Closes: 17:00 hrs. Wednesday 24th December 2014

NB Our four one stop shops will close at 15:00 hrs on Christmas Eve
Re-opens: 09:00 hrs. Tuesday 30th December 2014

Closes: 17:00 hrs. Wednesday 31st December 2014
Re-opens: 09:00 hrs. Friday 2nd January 2015

Monmouthshire Council’s performance across a range of national performance indicators has seen significant improvement for a third consecutive year with 84% of all indicators showing improvement while nearly half are ranked among the top performing authorities in Wales.

Particularly pleasing was better results at all key stages of education, reductions in the numbers of people who are delayed in hospital while social care arrangements are made and maintaining a high recycling rate.  At the other end of the spectrum the council has also seen, for the third consecutive year, a reduction in indicators ranked amongst the lowest performing in Wales.

The council has continued its commitment to improve services and outcomes for the people and communities in Monmouthshire.  The Partnership Administration has focused its resources on three areas; education, the protection of vulnerable people and promoting enterprise and following engagement with local communities introduced a fourth priority – maintaining locally accessible services.

To provide a fuller picture of performance the council has highlighted its performance against these local priorities in its Performance Bulletin available at www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/improvement

Some key messages from this include:

  • Improved educational outcomes for the Core Subject Indicator at Key Stage 2 and Key stage 3 and an increase in the number of students achieving five GCSEs grade A*-C in English or Welsh and maths.
  • The number of people delayed leaving hospital while social care arrangements were put in place fell to 13.
  • Maintaining the lowest level of older people needing local authority-funded residential care in Wales.
  • Significant improvements have been delivered in five areas of identified underperformance in Children’s Services
  • 122 businesses were able to start-up in the year with support from Monmouthshire Business and Enterprise and partners.
  • Monmouthshire’s residents continue to recycle and compost their waste helping sustain a high recycling rate at 63%.

Commenting on the published data, Council Leader Peter Fox said: “I am pleased to see our continued focus on service delivery for local communities and improving our performance has been reflected in many service areas.  It is also equally pleasing that we have improved our performance compared to other councils in Wales and that we are one of the nation’s top performers.”

The council’s Improvement Plan 2015/17, available at www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/improvement , sets out what the council aims to do in the year ahead to prioritise resources and continue to improve services for the benefit of the people and places of Monmouthshire.

 Monmouthshire County Council is to host a meeting for people aged 50 and over to be held in County Hall, Usk on Wednesday 16th September from 2pm to 4pm.  It will be streamed live via YouTube to allow those unable to attend to play a part.

 Organised by the council and local equalities organisation, SEWREC, which runs a project called Monmouthshire Voices, the forum offers a chance for people to influence services, policies and decisions that affect them.  Councillor Phil Hobson, cabinet member with responsibility for equalities, will chair the meeting.

 Pennie Walker of Monmouthshire Voices commented: “We will receive an update from the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales as well as information on stroke provision, elder abuse and technology discrimination.  It will be a wonderful opportunity for people to discuss issues and gather information.”

Those wishing to attend or to receive further details about Monmouthshire Voices should contact Pennie  via email: pennie.walker@sewrec.wales or telephone 07949 040538.

Lunch will be provided at 1pm and people who require transport should contact Pennie by Tuesday, 8th September.

 Before lunch, The Access for All Forum for people in Monmouthshire with disabilities will meet from 11am to 1pm to discuss benefits.

 ·         Monmouthshire Voices is funded by the Big Lottery and run by SEWREC – the South East Wales Regional Equality Council.

 

Monmouthshire County Council is to host a meeting for people living with disabilities to discuss benefits.  The Access for All Forum will gather in County Hall, Usk on Wednesday 16th September from 11am to 1pm.

Organised by the council and local equalities organisation, SEWREC,  which runs a project called Monmouthshire Voices,  the forum offers a chance for people with disabilities to influence services, policies and decisions that affect them.  Councillor Phil Hobson, cabinet member with responsibility for equalities, will chair the meeting.

Pennie Walker of Monmouthshire Voices commented: “This will be our fourth Access for All forum and I am hoping it will be as successful as our previous ones.  We will welcome representatives from Jobcentre Plus to provide information on Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and pensions followed by a question and answer session.  It is a wonderful opportunity for people to discuss issues and gather information and I’m so pleased to see how well it is supported. Unfortunately, restrictions on filming Department of Works and Pensions staff mean that this forum will not be streamed for public viewing via the council’s YouTube channel.”

Those wishing to attend or to receive further details about the Access for All Forum should contact Pennie – email: pennie.walker@sewrec.wales or telephone 07949 040538.

Lunch will be provided at 1pm and people who require transport should contact Pennie by Tuesday, 8th September.

Following lunch, a forum for the county’s over 50 year olds will be held from 2pm to 4pm.

  •  Monmouthshire Voices is funded by the Big Lottery and run by SEWREC – the South East Wales Regional Equality Council.

 

Over twenty Monmouthshire properties will publicly promote environmentally-friendly methods of living which also save money at an event to be held across the county next month.  Sustainability group Monmouthshire Community Climate Champions will hold its fourth Eco Open Doors Weekend event on the weekend of 12th/13th September demonstrating how to make the most of renewable energy, energy saving and sustainable living.

Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for sustainability, Councillor Phil Hobson commented: “Eco Open Doors is organised by Monmouthshire Community Climate Champions, a partnership including the council and local transition town groups.  Its aim is to help people find out how to reduce their energy use.  Visitors will be able to chat to homeowners about how features work, what they cost and what they are saving, to help decide whether it would be suitable for their own home.”

Visitors to previous Eco Open Doors events have found them invaluable, with comments ranging from: “great to see these technologies in action” and “very interesting and inspiring” to “extremely interesting, informative and very impressive”.  Details can be accessed at www.monecoopendoors.org.uk where features include solar power, hydropower, wind power, biomass, insulation, rainwater harvesting and organic gardens.

The 22 properties are situated across the county and include the former Forestry Commission house, Nant y Bedd at Fforest Coal Pit in the Black Mountains.  Nant y Bedd has a micro hydro scheme to generate electricity from a small stream, a wood burning stove, solar hot water and a beautiful and productive organic garden which also features a natural swimming pond.

Many farmers such as Alan Williams of Hendre Glyn Farm in Upper Llanover have benefited from the Renewable Heat Incentive.  As well as a hydropower scheme, visitors can see how he uses wood from his farm in biomass log boilers which generate heat and dry logs for sale.

In contrast, Llandegfedd Reservoir’s new visitor centre features sustainable cedar cladding and an air source heat pump.  Visitors can also learn about the water cycle and water treatment as well as enjoy a snack in the café.

TV personality Kate Humble’s farm and rural skills centre in Penallt will also participate in Eco Open Doors this year.  Visitors to the Humble By Nature site can learn about its aquaponics solar greenhouse built last year.  The structure combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (growing plants in water rather than soil) to create a hugely productive farming system.  Other eco features will attract attention, together with a café and adventure playground.

The newly-built eco property, Holmbrook in Llandogo, is made of SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) with extra internal wall insulation.  This, together with heat recovery, means that no heating is needed upstairs.  Solar panels provide hot water and electricity, toilets and the washing machine are filled with rainwater and there is a wood pellet stove.

In contrast, Ingleside in Penallt is a 19th century cottage where visitors can learn about wood processing and biomass.  The cottage has a biomass boiler, wood fired cooker, woodworking workshop and saw bench, with a charcoal kiln and solar wood drying unit.  When woodlands are well-managed and replanted, wood is a great renewable energy source.

The headline sponsor for this year’s Eco Open Doors event is Gwent Energy, a community interest company which installs solar panels in many locations, particularly on community buildings.  Support has also come from local architect Simon Brown, FWT Ltd and the Green Open Homes network.

Monmouthshire County Council is to offer people residing in the Usk area the opportunity to own their own home.  The council is to sell two houses in the town’s Castlewood neighbourhood which initially will be offered to people living within the communities of Usk, Llanbadoc, Gwehelog Fawr and Llantrisant Fawr.  If no applications are received the council will extend the offer to adjoining community council areas.

The two-bedroom terrace properties were built in 1989 and are available at 50% of full market value with an interest-free equity loan provided by the council for the remaining 50% of the cost.  The current full market values are £145,000 and £146,000.

Contact Mrs Shirley Wiggam on 07769 616662 or email: shirleywiggam@monmouthshire.gov.uk for an application form or more information.

Monmouthshire County Council is making contingency plans to close the A466 at Tintern on a temporary basis over the bank holiday weekend when high tides on the River Wye flood the main road in Tintern.  The road will be closed for short times when each tide reaches its morning and evening peaks, though only if tidal water overflows onto the highway – air pressure and winds affect the height of each high tide.

Because any closures last for only approximately 30 minutes no diversions will be signed – in line with a longstanding system.  Council lorries will be placed just north of the Royal George Hotel and by the Wye Valley Hotel to block the road while closures are in effect.

Council officers will be working over the weekend to deal with any issues arising from the forecasted high tides.  Closure times have been identified as:

  • Sunday 30th August – 9.05pm to 9.45pm
  • Monday 31st August – 8:30am to 9:05am
  • Monday 31st August: – 9.50pm to 10.25pm
  • Tuesday 1st September – 10.15am to 10.50am
  • Tuesday 1st September – 10.35pm to 11.10pm

Roger Hoggins, Monmouthshire County Council’s Head of Operations said: “This arrangement to close the road for the short time while it is in flood has been used for many years.  Closure times are estimated and based on the forecasted tide times.  The highest tide currently forecast is on Monday night – when road closures are most probable.  The tide heights will be monitored as they occur, with temporary closures only being put in place if water is about to flood the highway.”

Natural Resources Wales will monitor the situation and issue flood warnings as necessary.

Bettie Jones -Beattie Jones  was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and joined The National Exercise Referral Scheme earlier this year.  Beattie had become anxious to leave the house after suffering a fall, and needed her daughters to escort her, making her reliant on family and friends to do her shopping and chores.  When Beattie started the exercise class, her daughters took it in turns to bring her in the car.

Each week Beattie has progressed with her exercise’s and is now able to walk longer and perform more repetitions of the exercises in the same time frame, she has also enjoyed making new friends socialising after the class with the other members.
Beattie has now successfully completed 16 weeks of exercise and progressed so much that she is now confident enough to walk to the class independently, something she had not done previously for 2 and a half years.

Amazing progress Beattie, keep up the great work!

 

More than 47,000 incidents of domestic abuse were reported to the police in Wales last year, though it is likely there were many more.

Tackling this hidden problem is at the heart of a new Welsh Government campaign, which has recently re-launched – and this time, challenging bystanders to speak up is central.

The new campaign isn’t just calling out to victims of domestic abuse to seek help – it’s galvanising everyone else, the people who ‘don’t want to get involved, because it’s not my place’ or those who think ‘it’s none of my business, I’m sure they know what they’re doing.’

Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews explains his vision for the campaign: “Domestic abuse is not always easy to spot and signs can go unnoticed for months, even years.  With so many victims of domestic abuse, the chances are we all know someone who is suffering.  We must watch out for the warning signs and speak out if we see them.

“Anyone can call the All Wales Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Helpline at any time and I would encourage anyone who is worried that a friend, family member or colleague is a victim of domestic abuse to do so.”

The freephone, confidential All Wales Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Helpline provides advice on how to help others 24 hours a day, while livefearfree.org.uk provides extensive advice about the tell-tale signs to look out for if you suspect somebody is suffering at the hands of their partner.

The Helpline is managed by Welsh Women’s Aid, and Chief Executive Officer Eleri Butler echoes the Minister’s message: “No matter how ‘silly’, or melodramatic you might think you sound, please, please call us.  If you have any doubt in your mind about the welfare of a friend, neighbour or colleague, it’s worth speaking to us to put your own mind at rest, or maybe even help support somebody who is suffering domestic abuse.

“Our aim is to raise public awareness of domestic abuse and demonstrate that it can happen anywhere, and to anyone.”

Councillor Phil Hobson, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for equalities said: “This campaign sends a loud and clear message that domestic violence is repugnant and there is no place for it in today’s civilised society.  We call upon everyone to make a stand and speak out about it.”

This is the second in a series of campaigns designed to support the ground-breaking Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act which received Royal Assent on 29th April.

If you think you know someone suffering from domestic abuse, or are a victim yourself, call the free, 24-hour confidential Helpline now on 0808 80 10 800 or visit livefearfree.org.uk for further information.

Monmouthshire County Council is to engage with communities over its appraisals for conservation areas within the county by hosting five public events.  Conservation areas have special protection because of their recognised special architectural or historic interest.  Monmouthshire currently has 31 such areas and 18 are potentially subject to some changes.

The public events will take place as follows:

  • County Hall, Usk: Thursday, 3rd September (Usk, Raglan and Llandenny conservation areas)
  • Chepstow Leisure Centre: Monday, 7th September (Chepstow, Mathern, St Arvans, Tintern and Llandogo conservation areas)
  •  St Mary’s Priory, Abergavenny: Wednesday, 9th September (Abergavenny, Llanover, Llanarth and Llantilio Crossenny conservation areas)
  •  Shire Hall, Monmouth: Wednesday, 16th September (Monmouth, Whitebrook and Grosmont conservation areas)
  •  Caldicot Town Council hall: Tuesday, 29th September (Magor, Shirenewton and Caerwent conservation areas).

Each event will take place from 3pm to 7pm with members of Monmouthshire’s conservation team and other planning officers available to explain about conservation areas and discuss the proposals.

County Councillor Giles Howard, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for planning said: “Our conservation area appraisals are intended to ensure that these areas of special interest are afforded the right level of protection.  We’re keen to engage with residents and discover what they think about the council’s proposals, some of which include amendments to the current conservation areas.”

The Conservation Area Appraisal Draft Documents are available to view here.

What is a Conservation Area?

 

Monmouthshire’s GCSE students are celebrating another increase in their GCSE performance with results indicating that high standards have not only been upheld but in many measures have improved across the county.  Pupils from all four secondary schools – Abergavenny’s King Henry VIII, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth have achieved outstanding grades.  The success of students in Monmouthshire has once again surpassed performances across Wales as a whole and this year’s results compare favourably to the last year’s outstanding achievements.

Two thirds (66.71%) of students gained the “gold standard” of five GCSEs A*-C, including English or Welsh with mathematics (a slight increase on last year’s performance when Monmouthshire topped the Welsh performance table) and an impressive 91.2% of students have completed this stage of their education with five good GCSEs, ensuring that they leave their compulsory education with the opportunity to fulfil their ambitions.

The pass rate at the level of a ‘good GCSE’ i.e. grades A*-C in particular showed a significant increase of 6.2% on 2014’s performance to 80.6% and exceeded the Welsh average, which stood still, at 66.6%.  Meanwhile, the number of pupils attaining the very top grades remained similar to last year as 18.3% achieved A* to A.

King Henry VIII School has once again made significant progress, increasing the number of students achieving the level 2 threshold including English and maths to 63.5% from 60% last year.  The school saw very strong performance in students gaining grades A*-C in maths and science with both seeing their pass rate increase by over 8%.

Caldicot also made significant gains in its level 2 inclusive scores with 69% of pupils achieving the standard, an increase of 4.3% compared to last year.  They also increased their pass rate at the ‘good GCSE’ standard of A*-C to 83.22% – an increase on the previous year of 15.22%.

Chepstow saw 97% of pupils achieve five good GCSEs and across all entries the year saw the pass rate increase to 99.65%.  The school performed particularly well at the higher grades with 11% of all entries gaining an A* and nearly 30% achieving an A*/A – a massive increase of 11.2% on last year.

Monmouth Comprehensive saw its Level 1 threshold – students gaining five GCSEs graded A*-G – increase to 100% and its Level 2 threshold of students gaining five ‘good’ GCSEs increase to 98.53%, an increase of over 5%.

County Councillor Liz Hacket Pain, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for education was very pleased with the results.

She commented: “These magnificent GCSE results are well-deserved following the hard work and commitment displayed by the county’s young people while receiving dedicated support from professional school staff.  They and their parents must be very proud of their success.  I congratulate them and wish the very best for their future.”

Chief Officer for Children and Young People, Sarah McGuinness added: “Such outstanding results are a tribute to the excellent partnership between our wonderful students and school staff.  Whatever students choose to do in the future I warmly congratulate them and wish them the very best.”