RECENT government statistics shows the depth of the national recession.

Last year, the value of the UK economy shrank by 12%, losing one pound in every eight of our national wealth.

This is now having some very visible negative effects, including collapsing retail sales and rising unemployment, which city forecasters predict will rise to 2.5 million by next year.

There is little sign of any improvement in the coming year.

Indeed, the latest round-up of city forecasts published by the Treasury predicts an increase of 700,000.

Hard times have already arrived in the towns and villages of Somerset. Non-food retail and hospitality has also taken a big hit.

There are more and more gaps in our high streets, and small local stores are under threat.

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The government is offering some financial support, but clearly it needs to do more for us, or Yeovil and the surrounding area will be stuck in a vicious circle of decline after the current health emergency is over.

Central government needs to sustain and improve on its help package so that no-one falls through the gap.

Local government needs to put in place services to help those who are made redundant or are struggling in other ways.

There will also need to be a new focus on attracting new businesses to our area, improving skills and investing in infrastructure, like transport.

In the new age of working from home, poor broadband speeds in our area are also a barrier to new employers locating here.

This is a challenging agenda, but we have the right to demand that central and local government rise to meet it so that we can have better lives and a more prosperous area to live in.

And a better future.