WITH the festive season now firmly under way, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on how this time of year can highlight both highs and lows.

It is amazing to see the bustle in the city centre – people out and about preparing for Christmas.

We are lucky that Newport now has an impressive offering ranging from well-known chain stores, fantastic independent traders, to seasonal markets and pop-up Christmas shops.

There are also a range of food and drink establishments on a scale not seen before in Newport – great opportunities to rest tired feet and enjoy a coffee and cake, re-fuel with a snack or light-bite, or celebrate in style with indulgent culinary delights.

I would urge people to make the most of everything on offer locally.

By supporting our businesses we foster success and boost the local economy, while also ensuring our city has appeal for future investment and development – something we as a council are working hard to attract.

Newport’s regeneration ball is well and truly rolling, but we need the support of everyone to keep that momentum going.

But the decadence of Christmas can also sometimes mask the struggles faced by those less fortunate.

The council works closely with partners and charities including Eden Gate, The Wallich, local churches and the police to offer support and advice to the homeless and vulnerable members of our community.

How and why people find themselves in these circumstances can be complex and sensitive and such specialist organisations are best placed to direct support to those who want and need it.

Newport Now, the Business Improvement District which represents businesses across the city centre, has developed a diverted giving scheme in partnership with homelessness charity The Wallich.

The scheme aims to discourage people from giving to street beggars and instead will offer alternative secure methods of donation, with money then allocated to projects specific to the city centre.

Such schemes operate in many towns and cities across the UK and offer the public a way to give responsibly and support people affected by homelessness.

But it’s not all about money – we as residents, friends and acquaintances can also easily do small things to help.

A quick knock on the door of an elderly neighbour, one extra item in our trolleys to give to local food banks – such small gestures can have enormous impact, so please keep this in your thoughts as the nights grow colder and 2017 draws to an end.