ENVIRONMENT issues were top of the bill at the launch of Taunton Labour Party's campaign.

The Deane's red party were joined by shadow Secretary of State for environment, Sue Hayman, on Saturday, March 9, to launch the manifesto in the run up to the local elections.

Taunton Deane Borough Council is set to 'transform' into Somerset West and Taunton Council following the elections on May 2.

Representatives from the political parties and independent candidates will fight it out for the 58 seats - with Taunton Labour party hoping to gain a few more.

MP for Workington, Sue Hayman, said: "I've come down at the invitation of the local Labour Party to talk about the local elections and the environment.

"They've got a very good manifesto out, with environment and its centre.

"As the shadow sec. of state for environment I have come here to talk about our environment policies and what we want to do for rural communities and small towns.

"I think it's very important that we get a focus on climate change and we shove it up the political agenda.

"I really think it was great what the children did. In my constituency, one of the schools went out onto the streets and talked about climate change, because we don't talk about it enough and it's such a huge international emergency - it's a crisis."

Councils across the county have been declaring 'climate emergencies', but is this a serious enough response to the global issue?

Mrs Hayman added: "I don't think they [gov] are taking action swiftly enough, that's the problem, people are talking about it. David Attenborough did an amazing job with Blue Planet just to talk about the kind of damage we are doing to our planet.

"The problem is, it gets swamped by other matters. We talk about education, we talk about health, we talk about the economy. Actually, climate change has to be part of all of that, it crosses every department.

"What we have been trying to do is to get an Agriculture Bill that's fit for purpose. The current bill focuses almost entirely on environment and on farmers getting money for public goods, which is about helping the environment.

"We think there should be a much better balance between food and the environment, because farmers produce food, and that's what agriculture is.

"So we are really pushing for sustainable food production, for farmers to be rewarded for good practices."

This is The West Country:

LAUNCH: Taunton Labour Party with Sue Hayman 

With the Brexit deadline looming, Somerset's farming community could be left wondering what their trade will be like out of the European Union.

Mrs Hayman fears the UK could be forced to slump to low standard practices, such as having to wash chicken in chlorine.

She added: "The biggest concern I have in a no deal Brexit is what will happen with a farmer's ability to export. I think that could be really problematic.

"I know that there are real issues around tariffs. "The other problem is if we allow cheap, substandard food to come into this country. The chlorinated chicken for example, that everyone has heard about from America.

"People safe it's safe. Well, it is safe. But the reason they do that is because the animals are treated so very, very badly, as need to be washed in chlorine to get rid of all the bugs and diseases.

"That's not fair on our farmers who are farming to much higher standards and can't meet those low costs."

Currently, there are only two Labour councillors on TDBC, but it's hoped the local elections will bring about some victories for the red party.

Mrs Hayman said: "TD Labour has an excellent manifesto and lots of really good ideas laid out about how they want to improve the local area, and I'm here to talk about the environment part of that.

"Libby is an excellent councillor, I've know her for many years.

"They are passionate about doing the best for their community. I think we should have more Labour councillors, pushing for those really good pledges in the manifesto, in order to get a better Taunton for everybody."

Cllr Libby Lisgo said there was a 'strong' response to the manifesto at the launch.

She said: "Our campaign launch went really well on Saturday.

"Having the Shadow Secretary of State for Defra with us was a real boost for our members and we also had a strong response from people that we talked to in the High Street.

"The environmental agenda is important to lots of people, as is the need for change in our local politics here in the new council area. Labour are part of that different way of thinking.

"We also visited Watchet with Sue. We met Labour members and supporters in West Somerset and had a fact finding tour of the Harbourside area which was fascinating."