Merry Christmas

Where do the years go? At the risk of starting with one of the oldest clichés, it seems like only yesterday …!

It has been a fairly tumultuous year, when it was anticipated as being the beginning of the return to “normality” (whatever that might be, to quote the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”). That said, the UK economy has continued to forge ahead and we are anticipating the Bank of England following the lead of the Federal reserve next year in raising base rates. As I have said, this should enshrine the perception of a return to what we now have to accept is the “new normal”. This should, hopefully, result in a more prosaic approach to borrowing, lending, and investing amongst the relevant parties.

Last year I was proud to announce that Donald Stewart had joined Kepstorn in London as a Consultant. At the risk of the tail wagging the dog, Donald and I are discussing the appointment of another Consultant in London and that is probably the most tangible evidence of the turnaround in the economy.

The return to a more prosperous Britain must bring with it benefits to those who have borne the bulk of the pain, in relative terms, during the crisis. There is no doubting the effect that austerity has had on some communities and groups. The ability to spend more must be focused upon where it can do the most good. We cannot afford, in ten years’ time, to be analysing threats to society in the context of the damage done during the financial crisis and its aftermath. This can be achieved without the need to upset the drive to balance the budget and must be a priority over the next twelve months.

The turmoil in Europe is also a major issue for the future. The political, social, cultural, structural and financial upheavals in the EU may seem to be handing a gift (or a sack of gifts!) to those in favour of Brexit, but these issues could also be seen as a gift to those who seek to reform and not to destroy the EU. Recent elections in France show both the threat to and the strength of the culture of democracy. After all, it was Churchill who said that “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time …”.

There will always be criticism of those in power in a democracy (this is, after all, democracy at work). It is, however, less common for the institutions of democratic society to be affected by the distrust and dislike of the political classes. That is what the EU needs to grapple with in 2016.

On a personal note, this past year has been both interesting and extremely enjoyable. It is still difficult for me to wholly accept that I won’t wake up, into the real world (I will have to stop watching re-runs of The Matrix!) but I still have to pinch myself on occasion. I have always been, am still and will continue to be hugely grateful to all those who have supported me over the years. I can only try to return the goodwill shown to me by hoping to help others. As with previous years, the benefit to the environment in sending this message rather than a Christmas card also has a financial benefit to me, and that is not the intention. I have, once again, made a donation to St Vincent’s Hospice to assist them in helping others far less fortunate than most of those I know and work with. Their efforts, particularly at this time of year is, quite literally, worth their weight in gold. As a result, I make no apology for including a link to their Just Giving webpage (https://www.justgiving.com/4w350m3/donation/direct/charity/155375#MessageAndAmount) for those of you who are only short of time and not the desire to help.

As ever, I hope that Santa is good to you when he arrives, that he and the New Year brings us everything that we hope for and that I have the opportunity to meet up with as many of my old friends as I can in 2016.

All the very best.

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