I have been and continue to work hard to raise the concerns of Somerset County Council (SCC) at Government level and locally to ensure the future viability of the Council which delivers the services my constituents need and depend on.
I have been in close discussion with the Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP and called him to a meeting with my Somerset Conservative colleagues to highlight the seriousness of SCC’s situation. I’ve also met with Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire MP and written to the Chancellor himself to suggest ways forward.
I have made it clear that it is essential to secure the £80m Housing Infrastructure funding SCC have applied for and together all Somerset MP’s made the case that Somerset must be included in the next tranche of pilot areas for Business Rate Retention.
I am pleased to have played my part in saving the two Park & Rides in Taunton Deane from closure by Somerset County Council and I am delighted that Taunton Deane Borough Council has accepted my recommendation to take over these facilities to run as part of an integrated system in conjunction with the car parks in the area.
Although Somerset has had a 3.8% rise in core spending for the 2018/2019 period which is higher than the national average and has benefitted from £28m of infrastructure funding, (amongst this £7.2m for the “spine road” at Staplegrove in Taunton and £15.2m for the Northern Inner Distributor Road) Somerset suffers significant underfunding because of its rural nature and is further disadvantaged in the current funding formula because of its ageing population. I am fighting for a Fairer Funding deal in the forthcoming review.
I am determined, working together with my Somerset colleagues and Government, to ensure my constituents continue to receive the vital services they need. Somerset’s situation highlights the need to re-think how the necessary services are delivered for society and by whom.