Leaders of Monmouthshire’s political groups have issued a joint statement opposing hate crime while supporting integration and promoting tolerance among and within communities across the county.  This is in line with the position adopted following a meeting of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) Council on July 1st.

Councillors Peter Fox (Conservative group), Dimitri Batrouni (Labour), Phil Hobson (Liberal) and Simon Howarth (Independent) were unanimous that hate crime should be resisted in all its forms and that there was no place for those who target and offend against people in Monmouthshire merely because they belong to a particular social group.

Monmouthshire’s Chairman, Councillor Jim Higginson said: “The council is strongly opposed to any form of hate crime and will work with all agencies to ensure the removal of this blight upon society.”

The council will discuss hate crime at its meeting on Thursday 28th July.

The full statement from the WLGA is as follows:

“Welsh Councils are proud to celebrate the diversity of all our communities from Butetown to Bangor. We also have a historic tradition of tolerance which has been at the heart of Welsh civil society based on our firm foundation as a bi-lingual nation.”

 “Councils have been at the forefront of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees from all parts of the world for many years. We value the contribution they have made and continue to make to society and we are proud of how Welsh communities have welcomed those who have been driven from their homes in situations of unimaginable crisis. Indeed, council workforces, especially in areas like social care, have been enriched by the presence of people from countries across the EU providing essential support to our communities”.

 “While it is pleasing to report from the police that despite a few isolated incidents there has been no noticeable spike in reports of hate crime across Wales, the National Police Chiefs’ Council has said 331 hate crime incidents have been reported to a national online reporting site. It is therefore important that we continue to monitor the situation in Wales and ready ourselves against any rise in hate crimes or abuse by those who might use last week’s referendum as cover to seek to divide our communities. Welsh councils, working with all our public sector colleagues, remain fully committed to supporting integration and promoting tolerance among and within our communities across Wales.”

A government fund established to set up projects that strengthen relationships between current and former members of the armed forces and the wider community in which they live is open for applications this month.  The £10m per annum Covenant Fund consists of four priorities and applicants for funding can apply for one of these elements – strengthening local government delivery of the covenant – from Sunday 10th July.

Grants of between £20,000 and £500,000 will be made available for projects that materially improve the experience of local armed forces communities (serving personnel, families and veterans) and ensure that they are not disadvantaged.  However, awards over £200,000 will only be made in exceptional circumstances.

The application process is a single stage and the deadline for applications is Thursday 27th October 2016.  Bids can be submitted from volunteer groups, charities, public or private bodies.  For guidance on how to apply visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covenant-fund-guidance-on-how-to-apply

Monmouthshire’s Armed Forces Champion, Councillor John Prosser said: “The council is examining various ways we can strengthen bonds with the county’s armed forces communities and the Covenant Fund is a feature that can promote such ties.  I hope that Monmouthshire can benefit from successful applications.”

A further element of the Covenant Fund – Community Integration/Local Service Delivery – will be open for applications from 23rd September 2016.

Two hundred years of an iconic link between Wales and England will be marked at a ceremony to be held in Chepstow later this month.

The ancient grade one listed cast iron Chepstow Bridge over the River Wye was built by engineer John Urpeth Rastrick in 1816 and for many years was a crucial connection between Wales and the West Country until the Severn Bridge was opened in 1966.  Very few five arch road bridges were constructed before 1830 and only Chepstow survives.

The bi-centenary ceremony will culminate Chepstow’s annual month–long festival on Sunday 24th July and will be organised by Chepstow Town Council in partnership with Monmouthshire County Council and the Chepstow Festival Committee.  It will be a re-enactment of the original opening, attended by Monmouthshire’s Chairman, Councillor Jim Higginson, his opposite number from Gloucestershire, Colin Hay, the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Sir John Armitt CBE and the Mayor of Chepstow, Paul Pavia.  Also attending will be the Mayor of Bridgnorth in Shropshire – the contract for the bridge was won in February 1814 by the Bridgnorth foundry of Hazeldine, Rastrick and Brodie of which John Urpeth Rastrick was a managing partner.

The ceremony will set off from Beaufort Square at 1pm and the county chairmen will deliver speeches from the centre of the bridge two hundred years to the minute that it was officially opened by magistrates in 1816.

Later, lead engineers, councillors Higginson and Hay and the town mayors will unveil a bi-centenary plaque with performances from a local choral group and bands.  This will be followed by an historic car procession and a riverside fair as well as further music and later, a firework display – a traditional end to the 15th Chepstow Festival.

County Councillor Bryan Jones, Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for highways said: “This much-loved and attractive bridge has connected two communities, two counties and two countries for two hundred years. I’m sure that Chepstow, the surrounding area and indeed the whole of Monmouthshire will enthusiastically embrace its bi-centenary celebrations.”

Mayor of Chepstow, Councillor Paul Pavia commented: “I’m absolutely delighted that the bi-centenary has fallen within my mayoral year and there’s no doubt that the commemoration of the opening of the bridge will be one of the principal civic events that I’ll have the privilege to take part in.  A huge amount of work has been invested in the event by the town council and local volunteers, especially John Burrows of the bridge’s bi-centenary organising group, and I hope all our guests and local residents will enjoy and remember this historic day for years to come.”

Councillor Vernon Smith, cabinet member for highways at Gloucestershire County Council added: “When the bridge was built in 1816 it replaced a 10 arch wooden bridge which had been there for 500 years, and as you can imagine, it had needed constant repair.  Once complete, it became the third largest iron arch road bridge in the world, so it was a very bold initiative for its time.  Last year we helped to fund structural repairs and a repaint.  It now looks fantastic for its 200th birthday and I hope it’ll be used for another two hundred years and beyond.”

Chepstow Bridge is jointly maintained by Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire County Councils.  Essential repair works carried out last year will ensure its continued use for years to come.

The Science and Technology Pavilion on the Eisteddfod Maes is the place to come to find out more about everything involved with science and technology, with a particular emphasis on promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects through the medium of Welsh.

This year’s Pavilion is packed with activities and exhibitions, and a chance to see some of the latest developments in science and technology.  There’s also a local angle to a number of this year’s events.

Join us daily for dark skies activities and step into the pavilion’s planetarium.  Find out more about space as we whizz through the solar system and even further afield in regular sessions led by the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority on behalf of all the National Parks in Wales.

Interested in conservation?  We have sessions for the whole family as we find out more about the creatures who live in our ponds, and from Monday to Friday, come to our Amazing Science Show – a brand new science show which will appeal to the whole family.

The Science and Technology Pavilion is a chance for organisations and specialist companies to showcase their work and latest developments to the public, and once again this year, we have a wide range of partners in the Pavilion.

This is the first year for the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to organise the Pavilion in partnership with the National Eisteddfod, and Ioan Matthews, the organisation’s Chief Executive, says, “The Welsh language provision available for students to study STEM subjects in Welsh universities has developed hugely since the launch of the Coleg.

“As a national organisation, we have enjoyed working with the Eisteddfod and with universities across Wales as well as companies and other organisations to make science and technology accessible and available to everyone.”

The main sponsor of the Pavilion is Aberystwyth University, and the exhibitions in the Pavilion throughout the week include,

  • 21st Century Brain – see how the brain works and how it is affected by diseases like Alzheimer and Parkinson.  Organised by Cardiff University, BMA, British Psychological Society and the Wellcome Trust;
  • Under your feet – what we can do to help the environment and the animals and plants around us with Brecon Beacons Park Authority and Friends of Castle Meadows;
  • Disease Detectives – find out what happens in our hospital laboratories with the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board;
  • Watt Bikes – have a go on cutting edge indoor training bikes used by well known cyclists, with Cardiff Metropolitan University;
  • Captivating Chemistry – find out about chemistry in our lives with the South Wales Branch of the Royal Chemistry Society;
  • Engineering – plenty of interactive activities with Costain, Swansea University and ICE;
  • Activities for 4-18 year olds as the Intellectual Property Office celebrates Aardman Studios’ 40th anniversary;
  • Renewable energy wind power workshops with Vattenfall;
  • Our food, our health, our planet: practical activities exploring our food and how we can eat it in ways to keep ourselves and the planet healthy, with Techniquest.

The Science and Technology Pavilion is supported by sponsorship from Western Power Distribution, and the company’s Corporate Communications Manager, Paul Bishop, said, “We believe it is the responsibility of large organisations like ours to play a full and active role in the communities they serve. Supporting events such as the National Eisteddfod is a fine example of our commitment to that.

“We believe promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects and engineering-related activities is particularly important for young people who may be thinking of a career in industry.”

Eisteddfod Chief Executive, Elfed Roberts added, “The variety and standard of activities in the Science and Technology Pavilion astounds me every year, and once again, there’s plenty here for people of all ages.

“Science and technology are an important part of the Eisteddfod’s work, and we are delighted to have so many partners and sponsors eager to work with us every year.  We welcome the increased coverage given to STEM subjects through the medium of Welsh over the past few years.

“Our aim is to encourage interest in all kinds of science and technology, and our partnership with the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol has enabled us to develop this further this year.  We also thank the local committee for their vision and work in pulling the programme together.”

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

Monmouthshire County Council’s housing service is seeking landlords in the Chepstow area who have a three bedroom house available for leasing.  This is for a council project starting in September.

The council is keen to work with private landlords across the county and the Chepstow initiative is just one of many ways that the two sectors can work in partnership.  The council can assist landlords by leasing out their accommodation and providing a full management service or finding suitable tenants for empty properties to let.

Landlords are asked to contact Lindsay Stewart, Private Sector Housing Officer on 01291 635713 for further details.

There are three weeks left to enter the Monmouthshire Business Awards (MBAs).  Local businesses are urged to enter one of the varied categories from Company Demonstrating Sustained GrowthCompany of the Year, Excellence in MarketingInnovation in BusinessYoung EntrepreneurHospitality, Travel and TourismExcellence in Technology InnovationExcellence in Ecommerce including RetailSocially Responsible BusinessMost Promising Start-UpYoung Apprentice of the YearBest Small Business to the New Community Life Award.

MBA organiser Janet Harris said: “The ‘Welsh Business Oscars’ – the Monmouthshire Business Awards (MBAs) – are now in their fifth year and continue to go from strength to strength, showcasing the outstanding contribution that the county’s businesses make to the UK economy.  I would like to thank the wonderful businesses which have already applied and urge more to get involved with this fantastic opportunity.  This year is set to be even better with more than 500 people expected to flock to the black tie gala on Friday 21st October.”

The closing date for all applications is 31st July.  For details about how to enter the 2016 Monmouthshire Business Awards visit www.monbizawards.co.uk

Today, the shortlist for the Gwobr Albwm Cymraeg y Flwyddyn (Welsh Language Album of the Year) was published, with the winner of this award set to be announced at this year’s Monmouthshire and District National Eisteddfod.

The aim of this award is to promote Welsh language music recorded or released during the period from 1 March 2015 until 30 April this year.

A jury of people involved with the Welsh music industry have been discussing a wide range of albums released this year, and the shortlist reflects the eclectic nature of the discussion and the diverse mix of music released and recorded in Welsh and in Wales at the moment.


The shortlist is:

  • 9 Bach – Anian
  • Alun Gaffey
  • Band Pres Llareggub – Mwng
  • Brython Shag
  • Calan – Dinas
  • Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog – IV
  • Datblygu – Porwr Trallod
  • Plu – Tir a Golau
  • Swnami
  • Yucatan – Uwch Gopa’r Mynydd

Announcing the list, one of the organisers, Guto Brychan, said, “It’s great to see such a varied line-up on this year’s shortlist.  It’ll be interesting to hear what the judges have to say during their session on the Maes during Eisteddfod week.

“This is the third time we’ve held the award, and it is important that the Eisteddfod gives new Welsh music due attention every year, celebrating the best Wales has to offer, and we look forward to doing this again this year.”

Last year, Gwenno Saunders topped the poll with her conceptual album, ‘Y Dydd Olaf’, winning great praise from the jury and judges alike.  Since then, Gwenno has won the Welsh Music Prize and the album has received excellent reviews in Wales and further afield.

The Award will be presented in Caffi Maes B on Friday, 5 August, and the winner will receive a specially commissioned trophy, made by blacksmith Ann Catrin Evans.

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




Details of the artists on the shortlist

Anian – 9 Bach

‘Anian’, 9Bach’s latest album is passionate about the state of the world, exploring contemporary themes, unlike their last album, ‘Tincian’ which commemorated the stories of the past.  With ethereal Welsh singing to the accompaniment of the swamp guitar, harp, brooding dub beats and a pounding rhythm section, the songs range from quiet wavy rhythms to piano arrangements and layered vocals, showcasing the voices and talents of the band in all their glory.


Alun Gaffey

With his first album as a solo artist, former Race Horses guitarist, Alun Gaffey’s music is a perfect blend of modern electronica with a shout-out to the past and groups like Brodyr y Ffin.  With his vocal harmonies, his music is a wonderful velvet-like journey for the senses, and sounds like a hybrid of a Welsh speaking Alex Turner and the rhythm section from a child’s learn to play keyboard!


Band Pres Llareggub – Mwng

This is the first time in Welsh music history that a complete Welsh language album has been re-arranged, re-recorded and released in its entirety.  The band took the most successful and pioneering Welsh album ever –Super Furry Animals’ ‘Mwng’ – and gave it a colourful mix of modern pop and dance combined with the unique sound of a traditional brass band.  And the result?  A truly unique album!


Brython Shag

A band from Blaenau Ffestiniog which includes two of Wales’ most experienced musicians, Ceri Cunnington and Gai Toms, with Deian Jones on bass and Jason Hughes on drums.  This first album from the band is a mixture of funk, punk and alt rock, and has been well-received by fans, the press and media.


Calan – Dinas

Fiddles, guitar, accordion, bagpipes and step dancing explode into life as Calan perform their new album ‘Dinas’.  An infectious mix of traditional melodies and new songs, Calan’s unique style is a breath of fresh air, and an excellent introduction to Welsh folk at its very best.


Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog – IV

The fourth album from the brothers from Botwnnog and the first for the band to produce themselves.  This album brings influences from further afield, including ABBA, Roxy Music and Leonard Cohen, and is a beautiful mixture of the familiar and unexpected, these songs deserve their place on everyone’s summer playlist.


Datblygu – Porwr Trallod

Porwr Trallod is Datblygu’s first full-length slbum for 22 years, and once again, the partnership between David R Edwards and Pat Morgan digs deep under the skin of modern society and individuals alike.  This is an album which bridges the raw sound of the early days with the minimal digital arrangements of the 21st century, challenging the audience at every opportunity.


Plu – Tir a Golau

This is the third album from the brother and two sisters Elan, Marged and Dwilym Rhys from Bethel, Caernarfon, and their third appearance on the Welsh Language Album of the Year shortlist.  Many of the songs on this album have been inspired by the landscape around them, and this album gave them the chance to experiment with sound building a range of layers and melodies.  Most recently seen performing at Glastonbury, Plu are one of Wales’ most popular bands.



It is difficult to believe that this is Sŵnami’a first full length album, as their melodious pop songs are so well known throughout Wales.  This is a direct synth-pop album, far more personal than their previous songs, but much less ambigious according to the band.  This is a group which has proved very popular across the country and further afield, having represented Radio 1 at the Eurosonic Festival in Groningen.


Yucatan – Uwch Gopa’r Mynydd

This is the second full album from Yucatan, and it is a deep-thinking, cinematic and emotional offering, with the slightest of touches.  Influenced by Radiohead, Hans Zimmer and Burt Bacharach, this is an album crammed with melodious guitars and primitive drum beats.  The album was produced with David Wrench, a producer who has worked with some of the biggest names in the music business over the past year.


Impressive progress in the construction of a new secondary school for Caldicot was observed in an on-site ceremony on Friday 1st July.

The construction of the new school is part of Monmouthshire County Council’s £81m investment – in conjunction with partners in Welsh Government – into its 21st Century Schools programme.  Much of the building’s frame and reinforcement has already been erected, using steel procured from within the UK and installed by local sub-contractors.  The new school building is scheduled to be ready for autumn 2017 with the completion of the whole campus by summer 2018.

The ceremony was attended by the Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council Jim Higginson and the Mayor of Caldicot David Evans.  They were accompanied by Newport East assembly member John Griffiths, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for schools and learning Liz Hacket Pain, councillors from the school’s catchment area and the chair of the school’s governors, Peter Nurcombe as well as headteacher Susan Gwyer-Roberts, head girl Abby Cutter and head boy James Taylor with Year 9 pupils Jack Pocock and Rhiannon Pullen.  All present were given a tour of the site by representatives of contractor Interserve so they could witness the development of the project.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for schools and learning, Councillor Liz Hacket Pain said: “This new school represents hope for the future as well as for the community of Caldicot.  I am proud that local contractors, apprentices and others will benefit from the construction of this building and delighted that we have used steel sourced from Britain.  I’m very much looking forward to the opening ceremony when we can offer the area’s young people a truly 21st century state of the art facility and a wonderful opportunity to maximise their potential.”


Headteacher of Caldicot School, Susan Gwyer-Roberts added: “Today’s ceremony marks the culmination of a vibrant period of successful stakeholder engagement between the Welsh Government and Monmouthshire County Council to achieve a clear vision for secondary school investment for the 21st century.  On behalf of our pupils, staff, parents and governors, we would like to thank all agencies for their support in realising a new build for the community of Caldicot.”

Monmouthshire County Council will host an open event on transgender awareness in Monmouth on Saturday July 16th.

Held at Shire Hall in Agincourt Square from 12noon to 4pm, the afternoon seminar entitled Come In Come Out will feature renowned speakers including Jenny-Anne Bishop OBE, workshops and access to information focusing on the awareness of issues faced by the transgender community.  There will also be a clothing swap shop and various stalls.

The event is organised by the council’s youth service and supported by the local branch of supermarket chain Waitrose.  Entry is free, there is no need to book in advance and light refreshments will be provided.  In addition, free parking will be provided at Monmouth Comprehensive School, Old Dixton Road, NP25 3YT.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community inclusion, Councillor Phil Hobson will launch the event.  He said: I’m delighted to extend a warm welcome to everybody attending, on what is sure to be a great day.  This event is another step forward in Monmouthshire’s journey towards supporting all our communities in the county.”

For further details contact the council’s Face 2 Face counselling co-ordinator Nikki Browne – NikkiBrowne@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 07817 842810.

Monmouthshire County Council has unveiled plans to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum while Abergavenny hosts the National Eisteddfod from 29th July to 6th August.  Around 150,000 people are expected to visit the town during the week, providing the local economy with a welcome boost.  It will be the first time that the Welsh language and cultural festival has visited Monmouthshire since 1913.

The council’s traffic arrangements are designed to minimise the impact on the town with a park and ride scheme.  Those travelling by car will be directed to one of the three park and rides sites – in Llanelen, Penpergwm and Cwrt-y-Gollen near Crickhowell – to be transported directly to the Maes.

Dedicated road signs will direct visitors to the most appropriate park and ride site and this information will be replicated on the Eisteddfod website for visitors planning ahead.  Buses from Llanelen and Penpergwm will approach the town via the A465 Llanfoist interchange while those from Cwrt-y-Gollen will travel via Brecon Road.  Visitors will be dropped off at Byefield Lane car park near Tudor Street and close to the main Eisteddfod entrance.

Eisteddfod goers will be encouraged to use public transport and publicity will highlight the proximity of the rail and bus stations to the Maes which can be accessed via an alternative entrance through Mill Street.  Meanwhile, goods traffic will use an access off Merthyr Road, and only during off-peak times.  In addition, a temporary clearway order on Merthyr Road will prohibit parking except at designated locations reserved for residents.

Waste and recycling will be collected on the usual days during Eisteddfod week but crews and collections may be subject to short delays.  As well as Abergavenny and district, Usk and Monmouth will be affected as the council’s waste lorries servicing these areas operate from the Llanfoist Transfer Station which is very close to the Maes and likely to be impacted by Eisteddfod traffic.  Consequently, residents are asked not to report a missed collection if their waste and recycling is not collected at the normal time.  Residents are requested to place their waste for collection by 7am.

In the approach to the Eisteddfod, the council has arranged that other services in the town will run normally as far as possible by planning ahead and making allowances for longer journey times and peak congestion as well as having contingency plans in place to respond to unanticipated eventualities. The council has liaised closely with event organisers and will continue to do so until the festival ends.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for operations, Councillor Bryan Jones said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming so many visitors to the county to enjoy and participate in one of Europe’s leading cultural festivals.  Temporary delays can be expected but we have planned ahead to reduce these to a minimum and we have consulted widely to ensure Eisteddfod week runs as smoothly as possible.”

For more information on the National Eisteddfod itself visit: www.eisteddfod.wales.