Monmouthshire County Council has set its objectives for the coming year including restating its commitment that every service will be efficient and cost effective.  This is the clear message in ‘Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities’, the council’s Improvement Plan for 2016-17.

 Over the past four years the council has made significant reductions in spending while continuing to improve services. While financial pressures are set to continue, responses will always be shaped by public engagement and learning from the best public services in the UK and beyond.

The council has four clearly identified priorities: education, protecting the most vulnerable in society, supporting business and job creation and maintaining locally accessible services.

The Improvement Plan sets five objectives that will contribute to these priorities and describes some of the things the council will do to improve over the next twelve months. The objectives are:

  • We will improve at all key stages of education.
  • We will safeguard people, whether young or old, while reducing dependence on social care.
  • We want to enable our county to thrive.
  • Maintaining locally accessible services.
  • We want to be an efficient, effective and sustainable organisation

Commenting after councillors agreed the plan, Council Leader Peter Fox said: “The Improvement Plan sets our focus for delivery in the year ahead. While this is ambitious it is not unrealistic, and allows residents to clearly understand the progress we plan to make. We expect every service to be efficient and cost effective so that we can put resources into our priority areas.”

Over the next year the council will be talking to residents, businesses and partners to assess wellbeing in our communities and across the county as a whole. We know that decisions made now will impact on communities for years to come. These conversations will help us develop a new set of objectives that will have a much longer term focus.

Residents can comment and download a copy of the plan on the council’s website at www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/improvement .

They can also join the discussion on Twitter: @monmouthshireCC

 

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An appreciative audience was delighted by a gala evening of choral singing at Caldicot Castle last Saturday (18th June) evening with a concert hosted by TV star Alex Jones and Welsh tenor Wynne Evans.  Featuring three of Monmouthshire’s male voice choirs performing a number of traditional Welsh and international favourites, the show raised funds for the Monmouthshire & District National Eisteddfod to be held in Abergavenny in less than six weeks’ time.

The choirs – from Chepstow, Caldicot and Monmouth – delivered such favourites as Calon Lân, Men of Harlech and many other well-known numbers.  Caldicot Castle provided a spectacular backdrop for the event and the audience of over three hundred clearly enjoyed the performances.

Hosts Alex Jones and Wynne Evans won the hearts of those attending with their warm and witty delivery and Evans entertained with solo performances of Granada and O Sole Mio, best known for its associations with the Cornetto ice cream, as well as singing other favourite tracks.  Bathed in warm sunshine, the choirs performed separately before joining for a finale culminating in a rousing rendition of Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.

Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Peter Fox attended with Monmouthshire’s Chairman, Councillor Jim Higginson and Caldicot Mayor David Evans.  Councillor Fox remarked: “This eagerly-awaited concert exhibited Welsh choral singing and culture at its best and was obviously enjoyed by everyone in such a magical setting.  There’s no doubt that Caldicot’s castle is an ideal venue for events of this nature and I look forward to more occasions like this.”

He added: “The National Eisteddfod visits Abergavenny next month and will be a fabulous opportunity for Monmouthshire’s residents to enjoy similar stellar performances on their doorstep.”

The Monmouthshire & District National Eisteddfod comes to Abergavenny from 29th July to 6th August when it is expected to attract over 150,000 visitors to the county. It will be the first time for over a century that Monmouthshire has hosted the festival of Welsh language and culture – it was last held in the county in 1913, in Abergavenny.

The National Eisteddfod, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and the Sinemaes Partnerships are pleased to release details of the timetable for the Drama Village at the National Eisteddfod which will include Caffi’r Theatrau, Cwt Drama, Sinemaes and Theatr y Maes.

The drama village will once again be sponsored by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and the programme includes theatrical performances for all ages, panel discussions films, competitions, lectures and street theatre.

Amongst the highlights in the Theatr will be family productions, Dilyn Fi by  North Wales based Theatre Company Cwmni’r Frân Wen and a new stage adaption of children’s favourite Sali Mali by Arad Goch.  Sure to appeal to kids of all ages will be Bara Caws’ new production Raslas Bach a Mawr based on the exploits of the iconic Welsh language kids TV series featuring Syr Wynff and Plwmsan.  This brand new production will tour Wales in the autumn with highlights being premiered at the Eisteddfod.

Bara Caws will also be performing a special open air production in a wooded area of the Eisteddfod during the Eisteddfod week.  ‘Ga’i fod’ follows the exploits of a group of co-workers as they go back to nature!   Certainly one of the highlights will be the ‘Lock In Theatre’ which will be a co-production between the Eisteddfod and Cwmni’r Frân Wen.  A group of actors, writer and director will be locked in the Theatr overnight and will emerge the next day with a brand new play which will be performed on the Theatre stage.  What can possibly go wrong?

There will also be a chance to join Ffion Dafis in conversation with dramatist Dafydd James, improvisational theatre certain to put a smile on your face and a tribute to local legend Lady Augusta Hall of the Llanover Estate.

The Cwt Drama (Drama Hut) will also return for the third year with a varied and exciting programme.  The main drama of the week, a co-production between Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and the National Eisteddfod, will be the winner of the Drama Medal at last year’s Eisteddfod, Rhith Gân by Wyn Mason.  Sara Lloyd will direct the play, based on The Gentle Good’s album – Y Bardd Anfarwol.

It will be performed at the Cwt Drama from Monday to Friday at 18:00.  Tickets are priced at £5 + normal field admission.  Tickets go on sale on 1 July and will be available online from the Eisteddfod website.

The main focus of the Cwt Drama is new writing, work in development and raw, audacious and exciting productions.  Amongst the performances will be Anturiaethau Wallace & Bates by Theatr na n’Og, new writing by Sherman Cymru as part of the Brigstrand, Dirty Protest will be popping their cherry appearing at the first time at the Eisteddfod and also sessions by WNO and students from the University of South Wales.

Sinemaes is an exciting new development to the Drama Village and will be co-ordinated by BAFTA Cymru, Film Hub Wales, Into Film, Ffilm Cymru Wales, BFI NET.WORK, The Royal Television Society, Wales Screen, ITV Cymru Wales, S4C, The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, TAC, Gorilla and Trosol.

Over 50 events have been programmed including film screenings, a couple of premieres, Q&A sessions, workshops, discussions, the chance to meet film-makers and get advice on working in the creative industries.  There will also be an opportunity to view archive programmes including Welsh BAFTA winners as the charity celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Cymru Awards.

Amongst the highlights of the week will be the chance to learn more about the new Film Y Llyfrgell and a chance to watch a preview of the new series of Parch with author Fflur Dafydd and others; a showing of 70s Welsh cult classic Gwaed ar y Sêr accompanied with a live set by H Hawkline; reading from the new script based on Tony ac Aloma and the premiere of new horror short films.

The programme is live online by going to Programme on the main menu at the top of the site and search by day or location.  Or go to www.eisteddfod.wales/2016/locations.

The Monmouthshire and District National Eisteddfod is held on Castle Meadows, Abergavenny from 29 July – 6 August.  For more information go to www.eisteddfod.wales.

Chepstow Leisure Centre will campaign with the South Wales Fire Service, Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA) and local police to help promote Drowning Prevention Week.  The national campaign run by the UK’s drowning prevention charity, the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), runs from 18th to 26th June and raises awareness of the 400 people who lose their lives each year.  It aims to ensure everyone knows how to have fun and stay safe near water.

Chepstow Leisure Centre will run a week of activities during children’s swimming lessons and will deliver vital safety information to local primary schools to cut preventable deaths.

Chepstow’s fire and rescue service station manager, Steve Cooper said: “Around 400 people needlessly die from drowning in the UK every year and thousands more suffer injury, some life-changing, through near-drowning experiences.  Shockingly, one person drowns every 20 hours in the UK and drowning is the leading cause of accidental death of children in the UK.

“Chepstow Leisure Centre is a fantastic place for people to enjoy water safely and it also provides swimming lessons for people of all ages.  We are proud to be supporting RLSS UK’s Drowning Prevention Week by informing adults and children how to stay safe near water, while offering a fun set of lessons for children.  We want people to stay safe in Monmouthshire and beyond.  By supporting the campaign we are doing our very best to give people vital skills that can save lives.”

Chepstow Leisure Centre Manager Helen Dymond thinks it’s fantastic to see so many local agencies joining forces and working together to help spread such an important message.  She said: “We are hoping to raise money for RLSS UK’s campaign by holding a charity car wash in the leisure centre car park on Saturday 18th June from 9am to12noon and SARA is holding an open day on Sunday 26th June from 11am to 4pm at Beachley’s lifeboat and mountain rescue centre.”

SARA’s Training Manager David Brown based at Beachley added: “Every year we’re asked by the coastguard, fire and rescue service, DEFRA, police and other agencies to assist people in difficulty.  None of these people expected to get into difficulty and none of them expected it to happen to them.  Of the 27 calls received at our Beachley and Newport stations this year, the majority of them were preventable with knowledge.  Children especially don’t see potential dangers around water and so we fully support and encourage activities such as Drowning Prevention Week to allow all to enjoy the outdoors safely.  It’s free, it’s fun and it makes sense to help people prepare the best they can.  I’d encourage everyone, especially parents and children to join us during the week.”

Di Steer, RLSS UK’s Chief Executive, said: “We want as many children as possible to sign up to these fun events and learn essential water safety skills that could potentially save lives.  We thank Chepstow Leisure Centre, South Wales Fire Service, Severn Area Rescue Association and Chepstow’s police for getting involved with our campaign and helping to spread water safety messages at such a high risk time of the year.”

Councillor Bob Greenland, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for leisure said: “It is vitally important that we warn people about the risks presented by water and the county council is pleased to back the Royal Life Saving Society and its Drowning Prevention Week campaign as well as work with other partners to cut accidents and fatalities.”

Drowning Prevention Week will see schools, clubs, leisure centres and communities promote water safety through events, lessons, games and activities in a bid to make people more aware of the dangers of water.  RLSS UK provides a host of resources including videos, presentations, lesson plans and games.

Drowning Prevention Week aims to raise money for the RLSS UK’s wider drowning prevention work, which includes providing support for families affected by drowning or near drowning.  People can donate by texting DRPW16 with the donation amount to 70070.

Tonight (14 June), both the Monmouthshire and District National Eisteddfod’s Crown and Chair were presented to the festival’s Executive Committee, at a special ceremony in Monmouth.

This year’s Crown is presented by Cymreigyddion Y Fenni (the Abergavenny Welsh Society), and the Crown has been created and designed by local artist, Deborah Edwards.  The financial prize has been donated by Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd.

The Crown is presented for a collection of poems not in full cynghanedd (strict metre) of up to 250 lines, titled ‘Llwybrau’ (Paths).  The adjudicators are Siân Northey, Menna Elfyn, and Einir Jones.

The inspiration for the design of this year’s National Eisteddfod crown came from the artist, Deborah Edwards’ love of living in Monmouthshire, celebrating the county’s beautiful landscape, wealth of architectural landmarks and cultural heritage.

The crown is made up of a series of windows, the outline shape of which was taken  from the Nave’s West Window at Tintern Abbey.  Each window frames a different view of Monmouthshire, which include the castles of Abergavenny, Raglan, Caldicot, Usk and Chepstow, Abergavenny Market Hall, the Severn Bridge, Monnow Bridge and Llancayo Windmill.

Lady Llanover, a patron of Welsh culture locally, is represented in the design, as are the peaks of the Skirrid, Sugarloaf and Blorenge and many other elements important in the history and landscape of Monmouthshire.

Each window shaped section has two layers; the first layer is solid sheet with details pierced out by hand using a piercing saw. The second layer is made up of line drawings formed in square section silver wire.  The textile for the crown was woven by Sioni Rhys Handweavers in their Pandy studio, using a traditional local weave.

The Chair will also be presented to the Executive Committee on Tuesday evening.  This year’s task is to compose a sequence of poems in full cynghanedd of up to 250 lines titled ‘Ffiniau’ (Borders / Boundaries).  The adjudicators are Tudur Dylan Jones, Cathryn Charnell-White and Meirion MacIntyre Huws.

This year marks fifty years since Dic Jones won the Chair at the Aberafan Eisteddfod for his ode, ‘Y Cynhaeaf’ (The Harvest), and to note this important anniversary, the Chair is given by the family in the poet’s memory.  The financial prize is donated in memory of Islwyn Jones, Wenvoe, Cardiff.

Emyr Garnon James, Head of Design and Technology at Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi, who used to visit Yr Hendre, Dic Jones’ family home, was chosen by the family to design and create this year’s Chair.

Emyr says, “I used to call at Yr Hendre, and the Aberafan Eisteddfod Chair was in the corner of the room.  I never imagined that I would be chosen to create an Eisteddfod Chair in memory of Dic himself.  It has been an honour and a pleasure to create this Chair, and I thank the family for the opportunity.

“One thing was certain from the start when speaking to the family, it had to be a ‘no-fuss’ Chair, the wood being the main attraction.  I returned to Yr Hendre to see the 1966 Chair, which was a very modern Chair in its day, a simple Chair with beautiful wood.  I chose to work with black walnut, and created a simple design with straight lines, a design which would, hopefully, have been appreciated by Dic himself.

“Working with the black walnut has been a special experience, and I have learnt how to cast bronze into the wood to create the inscription and the Nod Cyfrin (Gorsedd of the Bards symbol).  I may well use some of these techniques in future projects with pupils at school, after exploring different ways of working when creating the Chair.”

Speaking as he accepted both the Crown and the Chair on behalf of the local committee, Chair, Frank Olding, said, “It is a great pleasure to be here tonight to accept the Crown and the Chair on behalf of this year’s Eisteddfod.  The ceremonies are two of the week’s highlights, and we sincerely hope that we will have two worthy winners for both the Crown and Chair in a few weeks’ time.  Our thanks to Deborah Edwards for her beautiful work on the Crown and to Cymreigyddion Y Fenni and Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd for their generosity.

“We also thank Emyr Garnon James for his work on the Chair, and the families of Dic Jones and Islwyn Jones for their donations.  I thank you on behalf of the Committee, the Eisteddfod and the whole of Monmouthshire.”

The Crowning ceremony takes place on Monday 1 August at 16.30, and Chairing ceremony on Friday 5 August at 16:30.  Anyone wishing to attend the ceremonies should ensure they have a reserved seat ticket as the Pavilion will be very full.

Tickets can be purchased beforehand by ringing 0845 4090 800 or by going to www.eisteddfod.wales, or they can be purchased on the day at the main entrance.

The Monmouthshire and District National Eisteddfod is held on Castle Meadows, Abergavenny from 29 July – 6 August.  For more information go online.

Monmouth’s community hub in Whitecross Street is celebrating Commit to Knit Month with a knitting & crocheting morning on Saturday 18th June.  The event runs from 10am until 12noon.  Everyone, including beginners, is welcome to attend and enjoy a cuppa and natter while creating items for charity.  The event is free and materials will be provided.

Commit to Knit Month is a campaign promoted by The UK Hand Knitting Association, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting hand knitting and associated yarn crafts.

Councillor Bob Greenland, cabinet member with responsibility for the council’s community hubs said: “The council is pleased to promote a wide range of events in our community hubs that draw people together to discover a new skill, glean information or work on existing talents.”

Contact Library Officer Eira Lewis on 01600 775215 for further information.

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A wildlife-friendly garden at Monmouthshire County Council’s Usk headquarters has benefited from the help of locally employed volunteers.

Established last summer The Usk Community Garden provides a formal pollinator area to encourage insects, a home for nine beehives and a communal growing area for fruit and vegetables.  It was funded through the Welsh Government Nature Fund – Pollinators for Life project.

The garden was given a welcome makeover on Monday June 6th – to coincide with the previous day’s United Nations World Environment Day – when twenty volunteers from AB InBev’s Magor Brewery put in a shift weeding and installing plants designed to attract bees and other pollinators.  The plants were donated by AB Inbev and are listed as ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Councillor Phil Hobson, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for sustainability said: “The council takes its responsibility for the environment very seriously and we have taken a number of steps to encourage pollinators including the roadside planting of wild flowers which has proved very popular as well as setting up our community garden.  I’m very grateful for the wonderful work carried out by volunteers from one of Monmouthshire’s largest employers.

Tony Monteiro, Brewery Manager at Magor Brewery added: “On World Environment Day, AB InBev colleagues celebrate bringing people together to have a greater impact on the environment and in the communities where we live and work.  AB InBev is committed to embedding sustainability and social responsibility and we’re proud of our colleagues who helped to transform the garden.”

For more information on the Usk Community Garden contact Community Development Officer: alisonhoward@monmouthshire.gov.uk.

Children from Usk Church in Wales Primary School have raised funds to present their home town with a 24 hour accessible defibrillator (AED).  With the support of Llanbadoc Community Council pupils completed a sponsored walk around Llandegfedd Reservoir last autumn to collect money for a school defibrillator and the response was so overwhelming that over £1,200 was raised.  As a result, sufficient money was available for two devices – one for the school and an additional unit for the community.

Schoolchildren, accompanied by head teacher Mrs Victoria Evans, officially handed over the town’s defibrillator on Monday, 6th June.  It will be located at The Three Salmons Hotel.  Both devices are ready to use and training will be given to school staff, employees of the Three Salmons and interested members of the community.

Mrs Evans said: “In view of the vital role that AEDs can play in saving the lives of pupils, staff and other users of school premises, the government is encouraging all schools to consider purchasing these devices as part of their first aid equipment.”

For information on purchasing defibrillators call: 0113 385 4858 or email medicaldevices@supplychain.nhs.uk