Launching the LibDem Somerset West and Taunton Manifesto today, clockwise from left, former Police Community Support Officer Eamon Leniston (West Monkton & Cheddon Fitzpaine), Dixie Darch (Staplegrove & Norton Fitzwarren—with grandchild), Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts (Halcon & Lane), Cllr Fran Smith (Blackbrook & Holway), bus driver Cllr Benet Allen (Minehead South), and Cllr Habib Farbahi (Comeytrowe & BIshops Hull).

Launching the LibDem Somerset West and Taunton Manifesto today, clockwise from left, former Police Community Support Officer Eamon Leniston (West Monkton & Cheddon Fitzpaine), Dixie Darch (Staplegrove & Norton Fitzwarren—with grandchild), Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts (Halcon & Lane), Cllr Fran Smith (Blackbrook & Holway), bus driver Cllr Benet Allen (Minehead South), and Cllr Habib Farbahi (Comeytrowe & BIshops Hull).

Liberal Democrats have put forward a new #PlanetPositive agenda to make the District waste, pollution and carbon neutral by 2030, as their manifesto, launched today, for the Somerset West and Taunton Council elections to be held on 2nd May.

They plan to redirect the Council’s spending on the luxury hotel and reorganisation projects to instead support the new agenda, along with more support for young people and public transport and to increase Council and affordable housing from the current 15% to 25% of all new developments.

Group leader, Councillor Simon Coles said “The Liberal Democrats will bring an end to a decade of Conservative waste and neglect. We have a positive, detailed and costed manifesto which will improve the environment, economy and lifestyle of the residents of Taunton Deane and West Somerset. Our detailed research shows that a lot can be done by accessing a range of grants without extra costs to the council tax payer who is being forced to endure rises of twice the inflation rate by the Conservative Government and local councils. We will stop gambling with your money on risky enterprises like a luxury hotel in Firepool while services are being cut to the bone.”

Councillor Federica Smith-Roberts said “ 'Our policies won't cost the earth, but if we don't achieve them, it WILL cost the earth'.  Addressing the Climate Emergency is top of the Agenda for the Liberal Democrats. Local action is needed to achieve global aims. We aim to make our new Council carbon-neutral by 2030. This includes helping people in places like Halcon by improving the public transport network and helping bus companies to switch to zero carbon emissions along with the council's vehicle fleet.  Accessing grants currently ignored by the Council should in time reduce costs for passengers and bus companies.”

Dixie Darch, candidate for Staplegrove, Kingston and Norton Fitzwarren added  “We aim to save the Park and Rides by making them commercially viable with stops at the station and Colleges and provide more charging points for electric vehicles at strategic points. We are already talking with Parish Councils to take this forward. We will encourage cycling and walking with better facilities and in time consider more traffic-fee zones, except for zero emission vehicles. It’s essential we are tough about protecting green spaces, generating renewable energy and on zero carbon standards for new homes. We would extend the ban on single-use plastics and launch a 'Put your Bin on a diet' campaign”. She added “Young people shouldn't have to pay £795 to get the bus to college so we would pioneer a new bus pass for 16 to 18 year olds as part of a deal with bus companies - one that would include a late evening bus on all major routes. People should be able to have a night out in town without needing to drive - that could really boost our theatres, restaurants and cultural attractions”.

Councillor Habib Farbahi has spearheaded the LibDem commitment to economic regeneration in Taunton Deane and West Somerset. “We will stimulate our towns' economies through our unique policy of creating affordable employment spaces for new start-up businesses and with major projects like a research and Innovation Centre at Firepool to attract new inward investment and higher paid jobs, as well as a major entertainment and conference centre. This could complement the new UK Hydrographic Office and put an end to Conservative government threats to move it away. We must reverse the decline of our County Town and would trial free parking to boost local shops and businesses”

Former Police Community Support Officer Eamon Leniston, standing for the LibDems in West Monkton and Cheddon Fitzpaine, commented  “People in areas like West Monkton where I live want to see us combat crime and anti-social behaviour, we'll do just that by funding town centre wardens and consulting on paying for more police and community support officers on the beat. To really beat crime we need to restore effective partnership working, like the Business Crime Reduction Partnership, axed by the Conservative Council in 2014". 

On housing Councillor Fran Smith pledges that the LibDems “will build more council houses and challenge the failure to get Developers to provide enough affordable and social housing for local families such as in Blackbrook and Holway and in the massive expansion of our towns. Developers have been given too much power by a supine Council that has allowed them to get away with inadequate infrastructure like roads and flood defences, while millions are made in profits. We will also work hard with all agencies to reduce the scourge of homelessness.” 

Councillor Simon Coles concluded “ We will reform the council to make it easier for the public and all political sides to work together to share decision-making and ensure that communities are genuinely consulted, too many decisions, like the one to abolish the current Councils were taken by the Conservative Council before the public was even asked.”

The local LibDems' Manifesto detailing 65 action points, some already initiated and other longer term commitments, launched today, can be read at  https://www.tdld.co.uk/2019manifesto