I feel extremely privileged to serve once again as Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council.  As before, it has been an extremely busy but interesting time.

 I hope that you enjoyed a very happy Christmas and you made time for relaxing with your families and friends.

 Approaching a new year, we remember the events of the past twelve months.  The completion of Caldicot School brought much delight to the community and work is well underway on a new secondary school for Monmouth with adjacent sports facilities.  I am pleased to say that due to the hard work of pupils and the dedication of teaching staff our schools performed extremely well in the GCSE and A Level exams.

 In early November I spent a rewarding time at a Young Carers’ Rights Day event at Skenfrith’s Hilston Park.  The service that these young people provide for their families is second to none and they assume responsibilities at an age when they should have only school and recreation to think about.  It was lovely to see them relaxing and enjoying themselves with others in the same situation, with many activities and opportunities to talk to new friends.  I’m confident that our recently-launched Young Carers’ Strategy will offer them appropriate support.

 We are lucky that Monmouthshire produces many talented young people.  Our schools produce fabulous shows and their sporting successes continue to amaze me.

 One of the sporting highlights was the “Crosstober” event at Abergavenny Leisure Centre, when cyclists of all ages and abilities tackled the cross country course.  This event grows and grows and we hope to retain it within Monmouthshire to complement the other cycling competitions held in the county.

 Also on a sporting theme, I was privileged to meet Judy Murray who gave advice and instruction to our many young budding tennis players.  The council continues to provide extensive sporting facilities during the school holidays at each of our leisure centres, where young people can spend all day enjoying a variety of games and activities.  I attended a recent session where activities focus on learning new skills, developing confidence, meeting new friends and most importantly, having fun while participating.

 In September, I was honoured to represent Monmouthshire, when, together with Northern Automotive Systems Ltd (NAS Ltd) we warmly welcomed representatives from Xiangshan County, China and the Huaxiang Group.  NAS Ltd is one of the county’s largest employers and is owned by the Huaxiang Group.  It was the third visit in recent times, with the council signing a friendship agreement with Xiangshan County.

 In addition to my many duties within Monmouthshire, I represent the county at events, local shows and civic services in other authorities across Wales.  For instance, I’ve had the honour of meeting lovely people at tea in Swansea’s Mansion House as well as visits to Fonman Castle in the Vale and the Royal Welsh Show.

 My chosen charities this year are the Alzheimer’s Society Wales and the Wales Air Ambulance and in the autumn I decided upon a sponsored swim to raise funds.  I undertook 40 lengths of a 25 metre pool challenging sponsors to guess my time – I managed to complete the one kilometre distance in just over 29 minutes.  I thank all who sponsored me and those who contributed to my Christmas raffle.  I’m planning further events in the spring.

 I wish everyone a successful and Happy New Year and look forward with optimism to a promising 2018.

 Councillor Maureen Powell