THE new Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) is getting started - and we want to help them find out what YOU think they should be talking about.

In a time of change for our district, not least through the merger of Taunton Deane and West Somerset Councils, it is fundamental to the process that residents have their say on where the council’s priorities should lie.

In a bid to help that happen, your County Gazette is launching the People’s Forum.

Each month, working with the administration at SWT, we intend to raise your issues - and find out what is happening.

Editor, Paul Jones, said: “One of the main issues people have with local government is that they don’t feel listened to, or when they do raise an issue, they don’t feel like it has been addressed.

“While we know councils do listen, we hope to give people regular updates - and answers to the things they want to know.

“That way, we can ensure people’s views are represented - and that we can hold all officials accountable."

The idea has received backing from the new leader of SWT, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts.

She said: “I like the idea of the forum. For me it’s all about openness, transparency and communication.

“We represent the residents of the area so should be able to have that mechanism to report back and tell them what we’re up to.

“I like to work collaboratively. The environment is far bigger than all of us and on the environment we do need to work together. It’s about generations to come.

“There’s hope for change and it’s time to think about what residents want.”

GET INVOLVED: Click here to submit your comments/questions

Independent councillor John Hunt, who was elected to represent Bishop’s Hull, also backed the plan.

“My interest is representing the people who elected me," he said. “Once we get into council, it’s about holding the Lib Dems to account on what they promised.

“They have my full support as long as they do what they said the will do. I am hoping for change, but if they don’t, we will hold them to account.

“They’ve said they’re very keen to work with everybody and I’m more than happy to work with them to make Taunton the place it should be.”

And Kit Chapman, who is involved with the Taunton People for Change group, said: “I welcome this new administration. It has excellent councillors who are forward looking and have aspirations for Taunton.

“Taunton has an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because of the massive redevelopment in its centre, particularly at Firepool.

“What Firepool needs is a vision and a coherent plan to redevelop that site, which should include a big multi-purpose flexible entertainment centre.

“Other spaces it could accommodate are a visitor centre celebrating the countryside around Taunton.

“My great hope is that the new council will realise these opportunities.”