As I sit down to write my last blog of 2019, my overriding thought is wow, what a year it's been!

Sunderland has well and truly put itself on the map this year and while I've not ever been stuck for things to say and report in my blog in the 18 months since I became Leader, there are way too many developments and achievements to list, in a few lines here.

I'm certainly not complaining - I'm just immensely proud of my fellow councillors and officers, partners (both longstanding and new this past year) and our residents and communities for all that's been achieved.

It's been nothing short of an outstanding year for the cultural and economic regeneration of the city with announcements, developments and events including:

  • Being one of only 12 places in the UK to host the Leonardo Da Vinci - A Life in Drawing Exhibition at the Museum and Winter Gardens.

  • Delivering the 31 spectacular Sunderland Airshow, the brilliant River Wear Festival and a whole range of events in each of the areas of the city, drawing huge crowds, providing fun and entertainment for people of all ages, and boosting the local economy.

  • The return of the world's biggest music acts to the Stadium of Light with the Spice Girls playing a sellout concert.

  • The city being a proud host of several World Transplant Games events and the annual, Sunderland 10k and half marathon races, which this year saw the addition of a 5k race, broadening the offer to more participants.

  • The completion of the Beam - the first building on the Vaux site - and the arrival of its first occupants creating hundreds of jobs, followed by construction beginning on the new City Hall next door.

  • The launch of Riverside Sunderland - an ambitious and exciting regeneration plan spanning both sides of the river, backed by the announcement of £120 million worth of investment by Legal and General in further high-quality offices on the Vaux site.

  • And work beginning at the sea front to bring the STACK to Sunderland - a brilliant shipping container concept by Danielli Holdings bringing exciting new bars, eateries and retailers to Seaburn.

Then to round it all off with no inclination to wind down just yet for Christmas, this week plans were announced for the redevelopment of the former Alex Smiles waste site enabling Liebherr to expand its operation in the city.

We also announced that we are the first city in the UK to deploy 5G-ready wifi. Building on our reputation as a global, digital leader, this will boost our digital infrastructure further for the benefit of residents and businesses, and 2020 will see the expansion of the network from current locations in and around the city centre, across the city.

As a council, we have developed and approved the City Plan 2019-30, setting the blueprint for the next decade for us to build a connected, international city with opportunities for all and we have begun to restructure our services and ways of working to ensure the needs and aspirations of residents and communities are at the absolute the heart of everything we do.

I think the above list - and the many more things I've not had space to mention - demonstrate that we've really hit the ground running and the plan is already being delivered, at pace, with significant confidence being shown in future of the city and its people.

So I'm massively looking forward to another fantastic year in 2020 as we build on the progress, successes and achievements of 2019 with more developments, announcements and events in the pipeline.

In the meantime, all that remains is for me to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a healthy, happy and prosperous new year in our wonderful city!

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