it: our economy, our jobs, our freedoms, leisure and travel. It is a global challenge that Gloucestershire must prepare for and, like next year’s exams, the planning must start now.
In my 40 years in policing, I have seen boom, bust and most things in between and I have learnt policing cannot operate in a vacuum. The health of our communities and local economy is critical to all and we need to unite and act as one county to be successful. Leadership will be vital.
Leadership will be vital
City Mayors will champion recovery and regeneration in the big cities like London, Bristol, Birmingham and others, but who will fight for Gloucestershire? Who will lead our regeneration and align all our strengths and assets to meet the biggest challenge we have faced since World War 2.
Having listened to him with interest, I concur with Lord Heseltine (who spoke last week on BBCs Newsnight programme) who advocates an approach that harnesses a sense of local pride, local ingenuity and local enterprise. An approach that identifies local opportunities and strengths and mobilises the county to regenerate as one and which, I believe, should recognise the importance of the voluntary and community sectors as I have always done and will continue to do so for as long as I am in office.
We need to be all in this together
Gloucestershire may be small and few outside the county are talking about levelling it up or unleashing its potential, but that is the mission we must set for ourselves.
Our regeneration in Gloucestershire must be driven by what the county and local people want and not a sector by sector approach, because, as we’ve been told times, “We’re all in this together”.