A VERY Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.

At the end of a decade, people inevitably look back and reflect on the events that shaped our lives.

The 9/11 attacks on America in 2001 cast a long shadow, and led to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Britain enjoyed many years of rising wealth, before the economy came of the rails in spectacular fashion.

And technology increasingly shapes our lives, with the explosion in popularity of sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Who knows what the next decade holds in store?

The General Election in 2010 will provide an opportunity to debate the big challenges facing our country.

Britain is borrowing an extra £500 million every day and we have serious economic problems.

The rise of China and India will alter the power balance in the World.

But we should enjoy hosting the 2012 Olympics, and possibly the 2018 football World Cup.

Closer to home, I want to see Taunton Deane prosper, with new investment in the town centres, and extra employment and educational opportunities.

Over Christmas we should think of our troops overseas and also the public services that work through the holidays to care for us.

I hope everyone else has a good rest and has time to reflect on our good fortune at spending Christmas in Somerset.