It is vital that our communities have the local infrastructure they need to serve our growing population and to ensure our economy and the general productivity of the region develops bringing the prosperity it deserves.

In this respect, achieving the upgrade of Taunton Rail station was a major milestone which I am proud to have played my role in securing much of the funding for. High on my agenda now is developing a Rail Station for Wellington.

Together with our stakeholder’s group (which I co-chair) we have come a long way down the track, working our way through the many stages, making the business and economic case to the Department for Transport and our case is looking positive.  Ahead of last weeks' station committee delivery meeting I was delighted to secure a meeting with Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, to put our case in advance of November’s Autumn Statement.

Whilst the provisional planning application has been received by Somerset County Council with a view to construction beginning in June 2024, this hinges on Ministerial sign off and HMT support. I am now following up my meeting with the Chancellor with more detail on the business case.

As I state regularly, there are plenty of other calls on the public purse, so making a sound case to the Chancellor himself is critical. 

Antisocial Behaviour 

Following the constructive roundtable, I held early in September bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss the recent incidents of antisocial behaviour in Taunton, I staged a follow up meeting with our Police Crime Commissioner, Mark Shelford. If we are to make our local area the safest place it can be for both businesses to operate in and customers to enjoy, then working together with all relevant partners is a priority, be it the local town council, police community officers, charities that work with the homeless, businesses groups and even parents and schools. The PCC agreed that dealing with any potential issues at an early stage will help prevent more criminal behaviours developing and we are determined to work together to deal with this. 

Insulating our Homes 

Upgrading home energy performance is necessary if we are to meet net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the UK economy by 2050 and is an issue raised with me by many constituents. It’s why I welcome last week’s Government announcement of the Great British Insulation scheme, backed by £1 billion to help those most in need heat their home for less. It will help upgrade some of the least energy-efficient homes in the country – namely those with an EPC rating of D or below – and in the lower Council Tax bands. More details about the scheme can be found on my website.

Finally, back to the Chancellor, at the Spring Budget 2023, he announced that the Government will fund a new, voluntary employment scheme for disabled people and the long-term sick called Universal Support. Under the scheme, the Government will spend up to £4,000 per person to help them find appropriate jobs and put in place the support they need. It will fund 50,000 places every single year and the Government will also abolish the Work Capability Assessment and remove the distinction between capable and not capable for work. As a result, disabled benefit claimants will always be able to seek work without fear of losing financial support. Ultimately, this will help thousands of people break down complex barriers to work, change lives, reduce economic inactivity, and help grow the economy.