I HAD the opportunity to have a first-hand insight into two welcome local initiatives recently.

The first was a visit to the Cannonsgrove centre, set up to accommodate and support rough sleepers through the pandemic and the second was an education scheme.

Early on in the actions to tackle coronavirus, Government provided emergency funding to help ensure all rough sleepers had a place to stay.

This funding enabled Somerset West & Taunton Council to link with the YMCA Dulverton Group to set up a facility on the Cannonsgrove site in Taunton.

As well as a bed and regular meals, a wide range of partners are providing support services including mental and physical health and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

During my visit it was clear the system is working well and could be a welcome model for the future and I will be making the case to Rough Sleeping Minister, Luke Hall, for this to become a permanent centre.

At the Link Centre in Halcon I was pleased to meet some of the 50 students from Heathfield Community School coming to receive a laptop as part of the Department of Education initiative to ensure those from disadvantaged areas can access education remotely as well as where necessary, social care and other safety and wellbeing services.

This is a welcome scheme that will be of immediate benefit to many.

I was pleased that my calls for support for the hard-hit hospitality and tourist industry were heeded with the temporary VAT reduction from 20% to 5% until January 12, 2021.

In further support of the local economy I’ve been working with GWR and other stakeholders to secure the final tranche of funding required to complete the Taunton Rail station upgrade by linking to Firepool.

This project was one of my 2015 commitments and I look forward to it finally coming to fruition.

Finally, remember that whilst face-coverings have been a requirement on public transport already, from this Friday they will also be mandatory in shops, (with exceptions for some), coinciding with the re-opening of more services on Saturday.

Face-coverings are also encouraged in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult.

MP for Taunton Deane