SOMERSET West and Taunton (SWT) Council does not ONLY represent Taunton! Well, that's the theory.

Is there something about West Somerset that makes Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) council seek to forget West Somerset is part of its district? It may seem straight forward to most of us living here but more and more as a district councillor one is pushed toward the view that SWT major projects mainly benefit Taunton.

Contained within the SWT rates notice is a letter from the Leader of SWT. It talks about the inclusivity of their approach but in reality, it falls far short. Underlying the words is a noticeable Taunton centric approach.

This confirmed by the only major project outside of Taunton is Watchet Harbour wall and this is a must to repair under a government legal requirement, SWT had no choice but to act and they did.

Clearly, the new administration would and should where possible use and take advantage of the groundwork undertaken by the previous administration and they are doing this contrary to the hype and what is seen in the press. (Firepool, Cinema, theatre etc).

Additional new Taunton projects are coming online (£5K on Taunton Seagull control, its not just Taunton that has Seagulls) - but where are the major or any “new” projects that are West Somerset focused. You won't see them for looking because there aren't any.

However, a district-wide project has just been made public - it's the raising of car parking charges for all the district-owned car parks. It's a blanket increase without any consideration given to each locations different circumstances.

READ MORE: Parking charges set to rise in Taunton and West Somerset

How come the car parks are free in Taunton and Wellington on Sundays? What about the rest of the district area?

This type of implementation smacks of, I can't be bothered to spend the time looking for what is the best for each individual situation (towns and villages), but let’s increase everyone's charges anyway.

There has been NO prior consultation with your district or your town/parish councillors about this increase although there were enough warning signs given that a significant upset would result. However the increase was pushed though without much thought.

It would appear that SWT has a selective policy, with one rule being applied while favouring undeserving parts of the district in others. This is demonstrated by suggesting all the district would “benefit” from paying more on the premise this would bring about driver behaviour change, reduce exhaust emissions across the district (but in truth it may reduce them around Taunton by increasing the use of P&R but there is every likelihood it would increase them everywhere else) and cover the mentioned dreaded inflation.

The increase in charges could raise around £500,000 with the largest chunk being funnelled back into Taunton to support Taunton (owned by Somerset County Council) Park and Ride (P&R) scheme which is underfunded by Somerset County Council. In the rest of SWT (outside Taunton) buses are few and far between so we must use private transport and need parking encouraged as there is no alternative.

There is no doubt in my mind the continued support and encouragement of the use of the P&R will help reduce the carbon footprint in Taunton and attract business/visitors but will have an adverse and negative effect on the rest of the district with drivers driving around, increasing exhaust emissions and spending more time looking for less expensive parking spaces, like the roads and streets.

I support the climate change agenda and the P&R scheme in Taunton but find it upsetting that SWT is using “climate change” to hide behind raising car parking charges for no other reason but to raise revenue.

With SWT car park accounts showing a balance of over £3.4m for 2019/20, we have 3,400,000 reasons to pay for the P&R, change drivers behaviour, reduce exhaust emissions (not just around Taunton) and cover inflation without trying to squeeze another £500,000 to cover Taunton's surplus.

Just a thought, let’s be radical and encourage car park usage by reducing parking charges.

Somerset West and Taunton
Dulverton and District Ward