Christmas can be the most joyful of times for many, a time of fun, a time to spend with family, friends and loved ones, a time for giving and receiving, many would say the most wonderful time of the year.

However, whilst many of us are having fun, there is often the hidden issue of those who are sat at home feeling lonely. These people are often unseen and unheard.

It is estimated that there are 6000 households experiencing loneliness or social isolation within our borough at present. This is a social tragedy. And let's remember that these individuals do not just experience loneliness at Christmas but throughout the whole year. However, at this time of year let us turn our thoughts to them.

Loneliness affects people of all ages, of all demographics, of all circumstances.

It is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It can accelerate the risks of dementia, heart disease and depression upon an individual. It increases the risk of death by 29%.

Basildon Council are running a campaign to encourage residents to come Together at Christmas. The council and many other local groups run activities throughout the year to engage with those who are lonely or at risk of social isolation. Please do join one of these activities. If you know a neighbour is alone then visit them or invite them for a cuppa and a mince pie. You can support the campaign by making a small donation online to help tackle this important issue. To make a donation online see Mayor's Charity Appeal - Partnering the Polly Parrot Appeal and supporting local food banks.

I have chosen to support the Jo Cox Foundation as one of my charities this year and we are in the process of setting up More in Common Basildon which will have the goal of reducing social isolation and loneliness whilst building greater community cohesion.

We will be bringing together several great charities and community groups in the borough to help meet this goal and we know there are some amazing groups operating. For example, Essex Age UK, Action for Children, BASIS, Carers Choice, Sociability, Heart of Pitsea, Futures in Mind and The Silver Line.

What a great year 2019 has been for our borough as we have been celebrating the 70th anniversary of Basildon New Town. These celebrations have been accompanied by many events and activities, many of which I have been involved in myself. The outstanding New Town Sounds in the summer, the wonderful Tea Dance for the elderly held by Woodlands School earlier in the year, The Backside to Trackside Programme helping individuals run their first 5k, The Basildon Pride Festival, the creation of a Basildon Zine at various sessions throughout the year, a fantastic Christmas launch event in November and we must of course mention our 70 Heroes who we have been proud to recognise throughout the year. Many of these events will continue as we create a legacy from our celebrations.

It was also an honour to award Freedom of our Borough to two outstanding individuals this year. Trudy Westmore-Cox, the founder of St Luke's Hospice and Don Sheppard, our very own D-Day Veteran who is still heavily involved in supporting veterans today at the age of 99.

As we look back on 2019, however good or bad a year it has been for each of us individually, if you search hard enough I am sure all of us can find a moment of good, a moment of positivity that will impact us moving forward.

I wish all residents of our great borough a very merry Christmas and all the very best as we move into the new decade and the year 2020.

Councillor David Burton-Sampson

The Mayor of Basildon


Published on Friday 20 December 2019