Local services, and, importantly, the local people who make them tick, are the lifeblood of rural communities. A good education is among the most important, as people can then improve themselves and society as a whole.

People value their small schools, and it is disappointing some have been closed by a county council slavishly following Government guidance to shut those with empty desks.

This damages the sustainability of communities and puts parents under pressure to move away, closer to a different school.

Meanwhile, other schools are full or over-subscribed, thereby removing parental choice.

The next Conservative Government will reverse this situation by scrapping limits on surplus places, so good small schools can prosper and new ones can open where parents, not politicians, want them.

We will encourage parents, charities, and others to start new schools and will cut red tape from planning laws and building regulations and give parents more control of taxpayers’ money.

Rural health services are also under pressure with the rollout of large centralised polyclinics which threaten established GP practices.

I oppose polyclinics for Taunton Deane as they will reduce access to primary care for patients, particularly in rural settings, and I will continue to fight for the right of GPs to dispense drugs and treatment.

We will also support services such as Post Offices by allowing them to become more viable, giving them freedom to offer a wider range of business services and encouraging councils to open ‘council counters’.

As important local services have been lost, so a decline in public transport has made it harder for people to access to alternatives.

Organisations such as Wivey Link are therefore a lifeline for many people and are often more appropriate for rural needs and provide better value for money.

Such demand-responsive schemes should be expanded in Taunton Deane and more resources provided to ensure they are successful.

If you want to know more about how Conservatives will support rural communities, then please email me at taunton@tory.org or visit www.markformosa.com