It’s time of year for my annual complaint that the House of Commons is in recess for three weeks for party conferences. It might raise a few eyebrows to see the Lib Dems falling apart over housebuilding targets when we know their own local policies on that have been a disaster but it’s not worth putting Parliament on hold for. Watching Ed Davey falling out of a canoe was also something we could perhaps have done without.
Labour seem to have briefed the press early with their policy on taxing independent schools. I am not sure this is the vote winner they think it is. Many independent schools would struggle to stay open inevitably putting much more pressure on state schools and in turn that means tax rises and disruption. We need to work with teachers and make sure standards are rising across the board all the time and this seems like a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, as well as being anti choice and aspiration.
This Government is investing in school infrastructure and schools here in Somerset and across the country have benefitted from schemes such as the Condition Improvement Fund. School building design is a really interesting and important area and I’ll keep raising this in Parliament as well as making the case for more funding for schools in rural areas.
Having complained about the break from Parliament earlier, I would add that it is always good to have more time here and it was great to be at the opening of the Bennett Building at Holyrood School. It was also a pleasure, as always, to catch up with local supporters for lunch at The Shrubbery in Ilminster.
I am still concerned about the management of projects in Yeovil though, as works on the Yeovil Refresh continue to stray wildly from the original plans and now the refurbishment of the OctagonTheatre appears to be off. Both of these received very substantial central Government funding which I will continue to fight for in Westminster but that is made a lot harder if the priorities are not well thought through locally and delivery is not there.
I am pushing with site owners, the Government, the Council and others to get a coherent plan for transformation of the town centre executed. I want creative consideration of full redevelopment of Glovers Walk and the Bus Station, high quality residential / mixed use next to the Country Park on the old Octagon site, and an entirely new Octagon as part of a new arts and entertainment precinct for the on the Cattle Market site.
Finally there has been some press coverage that the Government is going to slash inheritance tax soon. It’s a deeply unpopular tax which affects more and more people and doesn’t actually raise that much to be spent on other things. The forced sale of family homes can be especially difficult at what is already obviously a very hard time. When the country needs simpler and lower taxes it seems like a very positive step but do let me know what you think.