Our plans for a better Somerset West and Taunton

How we will work towards a decent home for all

A decent home is a basic right. Without it families and individuals cannot achieve their full potential. Security, decency, affordability and sustainability are the driving principles of our housing policy. Labour councils across the country are doing everything in their power to tackle the housing crisis caused by a succession of bad government policies. Labour councillors in Somerset West and Taunton will do the same.

Council and social housing

We will:

  • Keep Taunton Deane’s pre-merger housing stock in council ownership.
  • Use council borrowing powers to invest in more council homes across the area, using local builders and suppliers wherever this is a financially responsible option.
  • Lobby government to let councils decide whether to sell council homes and to invest any ‘right to buy income’ into building more homes.
  • Investigate alternative fast-build options such as modular homes.
  • Ensure repairs services are speedy and effective.
  • Encourage Housing Associations to provide more genuinely affordable homes, including supported and extra care housing.
  • Support non-profit groups, such as Community Land Trusts to build homes for social rent by providing assistance in kind and low cost council owned land.

Private ownership and tenancies

We will:

  • Define local housing ‘affordability’ as a benchmark for landlords and private developers.
  • Establish a compulsory register of licensed, approved private landlords to incentivise decent standards in the sector.
  • Create a rent deposit scheme applicable in cases where landlords have approved status.
  • Explore all avenues to reduce empty homes and maximise council tax levied on empty and second homes
  • Provide supportive conditions for self-build and custom-build housing projects

Action on homelessness

We will:

  • Undertake a rigorous housing needs assessment to include ‘hidden’ as well as street homelessness.
  • Work with local charities that are tackling “rough sleeping” and wider homelessness problems.
  • Urgently work to end the use of Bed and Breakfast accommodation for homeless people.

How we will secure the future for Somerset West and Taunton

Supporting jobs, the economy and skills

Workers in rural Somerset are among the lowest paid in the country, yet the cost of transport, food and fuel is higher in rural areas like this. Labour councillors will take all steps within their powers to support low paid workers and their families, boost the local economy and create a job market to attract and retain our young people.

We will:

  • Work with local schools, colleges and businesses to encourage innovation and create highly skilled jobs to boost the local economy.
  • Set up a local award scheme to recognise employers who provide fair pay and equal employment opportunities.
  • Support provision of good quality apprenticeships and vocational training and lobby for the reinstatement of Further Education for all age groups.
  • Source council supplies and services from local providers wherever feasible, and require prospective council contractors to pay employees a living wage.
  • Encourage the development of low carbon industries and enterprises to provide “Green Jobs”.
  • Repurpose empty shops and sites to support the local economy and communities.
  • Ensure that the council provides a supportive, productive working environment and at least a living wage.
  • Make a concerted effort to encourage inward investment.

Developing a sustainable infrastructure

Planning committees have let developers off the hook time and again. New developments are allowed to spring up without the promised infrastructure to support community life – such as community spaces, bus services and meeting quotas for social housing.

A Labour-led council will take a strategic approach to planning that also responds to the needs of individual localities. We will work with bus companies and users, cycling campaign groups and pedestrians to develop sustainable, reliable, affordable and people-centred transport links, balancing the provision of public and private transport as appropriate to local needs.

We will:

  • Insist that developers fulfill their infrastructure obligations, including pedestrian and cycle- friendly routes and electric car charging, schools and GP services.
  • Ensure developers provide the social and affordable homes quotas specified in planning consents.
  • Retain community-owned assets for their social value to the community unless no social purpose can be identified.
  • Prioritise the use of brownfield sites for new developments.
  • Require new-build housing to use energy efficient construction and energy generation such as solar water heating, air or ground source heat pumps and photovoltaic panels.

Next: How we will protect our environment and tackle climate change >>>