In My View - 7th March 2019

On Monday, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire made a very positive statement in the House of Commons about the new Stronger Towns Fund which will sit alongside other revenue streams such as the Shared Prosperity Fund and Future High Streets fund as ways to help our cities, towns and villages develop and prosper. Some of the grants will be designed to replace current European Union streams but they should be administered more accurately and, of course, all of the money we put in will be spent in the UK.

As the name of the Shared Prosperity Fund suggests, one of the aims of these investments is to make sure areas aren’t left behind particularly as wealth can gravitate towards the big cities. As technology changes working habits though there is less reason for this and targeting funding of local projects can invigorate an area and help productivity and the local economy. It’s similar to our connectivity project in the South West – upgrading our roads and broadband network will drive the local economy forward as well as improving quality of life.

The Stronger Towns Fund is formed of two tranches and, disappointed that the first is largely directed at the North of England, I asked the Secretary of State what we should be doing given that the South West also suffered from under-investment for many years. His answer was that there is £600million in the second pot and he has encouraged applications from our part of the world. I have already put in writing a request for information on the procedure for that as soon as it is published but it is not too early to start thinking about how to put forward high-quality and ambitious bids. I am meeting with the head of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership soon and will discuss how we can build on our industrial policy and the funding and projects that they already have.

High up the list for me would be up-front financial support to see the Chard Regeneration Scheme pushed forward and really made the best that it can be. It’s a good plan, and I know that the new swimming pool will be especially welcome, but it does seem prone to delay and it could be that a little help would make all the difference. In Yeovil I would like to see more investment in our skills development, perhaps working with Yeovil College on enhancing their opportunities to inspire our children and kickstart careers. I am also looking forward to liaising with our Town Councils throughout the constituency on this and perhaps revisiting some of the ideas of the last few years that didn’t get up and running before. In his statement, James Brokenshire encouraged, ‘Investments that could boost on {their} heritage, improve productivity and boost the life chances of all their people’. I will forward details of the bidding process to stakeholders as soon as I can and look forward to helping bring forward some really exciting ideas.

As always, if you would like to get in touch about the above or any other local issue or would like to book an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries across the constituency please do call 01935314321 or email