It is my great pleasure as Chairman of Monmouthshire to wish the county’s communities a very happy New Year.  As my term of office enters its second half my consort Mrs Pauline Collier and I can reflect on an extremely busy, yet delightful time.  We have attended many enjoyable functions while representing the county.

 There’s so much happening in Monmouthshire these days but without doubt this year’s major event was the arrival of the National Eisteddfod to Abergavenny during the summer.  From the Proclamation Ceremony in Caldicot the previous year to the actual festival itself I was delighted to note the warm welcome we offered so many visitors to our corner of Wales.  I’d also like to thank those involved in the local Eisteddfod fund-raising committees who worked hard to pave the way for a successful and pleasurable celebration of the Welsh language and culture.  It is also gratifying that the Eisteddfod Council has commented on the council’s co-operation and vision contributing so much to a massive success.

 We’re able to look forward to the opening of new educational establishments that will be the most technically advanced of the day, benefiting pupils educationally and environmentally.  Caldicot’s new school will receive its first intake in September 2017 while the completion of Monmouth Comprehensive School is scheduled for the following year.  I have witnessed with interest the progress made on both sites.

 Monmouthshire is a caring county.  We have demonstrated our commitment with the resettlement of refugees fleeing the horrors of war in Syria and if we are to regard ourselves as a civilised society this is the correct approach.  One of the council’s major priorities is the protection of vulnerable people and we do our utmost to ensure that nobody is left behind.

 This year we marked two important anniversaries linking England and Wales.  I attended a colourful ceremony in July celebrating 200 years of the beautiful Chepstow Bridge spanning the River Wye while the Severn Bridge reached its half century two months later.  Looking to the future, the council hopes to establish a new railway station at Magor and if our application is successful it will do much to enhance local travel connections.

Monmouthshire has become a prominent cycling venue and once again this year we welcomed some of the sport’s biggest names as Abergavenny and Chepstow hosted major events.  In addition, the Velothon passed through the county in May and we were all delighted when Becky James of Abergavenny won silver in the Rio Olympics three months later.

Not all of the Chairman’s duties are carried out in Monmouthshire.  I have been invited to other local authorities in Wales and in November Pauline and I were present at the Music for Youth’s School Prom at the Royal Albert Hall.  Pupils from the county who receive tuition from Gwent Music gave a wonderful performance and thrilled the audience with their repertoire, including a rousing rendition of Land of Hope and Glory.

My chosen charities are Ty Hafan and St David’s Foundation.  I am proud to support these two wonderful organisations and I hope that funds raised during my year of office (which ends in May) will provide much-needed facilities and enable them to continue their good work.

 As 2017 approaches I ask you to recognise and cherish the invaluable duties undertaken by those who protect us and those who care for our vulnerable residents. I also wish for progress towards a solution to the many conflicts wreaking destruction and death across the world.

Finally, I hope you all enjoyed the Christmas festivities and I bring best wishes for good health and prosperity in the coming twelve months.