IN A letter to your County Gazette, Cllr Roger Habgood - a former cabinet member at Taunton Deane Borough Council - says now is the time for a debate over leadership of the borough...

"LET'S work together for our County Town to realise its potential.

Sharon and Liv Grant made some good points in the County Gazette recently.

The bottom line is that Taunton has changed and it is time for things to change in the way that the town and borough is led.

I grew up in Puriton; my dad was the village bobby. My early life was spent around Bridgwater. My dad earned the respect of the community because he believed in them.

In those days a trip to Taunton was a proper treat. Our county town had big shops and prosperity written all over it.

Retail has changed but I’m sure I am not alone in wanting to see the place recapture that reputation. The last decades decline must be reversed, but how?

We must find new ways to make the old place buzz and to serve people better.

The old local Government “we know best” attitude is not fit for purpose, things need to change to match the new challenges we face.

It's not acceptable to consistently finger point and blame others for non-delivery of promises.

There has been a lot of effort put into taking the town forward in recent years but despite those good efforts the expectations of residents have not been met.

There is an understandable and growing frustration around the place that can be heard on the streets and across all of the media. Looking backwards is not the answer. We must look forwards, together.

Local Government in the area seems to have lost its way. Maybe that is because of the economic pressures of our time?

It is increasingly obvious that to counter that economic pressure there needs to be a lot more collaboration between parish, borough and county council with petty party or group differences put aside for the good of the residents we serve.

There is a siege mentality locally that is accompanied by a blame culture; this is not an appropriate way to take things forward.

We do live in difficult times, but so what, we need to work together to make changes work and to deliver things for our futures.

At least park and ride has had a reprieve but what about taking that further, faster and making improvements to the service.

What about the improvements promised in the town centre? Then there is the f-word, Firepool! Surely that’s the last straw, enough is enough.

Taunton Deane Borough Council is coming to the end of its natural life and it shows.

Somerset West and Taunton Council comes into being next spring bringing new opportunities with services being redesigned and delivered in new ways.

The county council is under enormous pressure. Perhaps creating a unitary authority is the next step and will solve all our ills?

I am sure there are benefits but rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic is futile.

Looking at our services and how we can improve them for residents by working together is the higher priority.

Let's improve services and then worry about the structures.

There needs to be a debate about leadership here in Taunton. When will that take place? Should we wait for the formation of the new council?  Should we wait for a unitary authority to be formed? Why is that debate seen as a threat instead of an opportunity?

Do we want the “same old same old”? Or something new and forward looking? 

It’s the right season now to do some pruning in preparation for next spring, we are after all a Garden town.   

There are plenty of new ideas out there in the community and people with the energy and experience to get them delivered.

ArtsTaunton, The ROC Conversation, TACC, and The Green Forum to name just four groups with new ideas.

The council cannot do this on its own. We must become genuinely inclusive. We have to recognise talent, accept good ideas, involve people as we have never done before and – above all - learn to listen and listen well.

Taunton Deane Borough Council"