TAUNTON Deane MP Rebecca Pow reflects on 2016 - and looks ahead to 2017.

Can you guess what she receives most queries about?

WHAT a year 2016 has been!

Personally, I will never forget it having been my first full year in Parliament; in addition we have had the historic Brexit vote and a new Prime Minister.

In terms of my political commitments, it has been an exceptionally busy year, but I’m also pleased to say a most productive one.

My priority is always to represent the interests of the constituency in Westminster and vice versa.

On some issues it’s a matter of keeping up continuous pressure through meetings with Minsters and indeed the Prime Minister herself.

But I am delighted that I have been involved in some successes during my tenure as our MP including seeing the 21st Century overhaul of the UK Hydrographic underway with its 700-strong skilled work force retained in Taunton.

A special highlight was securing £1 million for the restoration of Wellington Monument. Commemorating one of our greatest war heroes and marking the gateway to the South West, there will be many local community and economic spin-offs from the project. Well done to all involved, although there is more to do.

Transport and infrastructure have featured high on my agenda this year, with much time invested in getting assurances that the A358 upgrade, expansion of Junction 25 of the M5 and the £4.6m transformation of Taunton Station go-ahead.

Pressing for funding to improve the congested Creech Castle junction/Toneway has also been a priority, together with pressing for legislation to secure the funding framework for the Somerset Rivers Authority to be established to keep us safe from future flooding.

I am delighted my campaign for Fairer Funding for our Schools, which so many of you took part in, has been heeded by the Secretary of State for Education and a fairer system will be developed.

As I write I am waiting to hear whether garden town status will be awarded to Taunton, another area I have been working on with others.

My environment forums have been some of my favourite events in Taunton. As ever, the passion for the natural environment shown by the local community is inspiring and drives me on to continue my work standing up for nature in Westminster.

I receive thousands of emails a week, but you may be surprised to learn that I received more e-mails about protecting bees than any other subject since becoming the MP.

One of my personal environmental highlights was getting the Government to announce a ban on micro-plastics in cosmetic and personal care products. These are damaging marine habitats to a horrifying extent.

This Christmas many of us will be enjoying a well-earned break from work and spending time with loved ones, but we must not forget those less fortunate than ourselves.

Over the last few months I have been working hard on the Homelessness Reduction Bill Committee, which I hope will make a real difference in preventing people from reaching a state of homelessness in the first place.

Our increasing elderly population in Somerset is bringing its challenges and I was pleased that my first Older Peoples Fair, with a focus on health and wellbeing attracted so many people. It will be back by popular demand in the coming year.

Slightly further from home, let’s spare a thought for those trapped in war-torn areas such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen. I never fail to be touched by the compassion show by constituents writing to me on these subjects and always feed views in to relevant Ministers urging a humanitarian approach towards those in desperate circumstances.

In similar vein I spoke recently in the Chamber about violence against women and children, not just here but across the globe.

While 2016 has brought successes, 2017 will undoubtedly bring its challenges with securing the best deal for this country as we exit the EU being a top priority for the Government.

I shall be working in particular on addressing the skills shortage in the area through the proposed University of Somerset as well as keeping up pressure to improve infrastructure to support new developments and attract more jobs.

I would like to thank everyone for their support over the last year, working with Taunton Deane Borough Council, Somerset County Council and a wide range of community groups.

Taunton Deane is now well and truly on the political map.

Wishing everyone in Taunton Deane a merry and restful Christmas and here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.