PRIVATE schools across Taunton Deane could be asked to pay into a community fund under a proposed council initiative.

Libby Lisgo, Labour councillor for Somerset West and Taunton, is set to table the motion at the full council meeting on Wednesday, February 26.

Her plans, seconded by fellow Labour councillor Brenda Weston, ask the council to back the scheme, which would see the schools giving back to the community.

As independent schools benefit from business rates relief, Cllr Lisgo has suggested 10 per cent of this relief rate should be donated to the Somerset Community Foundation.

From there, the foundation will use the money to fund health and wellbeing projects in the area, with 50 per cent of the money targeted in the areas which have the greatest need.

Cllr Lisgo is also proposing that other ways the schools can help the surrounding communities should also be explored.

This isn’t the first time this issue has been discussed in the council chamber, as a similar motion was tabled by Cllr Lisgo and former cllr Steve Ross in 2017 to the former Taunton Deane Borough Council.

The Conservative-led authority did not back the item which would have again asked the schools to pay 10 per cent of its relief.

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But plenty is being done already, says one of the area’s top private schools.

From scholarships to art initiatives, the school says the local community is already involved in many aspects of the school.

Dr Lorraine Earps, head teacher of Queen’s College, said: “As a Methodist school, Queen’s is committed as part of its charitable objectives to providing access and opportunities for young people locally who would not otherwise be able to gain access to our education or facilities.

“Around 20 per cent of our local students receive means-tested financial assistance to enable them to attend the school.

“Of these, around ten receive full financial support, including five children from Syrian refugee families.

“As well as direct financial support, each year we open our doors to 26,000 people from local dance groups and sports clubs, host 3,000 primary school children each year who visit us to watch our school productions and invite up to 100 children from local primary schools to INSIGHT, our Saturday morning gifted and talented programme, all as part of our community outreach work.

“Queen’s is and wishes to be an integral part of the local community, employing 270 local people and contributing £10million to the local economy.”

The other three private schools in the area, King’s College, Taunton School, and Wellington School, did not respond by the time of going to print.