Our region’s local dignitaries have shared their Christmas wishes with Star readers

Dan Jarvis, the former Army officer turned MP. Photo: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

Dan Jarvis, the former Army officer turned MP. Photo: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

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Their full messages can be read below. Watch out for more season’s greetings on New Year’s Eve.

MEG MUNN LABOUR MP, SHEFFIELD HEELEY

Meg Munn MP who is retiring from the House of Commons after 13 years

Meg Munn MP who is retiring from the House of Commons after 13 years

I hope all readers of the Star have a happy and enjoyable Christmas.

Unfortunately too often the real meaning of Christmas can be lost in the materialistic madness - such as ‘Black Friday’ with arrests and injuries, scuffles and stand offs between customers and shop workers. The focus is on shopping not where it should be. For those of us who are Christians it is a time to reflect on the amazing gift of Jesus, for others it is a time to spend with family and friends.

Many families are finding it very tough at the present time. We have almost a million families reliant on food banks, front line services are being cut and local authority budgets have shrunk in real terms by 37% since 2010. With winter beginning to get a hold the number of households in fuel poverty is set to increase to 2.3 million. Remembering those in need at Christmas and doing what we can to help is important.

I want to pay particular tribute to the many people, churches and charities who will be looking after those who are alone or homeless during the Christmas period. Of course many of them provide help all year round and are fundamental to the fabric of our society.

Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield

Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield

I have been privileged to work with such community organisations in my constituency and to see their dedication and hard work. Sheffield Young Carers, Double Six Youth Club, Heeley City Farm, Heeley Development Trust, Gleadless Valley Community Forum and the Grace and Gleadless Valley food banks and many others are dedicated organisations who will be doing that extra bit this Christmas.

We should also remember those who will be working, leaving friends and families, so that the rest of us can enjoy our break knowing our essential services will continue. Thank you particularly to our medical staff, our police and our armed forces.

Communities across the city are struggling, but the people of Sheffield continue to support charity and good causes throughout the year. I have no doubt this will continue in 2015. I hope the New Year will bring better things for us all.

THE RIGHT REV DR STEVEN CROFT, BISHOP OF SHEFFIELD

Coun Lewis Rose, Leader of Derbyshire Dales District Council

Coun Lewis Rose, Leader of Derbyshire Dales District Council

Sometimes our lives feel fragmented at Christmas. When things are going well, it’s a lovely time of year. There is joy and friendship, good food, bright lights.

But Christmas has another side. We can feel overstretched and extended, rushed and overworked. Bad news or grief can overwhelm us. The result is a kind of inner fragmentation. On the outside we may be smiling. On the inside it’s a different story.

Every year I try and write some verses for a Christmas card. I send over 600 across South Yorkshire and beyond. The picture this year is a beautiful photograph of Laughton Parish Church, near Rotherham on a winter morning. It was taken by Tim Leach and featured in the Diocesan photographic competition we held for our centenary celebrations.

The verses are taken from two Psalms and one of the songs in Luke’s gospel. I’ve tried to capture something of the longing in the human heart for peace, for forgiveness, for wholeness and for joy. The gift of Christ at Christmas brings all of these things. That’s why we celebrate.

PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS.'Labour Leader Ed Miliband in Chorley Town Centre

PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS.'Labour Leader Ed Miliband in Chorley Town Centre

The verses are a prayer written for the early mornings when you are facing a busy day. They are about light coming to the darkness. They are a hymn to help you reach out to God in those moments when life feels fragmented and broken, when you need to be held in the love of God.

A very happy Christmas to you and to your family.

PAUL BLOMFIELD LABOUR MP, SHEFFIELD CENTRAL

As the queues grow at the food counters in preparation for Christmas, it’s worth reflecting that there are many people who aren’t able to join them. Earlier this month ‘Feeding Britain’, a powerful report by a group of Church leaders and MPs from all parties, estimated that nearly one million people in the UK relied on emergency food bank parcels last year. In the world’s 6th richest country this is shameful, and the festive season brings it into sharper focus.

‘Feeding Britain’ reported that one of the main reasons people are turning to food banks is unfair benefit sanctioning. People are also going hungry because of low wages and increased instability at work due to abusive zero-hours contracts. Other Government policies, like the bedroom tax, are hitting the poorest hardest while millionaires have been given tax handouts. It doesn’t have to be like this and I’ll continue to challenge these policies in Parliament, but that’s not enough.

Over the last year I’ve supported the S2 Food Bank in my constituency, which opened its doors last November. I’ve been really struck by the way that local people have come together to support others in real need. It shames us that there are now more than a dozen food banks in Sheffield, but we can be proud of the support they’ve received. Along with charities like Homeless and Rootless at Christmas (HARC) and the Archer Project, who provide support for the homeless, the city’s food banks rely on the generosity of Sheffielders giving food, money, time and all kinds of practical help.

Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg

And this will be happening right across our city over Christmas. Local charities, churches and faith groups and countless volunteers will be going the extra mile to ensure that the elderly, the homeless and the isolated receive support and companionship.

So I’d like to say thank you to all of these volunteers and to everyone else working over Christmas to ensure we have an enjoyable break. Thank you to the care workers, doctors and nurses, to our police and emergency services, and to the staff who will be ensuring council support services continue to run.

To all Star readers I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2015.

NICK CLEGG LIBERAL DEMOCRAT MP, SHEFFIELD HALLAM

As people tuck into their turkey with their family over the Christmas holidays it’s worth pausing to think about just how far Sheffield has come this year. We still have a long way to go, but I’m pleased that 2014 has been the year in which Sheffield has started to bounce back from one of the worst recessions in living memory. Since 2010 over 25,000 more people in our city have a job and we are seeing confidence return in our local business community. These are outstanding achievements.

But we are also making our society fairer too. This last year has seen the introduction of free school meals for infant school children and the two millionth apprentice appointed – two measures which the Liberal Democrats have championed and will make a real difference to help our young people get on in life.

There is also plenty to look forward to in the coming year, including two more Liberal Democrat priorities close to my heart. There will be a boost for the NHS and further tax cuts for hard working families.

We have secured an extra £2billion so we can properly fund the NHS for the future and provide better care both for physical and mental health. There will also be the introduction of waiting times for mental health aliments for the first time, so they are treated the same as any other illness.

We are delivering another tax cut for low and middle income workers by increasing the Personal Tax Allowance to £10,600 in April, giving basic rate taxpayers a cut of £120. That means the typical basic rate taxpayer will be £825 better off in cash terms since 2010.

Whilst there is plenty to be cheerful about, unfortunately we are not out of the woods yet when it comes to securing the recovery. The damage done by the 2008 recession hasn’t been fully repaired and even more tough decisions are required to keep our country on track . The worst thing we could do now is bury our heads in the sand. We have to finish the job and we have to do it fairly. That means cutting less than the Conservatives whilst borrowing less than Labour.

I want to wish everyone across Sheffield a very merry Christmas. Sheffielders have worked incredibly hard to play their part in getting our country back on track. I’ll be doing all I can in 2015 to ensure that Sheffield continues to lead Britian’s economic recovery, so we can build a stronger economy and a fairer society where everyone can get on in life.

COUN LEWIS ROSE OBE LEADER, DERBYSHIRE DALES DISTRICT COUNCIL

At this time of year, Derbyshire Dales District Council takes great pleasure in making a significant contribution to the festive season wearing two hats – that of Santa Claus and Scrooge!

For the seventh consecutive year, to encourage people to Shop Local at Christmas, it’s free to use our car parks across the Dales from 2pm throughout December.

Collecting household waste and recycling is a priority for residents at this time of year – and we make this our priority too, while also supporting the big Christmas markets in Matlock, Bakewell, Wirksworth and Ashbourne.

As for 2015, another reduction in the central government grant means yet more challenges. The cupboard is bare when it comes to finding money for new initiatives - and, like so many other public sector organisations, we are working harder than ever to maintain our excellent front line services.

So in these cash-strapped times we make no apology for adopting a Scroogesque desire to make the 50p a day on average Dales households pay in Council Tax for our services go as far as possible.

There are statutory things that have to happen - like waste collection, affordable housing, dealing with homelessness and paying various benefits. Our discretionary services - such as our four leisure centres, markets, public conveniences and special events - will be constantly reviewed in 2015 to ensure we are getting value for money.

Our number one priority – providing affordable housing to ensure local people can STAY local – is under threat in 2015 because of recent ill-conceived Coalition Government planning policy reforms that will reduce the number of these new homes across one of the most expensive places to live in the region.

Around 1,000 affordable homes have been provided for local people in the past 10 years thanks to a legal obligation for developers to provided cash for affordable housing in any planning proposal. Now a new threshold - generally 10 units or less – has been introduced under which developers no longer have to make a contribution.

In recent years we have secured more than £1.2 million from sites of less than five units, investing the cash with partner housing associations to provide much needed affordable housing across the Dales.

So there is much campaigning to do in 2015 to ensure the residents of the Derbyshire Dales get the best possible deal – and we wish them, and all your readers, a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

ED MILIBAND LABOUR MP, DONCASTER NORTH

One hundred years ago soldiers on the Western Front stopped their hostilities to cross no man’s land, to shake hands and – famously – to play football. In the midst of a tragic conflict the generosity, hope and sense of human solidarity that is characteristic of the Christian faith and culture came to the fore. What an extraordinary and unexpected event.

We need the same sense of compassion in the face of the suffering and hatred that afflicts parts of our world. And especially in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity. Let us remember those caught up in fighting and in fear of their lives.

I am proud that the Labour movement has such deep roots in the Christian tradition of social activism and solidarity in the United Kingdom. This Christmas, I want to pay tribute to all who spend time, effort and skill in serving the needs of their fellow citizens in a voluntary and professional capacity.

Our country faces a choice next year. Let’s choose generosity and inclusion. I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

DAN JARVIS LABOUR MP, BARNSLEY CENTRAL

I was listening to a local radio programme recently where they were discussing some of the strangest requests for Christmas presents from children. A potato, a brick and a kebab were mentioned, along with a little girl who wanted a wall – so that she didn’t have to share her room with her sister anymore!

While I’m not sure if Father Christmas’s DIY skills will deliver for that particular request, I do know that giving children what they want is a difficult task. Especially when there is so much pressure from to have that ‘perfect’ Christmas, complete with all the (very costly) trimmings.

Christmas is a demanding time financially. Even if you have a job, wages haven’t been rising with inflation and many people are trying to survive on temporary or zero-hours contracts.

This month I brought forward a Private Members’ Bill in Parliament, to raise the value and restore the ambition of the national minimum wage, so that we can make work pay. But that is a long term solution. With Christmas upon us, some people may be trying to find more immediate ways to pay the bills.

If you’ve been turned away by the high street banks, you might be considering turning to high-cost, ‘pay day’ lenders. With the extortionate interest that these and other short-term lenders charge, they are no more than legal loan sharks.

Once in that cycle of repetitive borrowing, it can be very difficult to break free. It is this borrowing-trap that loan companies rely on to make obscene profits from some of the poorest people in our society.

For those affected, I would urge them to consider the South Yorkshire Credit Union instead. It exists to provide help with affordable loans and accessible savings; its aim is to provide an alternative to high-cost credit. It will also help those struggling to manage their budget, with practical advice.

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) is also really good at advising people on debt-related issues, as well as other concerns.

I do hope that you and your family manage to have a happy and peaceful Christmas. I wish you all the very best for the festive period. As we look forward, I believe that 2015 promises to be an exciting year full of change and challenges – all of which I hope will benefit both Barnsley and the wider South Yorkshire region.

paul blomfield

paul blomfield

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