"Every day I hear a different story..."

The sad news of the death of George Michael as it filtered through media channels late on Christmas Day shocked the world. His death was untimely but he leaves a musical legacy of which he can be proud.

2016 has certainly been an eventful year, a year of change. I was honoured to be re-elected to represent the people of the Monmouth constituency in May's Assembly election.

That election thankfully brought an abrupt end to the Welsh Government's unpopular plans to abolish Monmouthshire and merge her with neighbouring local authorities.

The summer then of course saw crowds from across the country - and the world - flock to the county for the Eisteddfod in Abergavenny which proved by any measure to be an enormous success.

As the year draws to a close, the battleground has now moved on to the vexing issue of business rates with the recent revaluation leaving many businesses in the county facing huge hikes in the amount of rates payable in 2017.

Many business owners have told me they simply cannot afford the increases and will be forced to shut up shop. I've been making the case for more support and I'm pleased the Welsh Government has now pledged extra funding for business rate relief. This is a start. I will now be watching closely to make sure the support reaches the businesses that need it most.

As I tucked into my locally-reared Christmas dinner this year I was mindful of where it came from and the farmers who worked hard to produce it. I took the decision to shop locally this Christmas and festive season, supporting local businesses in my home village of Raglan and buying local produce wherever possible. Together we can give a boost to our local high streets and producers and make a real difference to their future viability.

So we now look forward to 2017 and all that it will bring. The promise of a new "fiscal framework" agreement between the Welsh and UK Governments will hopefully provide greater stability for public finances in Wales whilst the devolution of some taxes, including stamp duty and landfill tax, is intended to increase accountability and provide a sufficient revenue stream to support borrowing for the infrastructure projects Wales so badly needs - such as the long-awaited South Wales Metro. Time will as they say tell...

In the meantime may I take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very peaceful and prosperous New Year.