The NHS continues to struggle to cope with a budget rising by 2% a year (and demand for services by at least 5%), while the public seem not to notice Council cuts of 20% and more. That’s a simplification, and the stress on care budgets is clearly knocking on to the NHS, but I have wondered how Councils do it. On my visit to Somerset this weekend I have seen some irritating, rather than life-threatening impacts of cuts.
Taunton is a modest County town, probably on a par with Stafford or Bedford for visitor numbers, though on the doorstep of some of the UK’s best countryside in all directions. This was only my 2nd visit, though I annually plan to attend a cricket game there, and annually fail. While my son visited a friend in the Quantocks, I had chance to explore on a gorgeous autumn day.
I know that, in an age of I-Phones and Booking.Com, most travellers can get the information they need themselves, but I was still surprised to find the prominent Tourist Office closed at 10.45. I like to amble aimlessly around towns and suburbs, but without a map or obvious information boards I couldn’t work out what was essential viewing. Since the castle now appears to be a hotel, the most prominent public building looked to be the County Museum; also closed all day on Sunday. Just as well that Vivary Park is an absolute gem; one of the best civic parks in the UK.
Just up the road is the large village of Bishop’s Lydeard, gateway to the Quantocks and a stop on the famed steam railway. After a walk among the redstone buildings, I was pleased to find public toilets, less so to find them closed for the winter. Another good reason to ensure villages don’t lose their pub.