A very happy new year to everyone!
I signed off in 2018 with a summary of an absolutely outstanding year for Sunderland and a brief look ahead to what promises to be an equally exciting 2019.
This week we're hearing reports from the country's biggest and best known traders that business has been tough over the festive period and in the prevailing economic climate, coupled with the uncertainty of Brexit, it is incredibly hard for all businesses large and small across the country.
As I said previously, the city council will do all it possibly can to help mitigate against the negative impacts of whatever happens but as I also noted, we are a famously resilient and innovative city and people, and I was delighted to hear some of the new things we tried this winter, such as Hadrian's Tipi in Keel Square, were a great success.
As I went out and about myself, it was heartening to see a lot of our other brilliant businesses, bars and restaurants also doing really well and people thoroughly enjoying themselves in Sunderland.
As work continues to ensure the city fulfils its incredible potential and opportunities are created for all, Sunderland's profile and our relationships around the world are really important and this is why I accepted an invitation to Harbin in China at the start of the new year.
Sunderland signed a friendship agreement with Harbin in 2009 which has given us really valuable cultural and education exchanges and explore trade links with one of the world's fastest growing economies.
As well as speaking at the International Cities Symposium, I had some really productive meetings with officials and business representatives while I was there on opportunities in key sectors for both cities including digital and manufacturing.
The warm welcome and enthusiasm to maximise all possible, shared economic opportunities continued at the British Embassy in Beijing on the way home and it was an honour to represent Sunderland throughout the visit.
Cllr Graeme Miller