by Councillor John Clare

New Year is the time when many people set goals for themselves for the coming year – here are some suggestions of resolutions citizens could make which would make 2015 a great year for the town.
1. Big Up The Town
Aycliffe is rapidly growing in regional importance, and we can all play our part by emphasising the positives.  Of course we all wish to improve our town, but in public we need to sing its praises.
2. “It’s the economy stupid”
There are no more government handouts – we live in a world where, if the local economy fails, we all suffer, and some of us starve.  In particular Aycliffe Business Park is the key to our future; it needs to figure large in all our decisions.
3. Let’s hang on to what we’ve got
The government is systematically reducing funding to local government, and the days when ‘the council’ could clear up litter, vandalism and neglect faster than it occurs are gone.  We need at local level a campaign against littering and vandalism, and a joint-effort to care for the facilities we retain.
4. A volunteering community
In the region, Aycliffe is envied for its large number of community centres and voluntary groups.  But when I speak to the heroic volunteers who give up their time (in some cases their lives) to run these facilities, many worry that they are getting older and that there seem to be few people to follow on after them.  Of course, not everyone is in a position to be able even to think of volunteering.  But we need as a community to support our local community ventures, not just by attending, but – if possible – by volunteering to help.
5. Dry January
There is a national campaign to give up alcohol for January.  Whilst you may think total abstinence a step too far, it is a fact that, if we could eliminate drunkenness from our social scene, we would significantly reduce vandalism, traffic accidents, violent crime, self-harm and suicides, domestic violence, child-neglect and many other social ills, since many of these problems are alcohol-fuelled.
6. Support your local team
Aycliffe hosts a premier division basketball team.  Its football club is in the first division of the Northern League.  We have successful rugby and cricket teams.  Every one of them would welcome more supporters cheering them on.
7. Money changes everything
We have some fabulous shops and local businesses in the town centre, but we have got ourselves into a vicious circle where people do not go to the town centre because they think the retail offer is lacking, and shops are not coming to the town centre because the public spend there does not make them sufficiently profitable.  If every family would resolve to buy from the town centre where it can, we would at least be doing what we can do to stimulate our town centre retail provision.
8. ‘Do’ politics
Proper politics is an informed debate about the decisions, rules and institutions which frame our lives.  It will help our town move forward if people would take a greater interest and engagement in what is happening, locally as well as nationally.