WHILE it’s not the start to 2021 that anyone wanted, we are now one week on from the announcement of a third lockdown.

I’m hoping the range of emotions felt at this news have started to subside and that, once again, the ‘new normal’ routines have begun to become commonplace.

I fully support the Government’s approach – the infection rates, hospitalisation figures and impact of the new variant virus at its nebulous, and the butterfly effect across the country, meant there was no other course of action left.

We must pull together, we must stay home and we must beat the virus.

News of the approval of two vaccines was warmly welcomed and I am pleased to see that eligible residents in Wiltshire and Swindon were among some of the first in the country to receive them.

My huge thanks to our public health colleagues for mobilising quickly and to those vaccinated for their courage and stoicism in the face of such extraordinary times.

Nonetheless, the weeks ahead will be challenging: we have learned a great deal from previous lockdowns of the impact that restrictions on our personal liberty can have on mental health.

We mustn’t underestimate the financial impacts, alongside the stresses and strains that added pressures like home schooling and access to technology can have on families and relationships.

There are also adults and children to whom a lockdown means they are trapped with their abuser.

Please reach out for help. There are charities, organisations, and the emergency services, who are available. Call your GP, try charities like Mind or the Samaritans. The Wiltshire Police website has various links to charities and support groups who can help with domestic abuse.

Our officers and staff are on the frontline dealing with all the challenges that lockdown brings. I am pleased, on the whole residents are abiding by the rules. But I am fully in support of officers enforcing the law as soon as it is needed.

Last week, I formally opened my consultation asking for feedback on a proposed £15 yearly council tax increase to maintain, and improve, policing in the county.

The decision to ask for an increase has been a difficult one, and in the face of a third lockdown, one that I would not make if there was an alternative. But there isn’t. Supporting the increase means Wiltshire Police will able to continue to maintain current services and improve our essential, frontline services.

We’ve had a good response so far but you can have your say via my online survey. It’s open until 2 February and you can read more about it by visiting the news section of my website: www.wiltshire-pcc.gov.uk

It’s vital we keep up the investment in order to continue with the huge strides in progress we have made over the years.