Firstly, I would like to say it is a great honour to serve as Stowmarket Town Mayor for a second term of office and I look forward to meeting as many groups, organisations and members of the public as possible. I would also like to thank Paul and Annette for their wonderful extended time in office. Sarah and I have a hard act to follow!

As the newly elected town mayor, I hope I will be able to continue writing a monthly column for you all, but as you can appreciate, we are living in rather extraordinary times. My ability to attend functions will always be subject to the ever-changing government restrictions regarding social distancing. In fact, as I write this column, we have just gone into a new national lockdown which means I will have to write with the benefit of a crystal ball.

I am delighted to announce that my themes for the year are volunteering and service in the community. My two charities are Mid Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau and Red Gables. They exemplify those themes perfectly and we will attempt to raise funds for them, with some innovative and probably different ways.

Since taking office I have seen many of you at the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal stall in the Market Place and I am delighted to have been able to support their efforts as patron of the annual appeal. Remembrance Sunday this year was a scaled-down socially distanced event. However, the importance of marking the event was not diminished and I know that many households marked it in their own way.

The town council organised a public vote which closed in late November to award a prize of food vouchers to support the work of three local groups. Thanks to all of you who voted and particular thanks to Bidfood who topped up the vouchers by donating £500 of groceries to the group with the most votes.

With my crystal ball doing overtime I hope that we have been able to decorate the town for Christmas to bring some cheer to us all. As I write the details are unsure as to whether we can have some form of the Christmas Tree Festival. As our previous mayor often wrote, I too would like to encourage you to shop local, supporting our town’s enterprises and retailers wherever possible. We have some great businesses, and we must support them in these difficult trading times.

Finally, Sarah and I wish you all a peaceful and prosperous seasonal greeting.

Mayor Keith Scarff