LABOUR has started the process of selecting its candidate to stand in the next General Election in the Taunton and Wellington constituency.

New members of the Taunton and Wellington Labour Party were welcomed to its first full meeting of the year at Wellington Community Centre last week, with mounting pressure on the Government from opposition parties to call an early General Election this year.

Afterwards, a spokesperson for the local party said: "The selection process for our Taunton and Wellington constituency candidate is underway amid hopes that polling day will come sooner than advertised by the current Prime Minister."

High on the agenda at the meeting was a report from long-standing Wellington councillor Andy Govier, who has previously stood in a General Election locally, outlining the financial crisis that will mean further cuts to essential council services, with devastating effects for many Somerset households.

Cllr Govier said: “The ruinous LibDem/Tory austerity pact between 2010 and 2015, followed by further devastating damage to the economy and public services at the hands of successive Tory Prime Ministers were harmful enough.”

He reminded members of the last Conservative county council’s six-year freeze on council tax during their time in office, which he says has added to the damage and left hard-up Somerset households, especially those who rely on crucial care and support services, struggling.

He believes the task of rebuilding public services will be a monumental challenge for any incoming government.

READ MORE: Blow by blow account of the last General Election in Taunton in 2019.

Following some discussion, the chairman, Estelle Smillie, referred to December’s meeting where members had debated the devastating humanitarian crisis taking place in Gaza. Members contributed to a donation amounting to £115 which was sent to support the work of the British Red Cross in that region.

The election of new executive members produced a gender-balanced committee to take on key roles, including that of policy officer, whose role is to organise discussions on key issues.

The consensus arising from these local party debates feed into Labour’s National Policy Forum, a body unique among the UK’s political parties.

Future meetings will be alternated between Taunton and Wellington venues, with a focus on building towards the coming General Election.

Current Conservative MP Rebecca Pow, who has held the seat since 2015, is standing again, as is LibDem Gideon Amos, who was a candidate locally in the last two national polls.