Leader of Norwich City Council Alan Waters: Let there be light at Christmas

Tunnel of Light on Hayhill, Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Tunnel of Light on Hayhill, Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Many people have already experienced the tunnel of light – the UK's first – inspired by a Japanese theme park in Nabana no Sato. We all need cheering up during the darkest month of the year and Christmas lights can really light up people's mood as well as the city.

This year's illuminations are simply stunning.

The tunnel of light and the projections on Norwich Castle and City Hall, launched by the Norwich Business Improvement District, are proving a massive hit.

Our switch-on event with Ed Balls meanwhile attracted thousands of people to the city and lots of busi-nesses stayed open for the evening.

One of the city council's five key priorities is to make Norwich a prosperous and vibrant city and initiatives like this can only help us achieve that.

Social mobility

In October, the government identified Norwich as a 'social mobility cold spot' and Education Secretary Justine Greening announced some extra funding for 10 areas, including Norwich, to 'raise sights and broaden horizons for young people'.

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That money is to be welcomed (though it is against the background of significant cuts in school budgets over the next few years), but it hardly amounts to a solution.

The wider context of the barriers created by poverty need to be challenged and this must mean changes in government policy across a number of areas including to tackle chronic low pay, irregular patterns of employment due to the proliferation of zero-hour contracts and the high cost of housing.

That's why the city council's key policies are driven by the ambition to ensure everyone has a decent standard of living: building high-quality affordable housing; encouraging employers to pay a genuine Living Wage as calculated by the 'Living Wage Foundation' – this year £8.45 per hour outside of London – encouraging inward investment into Norwich to grow the local economy and provide more good, secure employment opportunities for local residents.

The cost of war

In centenary terms, we are at the midpoint of the First World War: 1916 was the year in which Britain mobilised for total war with the introduction of conscription and the Battle of the Somme became etched into our collective memory.

I am very proud that the foyer of City Hall is now home to the Roll of Honour, in sight of its sister memorial in St Peters Street.

The conservation team who worked on this project have done an excellent job.

Since its official opening, dozens of people have taken the opportunity to come to view it in its new location; some visitors have family members named on its historic panels.

For some there have been tears; for others moments of quiet reflection.

I recall a piece of casework soon after becoming a city councillor in the late 1980s.

An elderly lady in my ward living on the Heartsease estate contacted me about her uncle who she remembered as a small child. His surname had been misspelt on the Roll of Honour and asked if I could I get it corrected.

Fortunately I was able to provide the evidence to get it changed – the 'L' and 'Y' were the wrong way round.

My constituent spoke about her uncle very movingly.

She recalled how he planned to be a doctor after the war and how prior to going back to France they had walked around the city looking for suitable places to set up a medical practice when the war ended.

He left for France at the end of his leave and died at the Somme.

The Roll of Honour lists the names of 3,544 men from the city who lost their lives in the First World War, a sobering reminder of the scale of loss in that awful conflict.

If you would like to view it, you can book an appointment via the council's website or you can call 0344 980 3333.

2016 has been a very eventful year.

I would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and all the very best for 2017.