The Way I See It - by Dr John H. Newton, chairman of TauntonForward and headmaster of Taunton School

Somerset County Gazette: Dr John Newton. Dr John Newton.

DISCERNING readers will have noted two items in last week’s Somerset County Gazette.

Cllr Mark Edwards urges us, rightly, to talk up our town and be positive about its future.

MP Jeremy Browne warns us of not being left behind, not just by superior economies in his excellent book, Race Plan, but by more dynamic, can-do towns nearer to home.

“I want Taunton . . . to be more ambitious for the future,” he stated.

TauntonForward, a group of local representatives of the private sector, was delighted to meet Mark recently to discuss the progress that Taunton is making.

We wanted him to be aware that, as the title of this column suggests, the way the council sees things is not necessarily the way the rest of the town does.

Positive talk does not, and indeed must not, preclude constructive criticism.

A change of pace has been noted since key figures began to question just how much progress the town is making.

However, there is still some way to go until we are happy that Taunton is being properly prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the recovery.

We support the Taunton Rethink proposals and believe our town should begin to “think like a city”.

Our challenge, therefore, to Mark was very clear. Every private organisation must be transparent and accountable.

This is true of education par excellence, and my school would not prosper without the application of strict measures of performance.

I often worry that the only time we get a chance to assess those we entrust with political power is every five years. Most professionals are reviewed every year or even every month.

So, let us be specific, we said to Mark: communicate what your vision is for this town, but give us the sense of what should happen when.

Let us measure what you, both elected and appointed officers, have achieved.

Let us have the sort of transparency, embodied in a clear action plan, that will give the town confidence, and allow it to speak in specifics about the quality of its life and the exciting nature of its prospects.

In one year there will be a General Election, and the town needs a proper basis upon which to judge whether it is being served effectively by its public servants.

This is neither a hostile nor a negative conversation. TauntonForward is a critical friend, and that friendship extends to offering support and expertise to deliver what this town needs in order to thrive.

TauntonForward is a collection of the best private sector talents in the region.

If you wish to know more or be part of what we do in this fruitful and positive collaboration with our town, email info@tauntonforward.com so we can add your skills and support to this wonderful challenge of enhancing prosperity, and achieving a high quality of life for ourselves, our businesses and our children.

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