I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and I wish you all a very happy New Year. If you have been into the city centre I hope you enjoyed the Christmas lights in the High Street, which were made possible by the generosity of the City Council’s retail and other partners. Together with those in Princesshay, Guildhall and Harlequin shopping centres they make a bright and festive display.
Over the last twelve months the City Council has been working hard to support the local economy. 2011 saw major employers make long term commitments to Exeter. Sainsbury’s are creating a large distribution centre to the east of the city, while Waitrose opened its £8 million new store on Heavitree Road.
This year the city also celebrated its cultural heritage with the re-opening of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM). This is a national museum in our regional city. Like many of you I have been visiting the RAMM all my life and there is so much more to see there now. Take your family and friends over this holiday period. The museum belongs to us, the people of Exeter, and is free to visit as many times as you like.
We have lots more to look forward to in 2012. Over the coming year we will continue to watch the old Debenhams building transformed into the new John Lewis store, cementing our position as the strongest city centre retail sector west of Bristol. The Olympics will be a major feature of the year throughout the country. As the second city to host the Olympic torch relay we have the opportunity to show the world everything Exeter has to offer.
2012 will also see the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Many local communities are already talking to us at the City Council about how they can join with their neighbours to celebrate.
We do face a tough financial challenge. However, working with our partners, including John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council, I am confident that together we will bring growth and prosperity to Exeter for all of the people of this wonderful city.