WITH the tremendous news that the long-dreamed rail station in Wellington will become a reality and now the announcement that the proposed GWR ticket office closure at Taunton Rail station will not come to fruition there is much to celebrate on the rail front locally.

Having campaigned for the Wellington station for years, together with the local support team, and having made strong representations to the Secretary of State for Transport on behalf of many constituents to ensure the Taunton ticket office does not close, I am delighted with the progress made on both.

As the MP, speaking up for what local people want and need is my key priority and I take every opportunity to meet relevant Government Ministers to do this.

Whatever my local political opponents might claim, I am pleased to have been able to ensure the voices of my constituents were heard at the top level of Government.

Less positive is the troubling news that the Liberal Democrat-controlled Somerset Council have been informed recently by auditors that they must take action to reduce their multi-million-pound council overspend or the unitary council will face bankruptcy.

The council has an estimated gap of £80m forecast for 2024/25 and a further £50m for 2025/26.

I echo the sentiments of Councillor David Fothergill who has warned that in order to avoid bankruptcy, the leadership of the council must get a grip of the current challenges and take the difficult decisions necessary to avoid the council failing.

If this happened, it would have a really detrimental impact on people right across Somerset.

I’m really disappointed that the sound financial position of the previous Conservative County Council has been so quickly undermined.

I understand that this is related to a loss of momentum in terms of the savings that should have been realised when the unitary was established but have not so far been forthcoming.

This a key area the Council must get to grips with.

I will of course be speaking to colleagues in Government about how the LibDems have got Somerset into this dire situation and what can be done locally and nationally.

We need a well-functioning council to provide the services and support local people need especially at a time when so many face cost of living pressures.

Government has ensured that 11,700 eligible households in Taunton Deane, will start to receive another £300 cost of living payment directly into their accounts between 31 October and 19 November.

If you think you are eligible but do not receive this payment within this time period, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

This latest payment forms part of the Government’s total £94 billion cost of living support package.

Looking to the future needs of the nation, this week the UK will be hosting the first-ever summit on Artificial Intelligence (AI) safety at Bletchley Park.

Britain is a world leader in AI, it employs over 50,000 people & contributes £3.7 billion to the economy with the potential to grow with a transformational impact on many businesses and society.

However, AI has to be introduced safely and securely.

The summit will focus on risks at the frontier of AI, around the misuse of AI by non-state actors to perform harms like cyber-attacks, as well as risks around the loss of control of AI.

Finally, the State Opening of Parliament will be on Tuesday 7 November, when King Charles III will deliver his first speech in the House of Lords as King.

His Majesty will outline the Government’s policies and legislation for the coming parliamentary session with a focus on growing the economy, strengthening society and keeping us safe demonstrating how the Government will take the right long-term decisions to build a better future for everyone.