IT'S certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas! I have had the great pleasure of visiting local schools over the last few weeks to congratulate the overall winner, runners up and all others who entered my ninth annual Christmas card competition this year.

With more than 1,000 entries from 12 local schools, it was once again a difficult task to whittle it down to one overall winner and seven runners up.

Abigail Whitehouse, from Brook Primary School in Wordsley, took this year’s top spot with her brilliant snow-covered gingerbread house which now sits proudly on the front of my Christmas card.

As well as featuring on the Christmas card, the winning artwork from Abigail and the seven runners-up is now also on digital screen display at Merry Hill where we also held a prize presentation for the children last Saturday.

Since my last column, we have finished off the Christmas light switch-ons with some huge attendances showing how much local people appreciated the work that had been done to organise these festive events. I would especially like to congratulate everyone involved in the Wordsley switch on which was the first ever Christmas light switch on in Wordsley. Cllr Kerry Lewis and the Friends of Wordsley Park really did bring together a special event that has no doubt set the standard for future years.

I have also enjoyed joining a number of community groups and churches for Christmas events. There were fantastic Christmas tree festivals at Holy Trinity church in Wordsley and St Mary’s Church in Kingswinford, following on from the one at the Red House Glass Cone that I wrote about in my last column.

Earlier this week, the Government saw its Rwanda Bill start to make its way through Parliament.

While there is no single answer to dealing with the issue of illegal Channel crossings, I strongly believe that making it clear that people who come here illegally will not be allowed to stay here is an important step in reducing the incentive for people to put their lives into international smugglers by paying them large sums to travel across Europe and then to cross from safe countries like France and Belgium into Britain.

The number of illegal crossings is down by a third this year, thanks to a range of measures including a returns agreement with Albania that has seen arrivals from that country drop by 90 per cent as well as further agreements with France, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia and Ethiopia, investment to cut the asylum backlog and increased returns of illegal migrants, the arrest and conviction of people smugglers, and a 70 per cent increase in raids on people working illegally in the UK.

While I know that people will have different views on relocating people to Rwanda, it is clear that we must stop the boats, which not only cost UK taxpayers millions of pounds a day but support evil people-smugglers to put people’s lives at risk. I was pleased to support the Bill and look forward to it becoming law.

As this will be my last column before Christmas, I would like to finish by wishing every single reader, and your family, friends and loved ones, a very Merry Christmas.