LET me start by sending heartful good wishes on behalf of people across our constituency to His Majesty King Charles III for a full and speedy recovery following news of his illness which was issued in a statement from Buckingham Palace this week. Sadly, so many of us have experiences of this ghastly disease which highlights more than ever how important it is to tackle cancer at every level.


Whatever life throws at us as a society making sure that our young people have the skills to equip them for future life is so important. And that’s why as a Government we are focusing on creating opportunities for them to succeed and I was delighted that the YMCA in Taunton has just been allocated over £2m from the Culture Media and Sport Youth Investment Fund to transform their centre on Lisieux Way. General Manager, Clare Langley gave me a tour on Monday explaining that the money will enable a complete rebuild of the centre incorporating a kitchen facility where young people can learn cooking skills and gain advice on healthy eating; new sports facilities including a climbing wall will encourage fitness and a range of meeting rooms will mean other activities can take place at multiple times. The upgrade will mean an extra 230 more students can benefit from the centre which already helps over 1000 young people a year giving them valuable life skills.

Another organisation that does great work for young people in the area is the Somerset Cricket Foundation, bringing cricket to schools and disadvantaged communities as well as offering older clientele walking cricket courses and running cricket sessions for dementia sufferers. In recognition of the beneficial work the Foundation does across Taunton Deane and wider Somerset, using the power of cricket to make a difference to peoples’ lives I was delighted to invite Jon Bendle, the Managing Director to the Community Sport Champions reception at Number 10 Downing Street recently hosted by Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP. Another positive development for our young people is the Government announcement of a ban on disposable vapes. The number of children using vapes has tripled in the last three years and there is strong evidence to suggest that cheap and easy-to-use disposable vapes are partly to blame. Many constituents have written to me calling for a ban and I hope they will join me in welcoming this latest announcement.

Correspondence has continued to flood in highlighting the dearth of dentists locally and in my continuing my crusade to improve matters I met the new Dental Minister last week, making no bones about this unacceptable situation. She assured me the dental recovery plan would be launched soon and at the time of writing this has just been announced by Government. I welcome this plan which is long overdue and am particularly pleased to see that it includes some of the initiatives I proposed including mobile dentists and priority for those who have not accessed a dentist for over two years. Cash incentives to encourage dentists to move to regions like ours have also been outlined with the plan delivering immediate and long-term change to improve access to NHS dentistry. I will work with Government to ensure that my constituents benefit from these necessary measures which is especially important for those who have been waiting for far too long to see a dentist, including many children. Further details of the Dental recovery plan can be found on my website.

Finally, this week many families across Taunton Deane are amongst the eight million families receiving their third tranche of cost-of-living payments to help with the challenges of everyday living, bringing the total support for relevant households to £900 which is part of a wider £2bn support package for vulnerable households. The Government continues to stick to their plan to lower inflation and I am pleased to say this has more than halved, allowing taxes to be cut for 27 million working people meaning they keep more of their money, something this Government is making a priority.