Monmouthshire County Council’s environmental health and waste & street cleaning teams joined in partnership with other public bodies by holding an awareness day on Thursday 11th April to draw attention to the anti-social nature of dog fouling.  Working with local town and community councils and the police, efforts were centred on the north of the county, particularly Gilwern, Clydach and Goetre, in line with the community-led Give Dog Fouling the Red Card initiative.

Also focussing on the anti-social nature of fouling were pupils from Gilwern Primary School.  As well as discussing the matter with residents and highlighting affected areas with chalk-based sprays, they have designed new signs for Llanelly Community Council aimed against dog fouling.  As with previous awareness days residents gave positive feedback, recognising the need to continue drawing attention to dog fouling, which remains an environmental concern.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health, Councillor Sara Jones said: “Noticeable improvements have been made in recent years with a reduction in fouling on our streets and sports grounds.  We really appreciate the efforts made by the vast majority of dog walkers who collect and properly dispose of the waste.  Incidents still occur though and hotspots remain throughout the county.  Awareness days such as this serve as a good reminder, particularly when local children are involved in initiatives which is always pleasing.  The message is simple – please bag it and bin it.”

Local authorities and Gwent Police are empowered to issue fixed penalty notices and owners failing to pick up their dogs’ excrement face a £75 on the spot fine.  If the person refuses to pay, and the case is taken to court the offender may be fined up to £1,000.  Dog owners failing to pick up can easily be reported to the council via: http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/home/streets-parking-and-transport/recycling-and-waste/dogfouling/

The offices will be closed  on Friday 19th ,  Monday 22nd  & Tuesday 23rd

We will reopen at 9 am on Wednesday 24th April.

If your enquiry is urgent please telephone 0300 123 1055

For Social Services emergencies please call 0800 328 4432

There will be refuse/ recycling  collections on Friday 19th

And one day late the following week.

A local charity launched a dementia-friendly café in the Palmer Community Centre, located within the heart of historic Chepstow on Saturday 13th April. Co-funded by Monmouthshire County Council and the Welsh Government Integrated Care Fund administered by the Gwent Regional Partnership Board, the project run by Chepstow Senior Citizens Trust is set to considerably benefit people living with dementia in the area and their families.

Various methods for helping people living with dementia have been installed at the café, including sound baffling to reduce echoing, solid colour schemes to reduce the risk of visual confusion, variable and natural lighting modules to recreate daylight, and clear signposting to and from the café.

Margaret Gore, Operations Manager at the Centre said: “Popping into town for a coffee and a chat is something that many of us take for granted, but for someone living with dementia this can be a deeply frustrating and difficult experience. Café layouts and colour-schemes can be confusing to a person with dementia, poor lighting can cause illusions and noise deemed acceptable to café staff and customers may be distressing and disorientating.

Margaret continued: “We are so excited to have redeveloped the café into a dementia-friendly café, where people can feel safe and secure, enjoy refreshments, socialise and take part in activities. We hope to appeal to the general public too, with plenty of space for families to enjoy lovely home-cooked style food made by our team of staff and volunteers.”

Margaret’s team are working with charities and other organisations to hold regular and organised meetings, groups and classes at the new facility.

Peter Farley, Chair of Chepstow Senior Citizens Trust added: “We are very appreciative for the support received from Monmouthshire County Council and the Welsh Government to bring this project to fruition and we are particularly grateful to staff from the council’s building maintenance team, the council’s consultant Rhodri Dean and A.J. Quinn Building Contractors Ltd. We are also very thankful for the support given by Chepstow & Caldicot Lions who are providing new equipment for our kitchen.”

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said: “With the number of dementia cases set to rise by 82% in the next 12 years, providing safe and secure environments is of vital importance to the community. Chepstow’s new dementia-friendly café is a very welcome facility and will offer much support and contribute to the well-being of people living with dementia and their families.”

Monmouthshire’s residents have been urged to ensure they are registered and eligible to vote in the European Parliamentary Election.
To vote in the election on Thursday 23rd May applications to be included on the electoral roll must be received no later than Tuesday 7th May. Electors already registered can expect to receive their poll cards by Thursday 18th April. This is later than normally expected due to the uncertainty surrounding this election. Additionally, with a number of bank holidays in the approach to the election, residents wishing to make alternative voting arrangements should do so as soon as possible taking into consideration the deadlines detailed below.
Registering is quick and simple. Just visit: www.gov.uk./registertovote and complete the online registration process. Alternatively, residents may apply for the appropriate forms or check their names are on the register by contacting Monmouthshire County Council’s Election Office on 01633 644212 or email elections@monmouthshire.gov.uk. Residents who have received a poll card for these elections at their address are already registered and eligible to vote.
Residents can vote even if they are away by applying for a postal vote by 5pm on Wednesday 8th May or by a proxy application form, when another person votes on their behalf (not postal or emergency proxies) by 5pm on Wednesday 15th May. Electors already registered to vote by post before 2nd April 2019 can expect to receive their postal vote around 10th May. Any applications for a postal vote received since 2nd April 2019 can expect to receive their postal vote around 17th May.
Monmouthshire’s 93 polling stations will be open on 23rd May from 7am to 10pm. Votes will be verified immediately after the polls close and counted on Sunday 26th May when the final votes have been cast across all 28 member countries of the European Union.
For further details visit: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/european-parliamentary-elections-23-may-2019/

High tides are due. We will be monitoring the situation and if necessary, will arrange for the A466 through Tintern to be closed for short periods on the following dates and times:-

  • Friday 19th April Between 20.55 – 21.25 (approx.)
  • Saturday 20th April Between 09.15 – 09.45 (approx.)
  • Saturday 20th April Between 21.35 – 22.05 (approx.)
  • Sunday 21st April Between 09.55 – 10.25 (approx.)
  • Sunday 21st April Between 22.30 – 23.00 (approx.)

The closure points will be as follows:

  • North End closure: Trelleck Road junction.
  • South End closure: Royal George junction.

Closure times are estimated based on the forecasted tide times. Natural Resources Wales will be monitoring the situation and issuing Flood Warnings as necessary. Road closures will only be temporary and only when tidal water actually overflows onto the highway. The road will reopen as soon as the water has receded from the highway.

Local author Godfrey Brangham will deliver a talk entitled Poisoners: the Sandwich, Cake and Cup of Tea in Usk’s community hub at 7pm on Thursday, 25th April. This free event is organised in conjunction with the Reading Agency charity and its World Book Night celebration of books and reading for pleasure. Tea, coffee and light refreshments will be available.
The talk will examine three murders; one with a sandwich, one with a cake and one with a cup of tea.
Godfrey Brangham was born in Pontnewydd, Cwmbran and was educated at West Monmouth Grammar School before qualifying at the Welsh School of Pharmacy. Later, he obtained an MSc in wound healing and tissue repair at the University Hospital Wales.
Godfrey Brangham’s previous works include the historical work Hangings and Hangmen at Usk Prison, The Day’s Portion, an Arthur Machen miscellany and Where Memory Slept, a biography of Arthur Machen’s wife, Purefoy Machen.
Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community hubs, Councillor Paul Jordan said: “All are welcome to attend this event to enjoy a fascinating talk from Mr Brangham. Our community hubs across the county offer similar occasions throughout the year and they are all well worth attending.”
For further information, email uskhub@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 01291 426888. Usk Community Hub is based at 35 Maryport Street, NP15 1AE where there are two free car parks nearby.

Visitors to Monmouth will see a new addition to town in the form of artwork celebrating the well -loved cattle market. Monmouth is one of 79 communities to be involved in the Sustrans national social history project The Portrait Bench.

The Portrait Bench project aims to recognise and remember inspirational individuals in towns across the UK. In Monmouth, Jim Shankland, the auctioneers assistant for agricultural estate agents/ auctioneers known then, as Rennie Taylor and Till, today just known as Rennies along with Welsh Mountain Sheep and a Hereford Bull have been commemorated in three life size steel portraits.

Life-size figures have been cut from sheet steel and installed by a simple bench which encourages locals and visitors to sit or step up into the space and become a part of the portrait. The bench is located at the southern end of town on the old livestock market site.

The features of each character have been simplified while retaining their essential characteristics. The characters reflect those things that are important to the community and celebrate the uniqueness of each location.

The characters were chosen by the Monmouth Links Steering group from a list of suggestions put forward by the public. Communities across the UK nominated local people for the contribution they have made to local life, culture or history to become the figures on their local Portrait Bench to be part of a collection of over 250 portraits.

Cabinet Member for Operations Cllr Bryan Jones said:

‘Monmouth is a town rich with history, I am so pleased that the livestock market has been commemorated in such a thoughtful and interactive way. I hope that locals and visitors to the town take a minute to sit on the bench and think about what once existed in the town. It is fantastic to see local people remembered and even more pleasing to see nominations came from local residents.’

Sustrans is a charity to promote and enable people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. Find out more visit:  www.sustrans.org.uk

Find out more about Connect2 in Monmouth and how to find this portrait bench at www.sustrans.org.uk/portraitbench

Abergavenny’s Borough Theatre is celebrating news that an Arts Council grant will enable welcome improvements to the structure of the building, making it a suitable setting for international performers, local community groups and school celebrations. Monmouthshire County Council, the owner of the theatre will also provide match-funding for the project which is expected to cost about £300,000.

Among the enhanced features will be new seating, improved access and lighting and a makeover for the foyer area.

This work will reduce day-to-day running costs and provide a safe working environment within a professionally equipped venue as well as offering a better service to theatre-goers.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for cultural services said: “The work to be carried out is in line with the theatre’s business plan so we can present a programme of events drawing from the local to the global – celebrating, entertaining, challenging and engaging our community and those who come to visit us. It will provide a boost to theatre and the performing arts in the region and means we can offer customers a premier quality experience in a professional setting.”

For further information on the Borough Theatre visit: https://boroughtheatreabergavenny.co.uk/

Monmouthshire County Council has organised a range of great activities for children over Easter holidays!

The county’s four leisure centres in Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth will once again run the very popular Monmouthshire Games for seven days packed full of fun, friendship and physical activity – there is something for everyone. To find out more visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/the-monmouthshire-games – or contact the nearest leisure centre to book.

The Monmouthshire Games also features specialist rugby, football and new outdoor adventure days at selected venues for all abilities.

Coaches from the local Newport-based Dragons team will deliver two rugby camps from 9am to 3pm on Thursday 18th April at Caldicot Leisure Centre and Thursday 25th April at Chepstow Leisure Centre. All sessions will be delivered by the Dragons community coaches and in partnership with Monmouthshire Sport Development. The cost per child is £18.50 and bookings can be made by telephoning Caldicot Leisure Centre (01291 426850) or Chepstow Leisure Centre (01291 635745).

Football camps will take place at Abergavenny Leisure Centre and Caldicot Leisure Centre from 9am to 3pm on Friday 26th April. The cost per child is £18.50 and bookings can be made by telephoning Caldicot Leisure Centre (01291 426850) or Abergavenny Leisure Centre (01873 735360).

A new venture – The Monmouthshire Games Outdoor Adventure Days – will give 12 to 15 year olds the opportunity to challenge themselves, learn new skills and have fun in the great outdoors.

Monday, 15th April features “High & Mighty”, an opportunity to climb and abseil while the following day sees “Wet & Wild” with canoeing on the River Wye. Both days run from 9am to 5pm and the cost is £35 per person per day. Places are limited so anyone interested is urged to book early by ringing Monmouth Leisure Centre (01600 775135). All equipment and transport from Monmouth Leisure Centre is provided and all activities are delivered by fully qualified and trained staff. Children are requested to bring a packed lunch.

The council’s community hubs and libraries have a packed Easter programme for youngsters. Chepstow Community Hub features Easter stories and crafts from 11am to 12noon on Tuesday 16th April and Thursday 25th April for five to eight year olds while baby rhyme time sessions take place from 2.15pm to 2.45pm on Thursday 18th April and Thursday 25th April. On Friday, 26 April, under-fives can enjoy story time from 10.15am to 10.45am.

Caldicot Community Hub will offer a baby rhyme time from 2pm to 2.30pm on Tuesday 16th April and a Lego workshop for five to nine years olds from 10am to 11am on Wednesday 24th April. In addition, under-fives will be treated to story time from 2pm to 2.30pm on Thursday 18th April and Thursday 25th April, while three to eight year olds can go on a bear hunt – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt takes place from 10am to 11am on Wednesday 17th April.

Gilwern Library hosts the ever popular Louby Lou who will entertain children aged four and under from 10am to 10.45am (cost £4) on Tuesday 16th April. The library also holds Easter colouring sessions on Wednesday 17th April (1.30pm to 4.30pm), Wednesday 24th April (1.30pm to 4.30pm) and Friday 26th April (10am to 1pm & 1.30pm to 5pm).

Abergavenny Library will offer Easter stories and crafts plus an Easter egg hunt for under-fives from 10.30am to 11.15am on Thursday 18th April with another Easter egg hunt for all ages on the morning of Saturday 20th April. Welsh language baby rhyme sessions take place on 2.15pm to 2.45pm on Thursday 18th April and 2.15pm to 2.45pm on Thursday 25th April. More Easter stories and crafts with a bunny dance will feature for the under-fives from 10.30am to 11.15am on Thursday 25th April while older children will look forward to Minecraft sessions. These run from 10am to 12noon on Wednesday 17th April and 10am to 12noon on Friday 26th April – there is a charge of £8 an hour for both Minecraft occasions.

Usk Community Hub will join in Monmouthshire’s Easter fun with Going on a Bear Hunt for three to eight year olds from 10.30am on Thursday 18th April and Easter stories and egg decorating for three to nine year olds from 10.30am on Thursday 25th April.

Easter stories and crafts will be offered at Monmouth Community Hub at 2pm on Wednesday 17th April. In addition, there will be a baby rhyme time at 10.30am on Monday 15th April and an under-fives’ story time at 2pm on Tuesday 16th April.

All Easter community hub and library events are free unless stated otherwise.

Monmouthshire’s museum service is hosting a fascinating intergenerational workshop at Abergavenny Castle from 10am to 12noon on Saturday 13th April with an aim to bring people together to find inspiration, have fun and enjoy writing. Led by local writer Lynn Clausen, children and adults will work in pairs to record their memories of the castle. Recommended for ages seven and over, the cost is £7 for two participants and includes a short tour of the castle and grounds followed by a creative writing workshop. For full details of this Abergavenny Writing Festival event, telephone the museum on 01873 854282.

Chepstow Museum is running an egg hunt and competition to design the ideal decorated egg starting at 11am to 4pm from Monday 8th April to Sunday 28th April with Easter puzzles to take home.

The museum also offers drop-in craft afternoons on Thursday 18th April and Thursday 25th April from 2pm to 4pm at the Drill Hall. These sessions are suitable for children of all ages but they must be accompanied by an adult. A donation of £2 for children over three years is suggested towards the cost of materials and refreshments.

Also at Chepstow Museum from 11am to 4pm on Tuesday, 16th April is a display presented by David Smith of the RSPB highlighting exciting projects making a positive difference to reverse trends in the significant declines of wildlife over the last 40 years. The display will also include a variety of fun, interactive activities for children to learn more about how they can help UK wildlife in their own gardens.

All three of Monmouthshire’s museums – at Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth – have Easter activities for children, trails and quizzes, things to make and period clothes to try on. Special activities associated with current exhibitions include discovering the history of Abergavenny’s Castle House and grounds, fabulous artworks at Monmouth by former art teacher Otto Maciag and his pupils, and Chepstow Museum’s special display, “Stuffed, Pickled and Pinned”, showcasing 50 wonders of the natural world from museums across Wales and the importance of these collections to the study of natural sciences.

A project instigated by occupational therapists and physiotherapists at Monmouthshire’s integrated health and social care team based in Monmouth has benefitted to the tune of £2,150 thanks to the generosity of a local housing body. The Owls and Acorns intergenerational initiative, which tackles loneliness and isolation among older people, has received a cheque from the Monmouthshire Housing Association that will allow it to expand its activities.
Owls and Acorns currently meets once a week in Raglan Primary School bringing together older people and children from foundation phase classes to enjoy arts, crafts and exercises for one and a half hours. This shared activity benefits both parties.
The award from the Monmouthshire Housing Association was granted via its Pitch for your Project funding scheme – this offers the opportunity for local groups and charities with brilliant ideas for their community to bid for a cash donation. It means that Owls and Acorns can shortly introduce its services in Usk and Monmouth and staff involved in the scheme eventually hope to work across Monmouthshire.
Chief Executive of Monmouthshire Housing Association, John Keegan said: “We are delighted to support this fantastic project to allow it to expand beyond Raglan to other parts of the county. These initiatives don’t happen by accident; they need people dedicated to their community and willing to put in the hours to make those communities strong, active and vibrant. We have funded several intergenerational projects over the years and love seeing people coming together and finding they have so much in common and are so willing to share their stories and time. We wish Owls and Acorns continued success and would like to congratulate them on a really high quality bid for support”.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Care and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said: “This is a fabulous gesture by the Monmouthshire Housing Association and is much appreciated as it will improve the well-being of an increased number of older people across the county and it offers them an alternative to living with loneliness and isolation. I have seen for myself how successful this project is and would like to thank the staff involved for their work to develop it.”

Contact LucyHeath@monmouthshire.gov.uk for further information on Owls and Acorns.

Talented young artist Matt Dixon (known in the art world as Matt Crossfield) recently exhibited his work in Usk’s Coleg Gwent campus, receiving favourable reactions from those attending. Matt (24) lives in Caldicot and graduated from the University of South Wales in 2017 with a BA Honours Degree in Animation.

The one day exhibition was sponsored by Arc Spectrum, an innovative community project which provides creative activities for children and adults with a variety of communication and sensory needs. Matt himself has high functioning autism and is a member of the project. Arc Spectrum works in partnership with Coleg Gwent, Monmouthshire County Council’s ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Stakeholder Group and Action for Children.

Matt won the Young Cartoonist of the Year 2018 award presented by the British Cartoonist Association for his animated drawing featuring US President Donald Trump on the Mexican border. Matt also published a children’s book called “Rusty the Red Dragon” last October.

Currently, Matt has been commissioned to illustrate a book series called “The Forest Railway stories” for publisher Lightmoor Press. Based on the Dean Forest Railway, the first book in the series is called “Counting Sheep” and will be available this Easter.

County Councillor Penny Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health said: “Matt’s exhibition displays work by an extraordinary young man and it was fascinating to see the wide range of his talents. We hope he will exhibit in County Hall soon for the benefit of members, staff and visitors.”

For more information on Matt and his work visit: www.mattcrossfield.com

Monmouthshire County Council has agreed two proposals that will guide school admissions and school catchment area strategies for the foreseeable future. Members of Monmouthshire’s cabinet meeting approved these changes on Wednesday 3rd April.
The revised school catchment areas policy will come into effect from the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year and will create the following amendments to the present arrangements:
• The catchment area for Monmouth Comprehensive School will be enlarged to align with the primary catchment areas for Usk Church in Wales, Trellech and Llandogo primary schools.
• The catchment area for Abergavenny’s King Henry VIII Comprehensive School will be enlarged to align with the primary catchment area for Goytre Fawr Primary School.
Councillor Richard John, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Children and Young People said: “I would like to thank the hundreds of people who came along to our 11 public meetings and drop-in sessions or submitted online responses for taking part in this detailed consultation on significant changes to secondary school catchment areas.
“There is clear evidence of public support for these changes, which align primary and secondary school catchment areas, better enable peer groups to remain together on the transition to secondary education and empower parents to make an informed choice about their preferred school.
“It is only right, that as we continue to invest millions of pounds in brand new schools, that families who live in Monmouthshire, pay council tax in Monmouthshire and elect councillors in Monmouthshire to make decisions about school funding, can access school places in Monmouthshire.
“For the areas of Goytre and Usk, which in future will form part of King Henry VIII Comprehensive School and Monmouth Comprehensive School’s catchment areas, we will continue to work with Newport City Council, the admissions authority for Caerleon Comprehensive School, to ensure that siblings of pupils already in Caerleon will continue to be prioritised in Newport’s admissions criteria. As the admissions authority for Caerleon Comprehensive School, Newport City Council will continue to consider applications from the Usk and Goytre areas as ‘in catchment’.
A review of the council’s home to school transport will be undertaken to take into account these changes. This policy review will not affect pupils attending Welsh-medium or faith schools.
Meanwhile, new school admission arrangements coming into effect from the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year will determine the criteria for which applicants are awarded places to their preferred school when demand exceeds capacity. These arrangements will mean that children in a school’s catchment area will be prioritised over those children who have a sibling at the school but live outside the catchment area. However, there will be a five year transition period to reduce the likelihood of splitting existing sibling links.

Councillor John added: “The changes to our schools admissions criteria will help keep peer groups together on the transition to secondary school and help ensure fairness in accessing primary school places for families within primary school catchment areas. These changes were supported by the vast majority of the hundreds of people who took part in the consultation and I feel reassured that there is such strong public support for our new school admissions policies.”

The council consulted widely over both proposals, holding eleven meetings in the schools affected, providing an online questionnaire and inviting interested parties to write with their views.

Monmouthshire County Council is working in partnership with housing charity Llamau to launch a project aimed at helping young people and vulnerable adults by providing additional support and becoming a protective factor in assisting individuals to steer clear of homelessness.

The Supported Lodgings project has been created to tackle growing homelessness and to find an affordable community-based solution. The scheme provides someone with a room of their own in a private home where they are a member of the household, but are not expected to become a member of the family. The householder, or host, provides a safe and supportive environment, working alongside professional services to help and support that individual in rebuilding their life.

Councillor Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for housing and homelessness said: “The concept of supported lodging is well-tested with a number of authorities already helping young people but our new project will lead the way by including adults and older people. Anecdotal evidence suggests that placing some individuals within a better supported or family setting can have positive outcomes compared to other options.”

The council and Llamau are currently actively looking to identify prospective hosts across Monmouthshire. Hosts will not need special qualifications and may be married or single, working or unemployed. All that is required of them is a spare room with a willingness and ability to help individuals develop the skills and confidence needed to live independently and provide a safe and warm environment for adults. In exchange for providing a room, Llamau will provide the host with a weekly payment while the person receiving support will make a contribution towards costs and utilities.

Councillor Penny Jones, cabinet member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health added: “Llamau and the council will provide ongoing training and guidance, as well as financial and practical support. Both organisations acknowledge that all persons are different so we’ll guide hosts and those accommodated to agree necessary support. This could include tasks like cooking, budgeting, bills, education or emotional support.”

Llamau already runs similar projects in the Vale of Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire, Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot and Newport, enabling the council to visualise the benefits of entering into a supportive co-working relationship with the county’s communities to combat homelessness. The authority recognises the good practices and positive outcomes applied elsewhere and will adapt these – with the additional element of working with adults and older people.

Funded by the council by means of the Welsh Government’s Supporting People Programme, the project has few overheads as it is community-based and operated in addition to currently available provision.

Contact Llamau on 01633 244134 during office hours for an informal chat, or email enquiries@llamau.org.uk – for further details log onto: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/supported-lodgings/

On Saturday April 6th The Old Station, Tintern, Caldicot Castle and the Monnow Bridge open their doors for summer. All three attractions offer free entry and provide both local people and tourist’s an opportunity to visit a variety of buildings set in picturesque locations.

The Old Station is set in the heart of the Wye Valley next to the River Wye and is very near Tintern, the beautiful backdrop for recent Netflix comedy drama series, Sex Education. The Station’s café offers delicious treats and refreshments alongside a brand new children’s play area and zip wire. The perfect free family day out, and also a great base for walks along the Wye Valley.

In addition to free entry, visitors to The Shire Hall, Monmouth can now book a two free tours of The Shire Hall and Monnow Bridge. Visitors to The Shire Hall, Monmouth can visit the historic courtroom, travel down to the cells and walk around the beautiful Georgian building.

Visitors booking on the Monnow Bridge tour are asked to meet at the Monnow Bridge, the only remaining fortified river bridge in Great Britain. Tours are led by volunteers and provide in depth information on all aspects of the bridge, its history and the guard room.

The first tour of the season begins on Saturday 20th April and will run every Saturday from 1.30pm – 3.30pm until Saturday 26th October. Tours are limited to a maximum of six people and need to be booked in advance.

For further information and to book, please visit: www.visitmonmouthshire.com/thedms.aspx?dms=72&shop=43&prod=10205

Caldicot Castle offers a variety of activities, the castle set in beautiful tranquil gardens and a wooded country park is open from 11.00am to 4.00pm Tuesday to Sunday, entry is free. Refreshments are available from the on-site café, the grounds are the perfect place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea and delicious cake.

Families are welcome to participate in an Easter Egg hunt on Friday 19th April. Children are welcome to wear an Easter bonnet, a parade will take place at 12.00pm. A range of activities will be on offer including face painting, games and plenty of Easter activities for the children to enjoy.

The castle plays host to a free Monmouthshire Games Sports day for children and families on Tuesday 23rd April 11.00am – 4.00pm.  The day will provide an opportunity for people of all ages to try a new sport or simply have a look around the castle.

Cllr Bob Greenland Cabinet Member for tourism said: 

“It is great to see our attractions growing in popularity year after year. We are so lucky to have such unique, historical buildings brimming with character and intrigue. We are so pleased to be able to offer days out for free of charge to be enjoyed by all. All three attractions provide an insight into our unique heritage and provide both indoor and outdoor experiences so can be visited in all weather. With the added bonus that they are all free to enter. I urge as many people as possible to make a Monmouthshire Bucket list and visit all of our attractions this summer.’

Visit www.visitmonmouthshire.co.uk for more information on what’s on and where to go this summer.

On Monday April 8th  Cymraeg i Blant Monmouthshire is hosting a Parti Piws/Purple Party at Monmouth Leisure Centre 1.30pm – 2.30pm. The event coincides with Dewin and Doti’s tenth birthday, the loveable mascots of Mudiad Meithrin. The party is open to children aged 0-3 years, along with their parents, carers, grandparents who are all encouraged to wear an item of purple clothing.  A wide range of activities including access to the soft play area, baby and toddler rhyme time, crafts plus many more will be on offer.

The event is free for babies under 12 months, children aged 1-3 years a small charge of £3.10 is required – which is the standard cost to use the soft play at the Leisure Centre. The Parti Pwis/ Purple Party is also taking place across the  multitude of Welsh Medium childcare settings in Monmouthshire. For more information about the Purple Party contact Michaela Carrington Michaela.carrington@meithrin.cymru

At the party parents and carers will have an opportunity to find out more about Cymraeg i Blant. Cymraeg i Blant or Cymraeg for kids is managed by Mudiad Meithrin and provides information, support and advice for to promote the advantages of bilingualism from an early age. Cymraeg i Blant offers a wide range of fun activities for children and their families, including baby massage and baby yoga sessions, and story and song groups.  

There are a number of opportunities to attend a bilingual activity sessions in Monmouth. Cymraeg i Blant are planning to hold free weekly sessions of Baby Yoga, for babies aged from ten weeks old at Monmouth Leisure Centre from Monday 29th April from 1.00pm -2.00pm. The ability to speak Welsh is not required to attend – there is a warm welcome for everybody. The sessions will also help build parents confidence to use Welsh with their child.

A new Cylch Ti a Fi / Babies and Toddlers group has been established at Rockfield Community Centre on Monday’s between 9.45am – 11.15am. The group provides a perfect opportunity to meet up with other parents and carers to socialise and share experiences in an informal Welsh atmosphere. Babies and toddler develop an awareness of the Welsh language through range of activities, stories, rhymes and song.

Cllr Richard John Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said:

‘Bilingualism provides children and young people with a valuable additional life skill — the ability to communicate in two languages. In Monmouthshire, we are lucky to have a range of Mudiad Meithrin groups that are fun, informal and provide the foundations to begin a child’s bilingual journey. I hope that many parents attend the Purple Party in our newly refurbished Monmouth Leisure Centre or pop along one of the many Meithrin groups.’

For more information of Welsh medium childcare activities or settings visit Monmouthshire Family Information Service website: www.monfis.org.uk/  or follow @cymraegiblantmynwy  Face book page.

Young people from Caldicot School met with County Councillors from across Monmouthshire County Council on Friday 15th March to find out more about democracy and the role of the council. The event was organised by Monmouthshire Youth Service and aimed to give young people a voice and more knowledge about the role of the council and impact it has on communities.

The day provided an opportunity for young people to discuss and share things that are important. Councillors happily answered questions from pupils. Questions were interesting and varied, it provided an opportunity to really see what is important and how young people feel about the issues that affect them both nationally and locally.

Some of the most talked about issues on a national level were Brexit and climate change. Pupils asked pertinent questions about local issues such as waste and recycling, period poverty and hospital waiting times all of which affect them and their families.

Youth Worker Jade Atkins, engaged pupils and councillors in an interactive workshop informing pupils of the 54 articles as stated in the United Nations Convention of the Child. The session was both fun and thought provoking.

Cllr Sara Jones, Cabinet member for Social Justice a passionate advocate for young people’s rights, shared with pupils her thoughts on the importance of speaking out.

Councillor Sara Jones said:

‘I was so pleased to see pupils engaging with councillors, the questions that were posed were well thought out and relevant. It was clear that young people are engaged in national politics and it was great to see pupils raising local issues that are important to pupils and their families. I look forward to more events to enable more young people to find out more about democracy and politics and realise the importance of having their voices heard.’

The day was rounded off with a tour of County Hall where pupils met officers from a wide range of departments, a perfect opportunity to capture a behind the scenes look at the council.

Feedback from pupils was positive:  “I’ve enjoyed the day it was really interesting to hear everyone’s opinions. I really liked the Q&A session.”

“This was a great experience. My favourite part was when we had a chance to discuss relevant issues with councillors. I would like to do a debate on a specific issue, I think it would be really fun.”

Monmouthshire Youth Service are looking for more young people to get involved in the county youth forum Engage 2 Change. The forum brings together young people aged 11-18 years and helps them to get involved in local issues and meet new people. For more information contact: Jade Atkins

Charlie-Jadeatkins@monmouthshire.gov.uk  or call 07790355724.

A team from Monmouthshire County Council’s Social Care, Safeguarding and Health directorate has earned a much sought-after recognition after being nominated for the BASW (British Association of Social Workers) 2019 Cymru Awards.  The council’s Adult Disability service won an award for the best social work team in Wales at a ceremony at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday, 20th March.

The team was nominated for an innovative housing project that took place in partnership with the Monmouthshire Housing Association, the Monmouthshire Reablement service and Pobl Care & Support, enabling five individuals with a learning disability to take occupancy of individual flats in Abergavenny. Seven teams across Wales were also shortlisted for this award and the Adult Disabilities Service Team Manager, Julie Heal said: “We were absolutely delighted to win this accolade, especially as the other teams in our category had submitted such impressive entries.”

In attendance were Julie Boothroyd, Monmouthshire’s Director of Social Care, Safeguarding and Health and Eve Parkinson, Head of Adult Services as well as Julie Heal and her team and also Sarah Vaughan, Senior Occupational Therapist representing the Abergavenny Integrated Team.  Three of the tenants at the Abergavenny complex also attended the awards ceremony and one of them described it, “as the best night ever”.

Louise Dovey, social worker based in Monmouth’s Monnow Vale integrated service was unable to attend the ceremony but was shortlisted for the award of innovative social worker.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said: “To win such an award at the BASW Cymru ceremony demonstrates the high standard of social care in the county and our Adult Disability team richly deserves this honour for its consistently impressive and inspiring performance.”

Do you have a good idea? If three other people were willing to help, what would you love to do to make your community a better place?

Monmouthshire County Council’s Community Partnership and Development Team are eager to help local individuals and groups achieve their community ambitions. The team are engagement specialists and aim to help develop and empower groups and individuals who want to make their town or village a better place and are currently taking their expertise out to communities via the Big Ideas roadshow.

The Big Ideas roadshow has had a successful start. Residents from Monmouth have been sharing their ideas at a variety of locations across the town. The community has come together and embraced the concept of sharing ideas via little cardboard people. Ideas are on display in Monmouth Hub, this will be replicated at community hubs across the county.

Pupils from Osbaston CIW Primary, Monmouth loved filling in dream clouds to reveal their Big Ideas. More school visits are planned in coming weeks.

The team are eager to listen to ideas and provide valuable information and support to make ideas become a reality and are looking forward to meeting more people from Usk, Raglan, Abergavenny, Caldicot and Chepstow in coming weeks.

A wealth of information is available, including how to obtain funding, opportunities to link individuals to groups who have similar goals and offer training opportunities to anyone who gives their time to help others. 

A series of drop in sessions will take place along with visits to local community groups and meet and greet opportunities in popular public spaces across Monmouthshire.

The Team will be visiting a range of locations across the county in the next four weeks, covering Usk, Abergavenny, Caldicot and Chepstow. The following dates are for the coming week with more dates for Caldicot and Chepstow to be publicised at a later date.

Usk Hub – Thursday 21st March 1.00pm – 4.00pm and 5.00pm – 7.00pm

ACE Centre, Abergavenny – Monday 25th March 9.00am – 11.00am

Abergavenny Leisure Centre – Monday 25th March 5.00pm – 7.00pm

Abergavenny Market –  Tuesday 26th March 10.00am – 2.00pm

Residents are welcome to contact the team via the Monmouthshire Facebook page, twitter @MonmouthshireCC or email Partnerships@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Cllr Sara Jones Cabinet Member for Community Development and Social Justice said:

‘This is a fantastic opportunity for communities to get the help and support they need from the Community and Partnership Development Team. The team works in partnership with a range of organisations and has a wealth of knowledge to unlock the potential of individuals and groups in Monmouthshire to help communities help themselves. I urge anyone who has an idea no matter how big or small to get in touch.’

To find out more visit www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/partnerships 

Monmouthshire’s trading standards service is urging residents to remain vigilant after receiving further reports of fraudulent telephone calls from individuals purporting to be from the council tax team. Householders are told they are entitled to a rebate on their council tax bill and the caller then attempts to obtain bank card details.

Trading Standards Team Leader Gareth Walters warned: “Residents have reported that callers appear convincing and already know their full name and address. They may also claim that the council holds incorrect information about the number of bedrooms and the council tax band of the property in a bid to make the rebate seem more plausible.”

Residents should contact Monmouthshire’s council tax team on 01633 644640 or email: counciltax@monmouthshire.gov.uk if they wish to check any council tax information. Alternately, they can check their account on-line: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk – they are strongly advised not to respond to phone calls or text messages suggesting they may be eligible for a refund.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for public protection, Councillor Sara Jones added: “As we move into the months where Monmouthshire residents receive their new council tax bills we think it’s possible that scammers will use this opportunity to target people. Residents need to be very wary of anyone requesting bank card details over the telephone.”

Residents wishing to report such calls and get practical advice should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Services helpline on 03454 040506.

Staff from eleven Monmouthshire schools who successfully attended five days of training across the spring term, received certificates of achievement from the Abergavenny mayor, Councillor Teslin Davies who attended as a guest at a ceremony in Magor this week (Monday, 18th March). Councillor Davies has a background in education and additional learning needs.
The fifteen staff had trained to become qualified Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs) and the course enables them to develop skills to help pupils in the county’s schools with temporary or longer term emotional needs. The ELSAs will receive ongoing support from the Educational Psychology Service through regular supervision.
The ELSA programme forms part of the council’s commitment to work with schools to ensure the inclusion, achievement and well-being of all pupils, including those whose learning is affected by emotional difficulties. It was developed to build the capacity of schools to support the emotional needs of pupils from within their own resources.
ELSAs are trained to plan and deliver individual or group programmes of support. They might work with pupils who present as anxious, shy, sad, or angry as well as supporting them to develop social and friendship skills or improved self-esteem.
The course was carried out by Monmouthshire’s Educational Psychology Service (EPS). Dr Casey Stephens of the EPS said: “The ELSA programme has been running for four years in Monmouthshire and there are currently 29 ELSAs working in our schools. The programme continues to go from strength to strength and is becoming well embedded in many of our schools. Evaluations of the project have shown that ELSAs make a positive impact on the emotional development of children and young people. Specific outcomes have included academic success, increased school attendance and reduced referrals to outside agencies as well as positive changes in pupils with social emotional and behavioural difficulties.”
Councillor Richard John, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Children and Young People said: “Having completed their training, our latest members of staff to achieve the ELSA award will be able to help children with emotional difficulties and at an educational disadvantage to overcome their problems, improve their emotional wellbeing and to achieve in their schooling.”

Monmouthshire County Council’s preparations to assume responsibility for parking enforcement from Gwent Police are well underway.

Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) will be introduced on Monday 8th April when the council takes on powers to enforce on-street parking restrictions in Monmouthshire – in addition to the off-street car parks that the council already manages. The police will continue to be responsible for dealing with dangerously parked vehicles, obstruction and moving traffic offences.

Councillor Bryan Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for county operations said: “Inconsiderate parking can often lead to congestion or issues with public transport and prevent emergency service vehicles from accessing areas as well as causing problems for local businesses when vehicles overstay their time outside shops.

“The council will create a dedicated civil enforcement team to manage parking traffic regulations within the county. This will lead to improved parking in areas with existing problems as well as an increased turnover of parking spaces and improved safety for pedestrians and road users. It will also discourage inappropriate and inconsiderate parking on restricted zones like double yellow lines or zig-zag markings and create a safer highway network for all road users.”

Under CPE, the council will be able to enforce:

• Double and single yellow lines
• Disabled bays
• Limited waiting bays
• Taxi ranks
• Coach bays
• Loading bays
• Zig-zag markings at schools (if restrictions apply) and pedestrian crossings
• Double parking or parking too far away from the kerb edge
• Parking in bus stops

A penalty charge notice (PCN) will be issued to a vehicle when a civil enforcement officer witnesses it parked in contravention of an order. Two levels of penalty charge are set by the Welsh Government and will depend on the severity of the contravention. The charge will be £70 for the most serious contraventions and £50 for lesser ones.

If the PCN is paid within 14 days of receipt of the notice, the charge will be reduced by 50%. If no payment is received or no representations are made within 28 days, the council may issue a charge certificate and the charges will be increased to £105 for the most serious of offences and £75 for lesser contraventions.

Motorists will be able to pay PCNs by post, using the envelope provided with the PCN, online by visiting the South Wales Parking Groups page www.swpg.co.uk (credit/debit card payment) or by telephone on 033 332 008 67. Additionally, motorists will be able to appeal the charge if they believe it has been wrongly issued. It should be noted that the registered keeper, or user of the vehicle if hired, is responsible for paying the PCN.

Income generated by the charges will contribute to the cost of the service and any surplus will go towards the county’s traffic initiatives and road improvements, in line with Welsh Government guidance.

High tides are due. We will be monitoring the situation and if necessary, will arrange for the A466 through Tintern to be closed for short periods on the following dates and times:-

Thursday 21st March Between 7.50 – 8.20 (approx.)

Thursday 21st March Between 20.20 – 20.50 (approx.)

Friday 22nd March Between 8.35 – 09.05 (approx.)

Friday 22nd March Between 21.00 – 21.30 (approx.)

Saturday 23rd March Between 09.20 – 09.50 (approx.)

Saturday 23rd March Between 21.40 – 22.10 (approx.)

Sunday 24th March Between 09.55 – 10.25 (approx.)

The closure points will be as follows:

North End closure: Trelleck Road junction.

South End closure: Royal George junction.

Closure times are estimated based on the forecasted tide times. Natural Resources Wales will be monitoring the situation and issuing Flood Warnings as necessary. Road closures will only be temporary and only when tidal water actually overflows onto the highway. The road will reopen as soon as the water has receded from the highway

A community engagement event in Monmouth next week will aim to bring residents and local groups together to build new relationships and strengthen existing networks to benefit the town and local area. Organised on behalf of the local community it will take place from 4:30pm to 8pm on Wednesday, 27th March in Monmouth Comprehensive School and will include funding bodies, voluntary and third-sector organisations, communities and statutory bodies. It follows the success of similar occasions in Abergavenny and Chepstow.
The event will raise awareness of the excellent support – including advice, guidance, funding, and training opportunities – offered to volunteers and community groups while introducing organisations seeking funding to those providing it. It will also provide an opportunity to thank individuals for the area’s impressive volunteer-based activity.
In addition, the meeting will identify members of a core steering group to produce and deliver a Vision for Monmouth plan to support community initiatives.
Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for community development, Councillor Sara Jones said: “We’re aiming for an informal gathering and welcome the participation of anyone who lives or works in the area with its best interests at heart. We want to get as many together as possible, knowing that through talking to each other, great ideas can result.”
Anyone wishing to attend can reserve a place by visiting https://www.facebook.com/events/1188529647985996/ though organisers will also welcome those arriving on the evening.
For further information contact Monmouthshire County Council’s Communities and Partnership Development Officer, Joe Skidmore – JoeSkidmore@monmouthshire.gov.uk

New waste and recycling collections started in Monmouthshire on Monday 4th March to improve recycling services and minimise costs. These changes represent one of the biggest operational changes that Monmouthshire has undertaken for waste collections – with the introduction of a separate glass collection service, changes in collection times and new waste collection vehicles.

Monmouthshire collects from approximately 44,000 households which used to equate to 102,000 collections per week. From March 4th collections have been reduced to 80,000 per week. New collection times were promoted via a leaflet and the website has been updated to highlight new collection times.

Some residents have been impacted by collection issues. Crews are working well past their normal working hours with some out until 7pm to rectify problems. Monmouthshire’s contact centre and hubs have been extremely busy with enquiries on the recycling changes and garden waste permit renewals.

What to do if you are impacted by waste and recycling collection delays:

• Please report any issues through the ‘Recycling & Waste’ section of the My Monmouthshire app which is available to download from your app store or message Monty, Monmouthshire’s chatbot via the monmouthshire.gov.uk website or via Facebook messenger: @MonmouthshireCC.
• The contact centre is currently experiencing a large number of calls due to waste and recycling change queries and waiting times are longer than usual. If customers wish to hold on, their calls will be answered as soon as an operator becomes available.
• Any residents who still require a glass collection box can go to their local community hub to collect one.
• Residents looking to clarify their new collection dates can visit: monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste

Carl Touhig, Head of Waste & Street Services said: “I would like to apologise to any residents who have been impacted by delays in their waste collections and would like to thank them for their patience at this extremely busy time. Please bear with us and give positive support to the collection crews, contact centre and hub staff who are doing their very best to get the issues resolved. It’s not an easy job for the crews who are doing an amazing job, working long hours in rainy and windy conditions”.

Monmouthshire County Council joined other local authorities and civic dignitaries, community groups and charities throughout the United Kingdom to take part in local flag raising events and ceremonies of dedication to mark Commonwealth Day on Monday March 11th.

At 10am in the grounds of County Hall, the Chairman Councillor Peter Clarke led a ceremony to celebrate the union of 57 nations across the world and read a message from Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary General. The Secretary General’s message highlighted that the occasion acknowledged publicly and collectively the continuing aspiration of the Commonwealth to build on common traditions and uphold shared values of democracy, inclusive development and respect for diversity.

Councillor Clarke then raised the flag. Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for governance read the Commonwealth affirmation while the Rev. Malcolm Lane led prayers.

Attending were:

• Murray Kerr – Deputy Lord Lieutenant
• Nick Ramsay AM
• Mayors of Chepstow Town Council, Caldicot Town Council and Monmouth Town Council
• Mayor and Consort, Usk Town Council
• Chairs of St Arvans Community Council and Rogiet Community Council
• Helen Morgan, Head of School for Land-based Courses and Sport at Coleg Gwent’s Usk Campus with students representing Coleg Gwent
• Representatives from Gwent Police and GAVO
• Monmouthshire County Council councillors and staff

Further information can be found at the Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth website: http://www.flyaflagforthecommonwealth.co.uk/

Do you have a good idea? If three other people were willing to help, what would you love to do to make your community a better place?

Monmouthshire County Councils Community Partnership and Development Team are eager to help local individuals and groups achieve their community ambitions. The team specialises in helping to develop and empower groups aTnd individuals who want to make their town or village a better place, and are looking forward to meeting people in a variety of locations throughout March and April.

The team will be on hand to listen to ideas and provide valuable information and support to make ideas become a reality. A wealth of information is available, including how to obtain funding, opportunities to link individuals to groups who have similar goals and offer training opportunities to anyone who gives their time to help others. 

There will be a series of drop in sessions, the team will also visit local community groups and be present in public spaces across Monmouthshire. Children and young people from local schools will be participating in the engagement process as the team are eager to listen to the ideas of future generations.

The Team will be visiting a range of locations across the county in the next five weeks, covering Usk, Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth. Come and meet the meet the team in Monmouth week commencing Monday 11th March.

Drop in to Monmouth Hub on Tuesday 12th March 5.00pm – 7pm or Friday 15th March between 1.00pm – 4.00pm. Visit Usk Hub on Thursday 21st March 1.00pm – 4.00pm and 5.00pm – 7.00pm and share your ideas with the team at Abergavenny Market on March 26th 10.00am – 2.00pm.

More locations and dates are planned. Residents are welcome to contact the team via the Monmouthshire Facebook page, twitter @MonmouthshireCC or email the team.

Cllr Sara Jones Cabinet Member for Community Development and Social Justice said: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for communities to get the help and support they need from the Community and Partnership Development Team. The team works in partnership with a range of organisations and has a wealth of knowledge to unlock the potential of individuals and groups in Monmouthshire to help communities help themselves. I urge anyone who has an idea no matter how big or small to get in touch.’

Find out more about the Community and Partnership Development Team at: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/partnerships

Email ideas to Partnerships@monmouthshire.gov.uk

This short film explains more about the aims of the team:

A competition to design new cards for Monmouthshire’s library service has attracted over 130 entries with impressive submissions from school classes and individuals resulting in difficult decisions for the judging panel. Four to seven year olds were invited to design a card for junior members while young people aged between 8 and 15 were asked to create one for teenagers.
Three entries from each category were shortlisted by the judging panel, which included local author and illustrator Shoo Rayner. Following the shortlisting a public poll via the council’s community hubs’ Facebook account drew over 600 votes and determined the winning designs. The winner of the junior competition was five year old Ariana McCarthy from Abergavenny while runners up were Gethin Griffiths (7) of Monmouth and Abigail Esbester (6) from Magor. Lucy Brady aged 13 from Caldicot won the teenage design section with Arwen Skinner ( 12) and Owen Hill, (15), both from Caldicot, runners up.
Prizes were donated by Friends of Abergavenny Library Service, Friends of Caldicot Library and Friends of Chepstow Library. Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for libraries and community hubs, Councillor Paul Jordan said: “It’s good to see such talented artists in the county and our grateful thanks are due to everyone who submitted a design. We are thrilled with our lovely new cards! I’d also like to thank the supporters of our library service who supplied prizes.”
For further information on the council’s community hubs and libraries log onto: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-libraries/

Community groups in the Chepstow area enjoyed a successful networking evening on Wednesday 6th March giving an opportunity to promote the positive work they carry out in the vicinity.
The event was organised by a steering group of local activists with support provided by Monmouthshire County Council’s Community and Partnership Development Team, the Bridges organisation and the Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations (GAVO), and featured individuals, groups, clubs and organisations like Age Cymru Gwent, Bulwark Community Centre, Chepstow Action for Youth, Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Debt Centre, the local rotary club and the University of the Third Age (U3A).

Held in Chepstow’s Community Hub, the evening offered those attending the ability to meet and learn from people with similar interests, to discover what useful and complementary activities are arranged in the locality and to find out more about free support available to volunteers. Also included were a series of masterclasses on holding community events as well as learning and development for volunteers, safeguarding and fundraising – all were well attended.

Twenty five local groups set out stalls within the hub and contributed to the event over the evening. Bulwark Community Centre’s volunteer-run Top Stop Coffee Shop provided tea with Chepstow’s Tesco store generously donating cakes.

Councillor Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for community development said: “People have been very complimentary about the evening with quite a few expressing how useful it was to connect with other groups working locally. The steering group is currently planning a similar event for communities around Chepstow in the early summer and we’ll look forward to another successful gathering.”

Events have been held across Monmouthshire to celebrate the achievements of the county’s women with Caldicot and Monmouth Comprehensive schools running special International Women’s Day occasions for girl students. A variety of speakers attended Caldicot School following a Facebook appeal asking local people to nominate women who inspire them – 101 comments were received with some amazing examples of the difference that women make in their communities every day.

Inspiring stories were shared and discussions held to help girls consider their future goals. Speakers included:

• Catherine Baker – local volunteer who makes a difference in her community as part of a Rogiet parkrun (Co-Event Director), Friends of Rogiet Countryside Park, Magor Rainbows, Magor and Undy Crime Prevention Panel and Magor CIW Primary PTFA. Catherine said: “My advice is to do the things that scare you. There will be so many hurdles in your life to overcome but you won’t succeed if you don’t try. I do something unpaid to benefit the community. No one can make you volunteer. If you embrace the idea of giving up time to help others I would recommend volunteering; you will learn new skills, increase confidence and expand your network. Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”

• Chloe-Beth Morgan-James is a Welsh beauty queen who won the Miss Wales 2008 contest and competed in the Miss World 2008 competition held in South Africa. Chloe shared that: “People who achieve things that they never thought they never could inspire me. People make a snap judgement about me. It’s helped shaped me as a person. Other girls need to support each other e.g. around period poverty. Being judged by other women and putting them down for achieving something. Always be kind as you never know the struggle the girl next to you might be going through and you never know when that girl might need to help you. Filter out negative energy and have a genuine, real group around you – to be there for your friends, your mum or your sister. Be kinder to each other and be kind to yourself. Don’t judge, don’t make snap comments and be kind.”

 Carol Bogue-Lloyd – VP of Europe Retail and Consumer Products who has been responsible for large Contact Centres and Customer Service Operations across the globe and brings over 30 years’ experience from the Utilities and IT Customer Contact Centres and Service Desks. Carol highlighted: “Nothing’s impossible – go for it. Learn and much as you can and enjoy what you’re doing with a smile. This has been a brilliant day and it’s been inspirational, we can take on the world.”

• Jayne Brown – who offers sports and fitness days to leisure centres and schools and works within the Health Care and Complementary Therapy sector. Jayne inspired everyone in the room explaining how: “You can do anything you like, you’re fabulous – we’re all equal. Work hard and ask questions. Push yourself and your friends and that’s how we can all succeed. If they are looking to set up their own business, link to Big Ideas Wales and register and we’ll send you the details. Any teacher or head teachers in schools, colleges and universities who’d like a role model to come in to speak to them should visit the Big Ideas Wales web pages.”

• Irene Cameron– who was awarded an MBE for Services to Education in 1995. Irene was appointed as a magistrate in 1981 and a Member of Young Offenders Tribunal. Irene was the chair of Newport Committee for Macmillan Cancer Support for many years and acted as a local councillor. Irene commented: “I like to get involved in things to make a difference, I have found today quite inspiring.”

• Eira Culverwell from Big Ideas Wales – runs a company called Resolveit who provides training and workshops in how to stay safe within the Defence and Security sector. Eira holds three black belts, a fourth Dan in Kyokushin Karate and runs a martial arts club in her spare time. Eira shared: “I was bullied in two schools and I wasn’t as confident as I am now. I hated going to school because every day was a complete nightmare. Your power is the only confidence you can have. Find something you’re passionate about and run it full pelt. Even when training as a black belt I refused to hit back in anger. I live, train and work. I study every day. If your idea is weird and you love it – run with it, it might make you money. Write down your goals, they’re really important; I write down my goals and I follow them”

• Maddison Davies – who holds four different black belts and was the youngest ever Team Wales Taekwondo member. Maddison’s career high so far was being a Commonwealth Games Bronze and an Olympic Qualifier Bronze. Within the next couple of years, Maddison hopes to make it to the Olympic Games and win gold. Maddison expressed: “I am inspired about being different to other girls like myself. I may be small, but the fight in me, the ability to dream, the desire, the passion and drive to push through adversity to push through hardship that doesn’t come with height or weight or gender – that comes with heart. As women, we survive and we may seem small but we are mighty.”

• Joanna Goodwin – ex-Caldicot School pupil and Head of Digital Practice at the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Joanna advised young people to: “Be a boat! You are a warship with all the guns and armour around you – don’t let any rubbish going around you make you sink. I’m inspired by people who challenge the norm and push to build things better and do things a bit differently.”

 Helen Kings – Managing Director at Touchstone, a UK-wide property management firm which specialises in the private rented sector and build to rent. Helen said: “The more you take yourself get out of your comfort zone, get involved, ask questions and be enthusiastic, the quicker you will grow. Get out, talk to people and try lots of different things.”

• Andrea Rodley – County Commissioner for Girl Guiding Gwent while being a full-time mum. Andrea said: “I want to give girls the opportunity to get out and experience fun, friendship and travel. Don’t be self-conscious. Just be joyous in everything that you do.”

• Eleri Rosier – a reader in Marketing and strategy at Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Eleri is a volunteer for Raglan Music Festival which takes place throughout the weekend of 7th/9th June. Eleri feels: “Inspired by people who push themselves completely out of their comfort zone and who achieve amazing things despite overcoming difficult obstacles. You can be whatever you want to be, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!”.

• Elaine Theaker – who runs her own law firm, Advantage Legal. Last year at the age of 54 Elaine rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in a tiny rowing boat and achieved two Guinness World Records. Elaine described how: “try it – you can astonish yourself. I’m proud of starting my own business from scratch. I’m delighted that the opportunity was there so I took it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – but by saying yes to opportunities that come along that opportunity might lead to something else. I finished my A levels not knowing that I wanted to do, I tried a job in law. Don’t ever turn something down as it might just be a life changing opportunity. There are no silly questions.”

At Monmouth Comprehensive seven inspirational guest speakers shared their career journey and success stories with girls from Years 9 and 10. Speakers ranged from a foreign diplomat to fire fighters.

Cllr Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member for Social Justice said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing from the amazing women in Monmouthshire today. I feel really proud to live in a county where people can achieve their goals whatever they might be – career, sport, volunteering – the list goes on. Some fantastic discussions were held today, with lots of advice for young people about how to plan for the future. Girls shared their views on how our communities can improve now and in the future. I hope that the young people who took part in the discussions today feel inspired to pursue their dreams – whatever they might be. I fully support this year’s International Women’s Day campaign which is committed to building a gender-balanced world. Everyone has a part to play.”

Monmouthshire County Council has purchased the freehold of the Newport Leisure Park on Spytty Road in Newport for £21m.  The 141,000 sq ft property includes a dominant 13-screen Cineworld cinema, xercise4less gym, Home Bargains superstore, Energi Adventure park and a range of restaurants such as McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Harvester. 

The large 11-acre site includes 705 free car spaces and links through to the Newport Retail Park and the Tesco Extra on the Eastern side of the city.  Large amounts of new housing are being developed in the surrounding area which is also close to the potential new route for the planned M4 link road. The Park is in a prime location in South Wales

The park has seen significant new investment in the past three years as well as many new tenants so that it is now fully let.

Alder King acted for Monmouthshire, and KLM and Cooke Arkwright acted for Otium on the transaction.

Paul Matthews, CEO of Monmouthshire County Council, said: “ We are pleased to have secured a well-let, long income asset that will provide an excellent annual return for the Council and help us to sustain our wider service delivery portfolio in the years ahead.  Newport Leisure Park serves a large catchment area in South Wales and taps into the long-term demand for experiential consumer spend and leisure activities. It is the latest addition to our commercial investment portfolio following our recent acquisition of Castle-gate Business and Science Park”

Ashley Blake, CEO of Otium Real Estate, said: “We have invested heavily into Newport Leisure Park since acquiring it in 2015.   Five new tenants have joined the offer, the park has been refurbished and existing tenants have enhanced their fit-outs.  We are delighted that Monmouthshire County Council has had the foresight to acquire this asset and that the South Wales area will continue to benefit from this long-term, secure investment following our work to regenerate the park. We have enjoyed the experience of working with Monmouthshire County Council and wish them well for the future.”

Our contact centre is experiencing a large number of calls due to queries relating to waste and recycling changes so waiting times are longer than usual; this is purely due to the volume of calls we are receiving.  If customers wish to hold on, their calls will be answered as soon as an operator becomes available – alternately, they can use My Monmouthshire to log queries or message Monty, Monmouthshire’s chat bot via the monmouthshire.gov.uk website or via Facebook messenger: @MonmouthshireCC.   We are doing our best to answer the queries as quickly as possible but waiting times can be as long as 20 to 30 minutes.  We thank you all for your patience at this extremely busy time.

Monmouthshire County Council has established a new partnership with three local game angling clubs to manage and control fishing on the Abergavenny Town Water. Merthyr Angling Alliance, Isca Anglers and the Gwent Angling Society have been successful in bidding to manage the stretch on the council’s behalf.

The clubs understand that management of the beat will focus on benefiting future generations and consequently all angling for youngsters under 17 holding a permit will be free of charge. They will also have to possess the relevant environmental fishing licence, currently free for children under 17 years.

New rules for the stretch have been agreed and the most significant is the fishery will work entirely on a catch and release basis for at least the next two years. This will establish and collate evidence of the existing wild trout and salmon populations.

The only methods of fishing permitted will be fly for trout and fly or lure fishing for salmon. Lure fishing for salmon will only be allowed with a single barbless hook to ensure the safe return of any fish caught.

Local and visiting anglers without membership of any of the three clubs can purchase permits to fish. Prices for annual, weekly and daily permits have been revised and reduced and are available at Keith Price Garage in Abergavenny. They will also be available shortly through the Wye and Usk Fishing Passport scheme www.fishingpassport.co.uk .

Development days for those interested in the sport will be arranged with coaching from licenced and qualified angling coaches and instructors.

Councillor Bryan Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for countryside services said: “I look forward to a long and successful partnership with the three clubs to benefit the management of this valuable stretch of one of the country’s finest waters.”

A new weekly Chatterbooks group for eight and nine year olds is starting in Abergavenny Library on Friday 8th March from 4pm to 5pm. At Chatterbooks sessions children can meet new friends while discovering and sharing a passion for reading as they talk about books and take part in games, craft activities and competitions. The sessions are free and all are welcome.

Chatterbooks is the UK’s largest network of children’s reading groups and has been created by national charity, The Reading Agency.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community hubs and libraries said: “Reading for pleasure is a very important factor in helping children achieve academic success and it opens their eyes to a whole wide world, not only in childhood but throughout life.”

Contact Abergavenny Library on 01873 735980 for more information.

As spring approaches, Monmouthshire’s grounds maintenance service will work to support the environment and provide a boost for wildlife by modifying mowing practices. Teams will mark open spaces with blue or white topped stakes to highlight areas likely to be suitable habitats which have been identified by council staff, residents or through the council’s partnerships with local groups. These include Bee Friendly Monmouthshire, Bees for Development and Gwent Wildlife Trust as part of the Nature Isn’t Neat project funded by the Vale of Usk Rural Development Plan for Wales

The work supports the National Pollinator Strategy and the council’s long-term objectives to improve the health of Monmouthshire’s natural environment, and includes a reduction in mowing frequency and an increase in mowing height. This approach will allow plants in grassland greater opportunity to flower, providing more food for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. The longer grass also provides homes for many other exciting forms of wildlife. In addition to these benefits, less frequent mowing allows grasses and associated plants to put down deeper roots making them more resilient to drought. Through deeper roots, grass also helps to open up the soil, allowing better absorption of water to reduce localised flooding. Longer grass also slows water run-off on slopes.

Areas identified will be mown in the autumn with grass clippings removed to reduce soil fertility, consequently enabling more indigenous wild flowers to flourish.

Monmouthshire’s residents can expect to see this approach adopted in a range of locations around the county, particularly around the edges of open spaces and around trees – edges are often the least disturbed and most bio-diverse. Trees can also benefit from changes below ground in the soil, improving conditions for their roots.

Councillor Bryan Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for landscapes and bio-diversity said: “Our new approach to mowing will create new habitats for pollinating insects and help increase their numbers throughout the county, while adding to the area’s natural beauty and promoting a wider range of flora and fauna. Such practices are key to ensuring our long-term sustainability.”

For more information visit: waste&streetservices@monmouthshire.gov.uk.

Monty, Monmouthshire County Council’s chatbot is the first local authority bot in Wales and among the first of Welsh language bots. Since Monty’s launch on 25th January thousands of customers have benefitted from speaking to him for answers to many of their questions about all things Monmouthshire. Residents can access Monty via monmouthshire.gov.uk or on Facebook messenger: @MonmouthshireCC
Monty is constantly evolving and learning how to answer residents’ frequently-asked questions with customers able to access information faster at any time, day or night. Customer service staff have seen improvements as relatively simple questions like reporting a missed bin collection can be resolved immediately by Monty to free staff to help people with far more complex needs – such as homelessness or adoption. Since the launch, Monty has been posed a range of queries involving school meals, snow day updates and garden waste to more complex questions around benefits and council tax queries.
Council Leader, Peter Fox said: “We’re really proud of Monty, who replies to everyone in Welsh or English to give people in Wales the choice when engaging with us digitally. I would encourage everyone to speak to Monty this St. David’s Day as the more replies and answers he learns, the faster we’re going to be able to provide people with the information they want, when they want it.
“We are constantly innovating in Monmouthshire and it has been wonderful working with our South Wales tech company partners, We Build Bots to expand our digital capability into machine learning and artificial intelligence. I would like to thank our colleagues who are working with Monty to ensure that responsiveness improves all the time.”
Paul Shepherd, CEO at We Build Bots added: “Monmouthshire County Council has a reputation for innovation so it was a natural choice when we were looking at councils to approach to discuss our AI and automation tools. The fact that we could flex our bilingual capabilities on this project was a bonus. We’re committed to helping local authorities all across the UK save time and money while delivering improved citizen experiences, and our work with Monmouthshire has been a precursor to a number of other projects in the sector.”

Pupils from across Monmouthshire took part in a competition to name the council’s new fleet of recycling vehicles with imaginative waste related names. Pupils and parents let their imagination run wild. The range of names were varied and the competition was extremely strong. The competition created a stir on the council’s social media channels, a number of residents stepped in with their favourite names too.

The overall winner ‘Sir Binwy’ was the idea Cameron Gilchrist a pupil from Cross Ash Primary School, Abergavenny. An additional prize was awarded to Trellech Primary School for submitting the most entries. Education and Awareness Officers Sue Parkinson and Paul Qualye visited both schools along with one of the new lorries on Friday 22nd February. Cameron and pupils from Trellech Primary were presented with a bundle of new books for their school library in recognition of their efforts.

Pupils at both schools had the opportunity to explore the lorries, which can collect 2000 bags of waste. It was a fascinating experience, pupils were eager to ask questions, find out more and learned vital facts about the lorries. Some pupils even got hands on and were keen to press the loading and compression buttons, and were fascinated by the lorries ability to open up and tip out bags of waste and recycling.

The new vehicles will be on the road from Monday 4th March. Look out for the following names:

Sir Binwy, O Bin-Wan-Kanobe, Rhys Seiclo, Binny McBin Face, Taclus Ted, Binnie The Pooh, Bin Terfel, Rob Bin Hood, Binderella, Mission Bin Possible, Bin a Long Day, Bin Around Town, Bin Diesel, Ter-Bin-Ator, Bindiana Jones, Gunge & Roses, Bin and Dunnit, Dumpledore, Nick Binit and Jonny Trash.

Cabinet Member for Operations Cllr Bryan Jones said:

“I was so pleased to see how many suggestions came in from local schools and the public. I am sure the names will make residents smile, they certainly made me chuckle.”

“I am so pleased with the response to recycling in Monmouthshire. The new fleet of lorries will enable more of our waste to be separated providing a better quality of recyclable materials.”

“The changes will result in new collection days for our residents I hope that they will continue to support our efforts and adapt to these changes.”

“Residents are urged not to worry about collection day changes, a letter will be sent in the post which will inform them of the changes.”

For more info about collection days please visit:  https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/  or ask the councils chat bot Monty by visiting https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/ or messaging the Monmouthshire Face book page.

***We’re pleased to say that our earlier IT server issues and systems problems have been rectified and you can now log reports on My Monmouthshire or take payments for garden waste registration at our community hubs or the contact centre.***

We apologise but due to IT server issues and a problem with our systems we are currently unable to log reports on My Monmouthshire or take payments for the garden waste registration at our community hubs or the contact centre. Our IT providers hope this will be rectified by 12noon today. Could you please try later once the systems are up and running and we will be happy to assist you.

Usk Community Hub will host a St David’s Day country market on Thursday 28th February as well as a story time session for children up to the age of eight. The market runs from 10am to 2pm and offers cakes, jam, preserves, flowers, bread, plants and knitted items. Tea, coffee and freshly-made Welsh cakes will also be on sale.
On the same day and starting at 10.30am, Dave the Balloon Guy will tell tales with a twist featuring unicorns and other subjects. Dave uses his skill to create animals from balloons to illustrate his stories, much to the delight of young children.
All are welcome to both free events.
For further information, email uskhub@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 01291 426888. Usk Community Hub is based at 35 Maryport Street, NP15 1AE where there are two free car parks nearby.

Schools and community groups across Monmouthshire are joining with the council to celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight between Monday, 25th February and Sunday, 10th March.
Events across the county will aim to encourage shoppers to buy more Fairtrade goods because farmers in developing countries deserve a fair deal – one that leads to them earning a living income. Local schools are holding special assemblies, bake sales and classwork with a Fairtrade theme and the public are invited to coffee mornings, sales and tasting sessions, all aimed at making people aware of the difference Fairtrade can make.
Fairtrade has done much to improve the lives of many, but it’s not enough or fast enough. Many farmers – both men and women – are underpaid and exploited. That means they can’t earn enough for the basics many of us take for granted, including food, education and housing.
A living income is a fundamental goal for Fairtrade, and nowhere is the need more clear than in the cocoa industry; hence cocoa is the theme for this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight. Europe is the world’s biggest importer of cocoa, yet a shocking 60% of all cocoa farmers live below the poverty line.

That’s why, starting this Fairtrade Fortnight, Monmouthshire’s communities can help.

Fairtrade is the only organisation to guarantee a safety net of a minimum price for farmers in times of global price decline plus a premium, an extra amount of money that goes directly to farmers to invest in business or projects of their choice in their own communities. Residents and visitors are invited to the county’s Fairtrade events organised over the fortnight and look for the Fairtrade Mark to enjoy a taste of chocolate indulgence and support a move towards a living income.

Councillor Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Justice & Community Development said: “Farmers get a better deal when they sell their crops on Fairtrade terms. This leads to a higher and more stable income and can help them break the cycle of poverty in which they’re trapped. Through Fairtrade, farmers can invest in better farming and earn more money, ensuring their children are fed and can go to school. Communities can invest in clean water and clinics, improving everyone’s health.”

Many events will be held in Monmouthshire over Fairtrade Fortnight;

Chepstow Town Centre
Fairtrade window displays in the town arch, Toytastik and Oxfam.

Monmouth Community Hub
Fairtrade display

Tuesday 19th February – Pembroke Primary School, Chepstow
Fairtrade assemblies and Fairtrade-themed persuasive writing

Friday 22nd February – Mayor’s Parlour, Shire Hall, Monmouth
Launch of Fairtrade coaster design competition for the Mayor’s Parlour, for local primary schools

Saturday 23rd February (10am to 12noon) – The Priory, Monmouth
Chocolate-themed coffee morning

Wednesday 27th February – Chepstow Community Hub
Fairtrade Stall

Saturday 2nd March – Abergavenny Oxfam, Frogmore Street
Fairtrade Food tasting

Saturday 2nd March (9.30am to 12.30pm) – Memorial Hall, Usk
Fairtrade stall at Usk Farmers Market

Tuesday 5th March at 9.15am – Raglan Primary School
Fairtrade assembly and Year Three chocolate-themed lesson

Tuesday 5th March at 10am – Little Tots, Trinity Hall, Baker Street, Abergavenny
Fairtrade themed fun

Tuesday 5th March from 12noon – Methodist Hall, Castle Street, Abergavenny
Fairtrade Pancake lunch and Fairtrade stall

Wednesday 6th March (10.30 to 12noon) – Llangybi Village Hall
Fairtrade stall

Thursday 7th March at 9.30am – Cross Ash Primary School
Fairtrade assembly

Thursday 7th March from 10.30am – Christ Church, North Street, Abergavenny
Fairtrade coffee morning

Thursday 7th March (12 – 2pm) – County Hall, Usk
Fairtrade sale

Saturday 9th March from 10am – Methodist Hall, Castle Street, Abergavenny
Fairtrade event with speakers, music, stalls and refreshments

Sunday 10th March – Chepstow Market
Fairtrade Stall

Other school activities
• Goytre Fawr Primary School – Fairtrade baking competition
• Ysgol y Fenni – Fairtrade assembly
• Magor Church in Wales Primary School – Fairtrade assembly
• Thornwell Primary School – Fairtrade assembly
• Osbaston Primary School – Coffee morning

High tides are due.  We will be monitoring the situation and if necessary, will arrange for the A466 through Tintern to be closed for short periods on the following dates and times:- 

Wednesday 20th February Between 8.10 – 8.40 (approx.) 

Wednesday 20th FebruaryBetween 20.35 – 21.05 (approx.) 

Thursday 21st February Between 8.55 – 9.25 (approx.) 

Thursday 21st February Between 21.20 – 21.50 (approx.) 

Friday 22nd February Between 9.40 – 10.10 (approx.) 

Friday 22nd February Between 22.00 – 22.30 (approx.) 

Saturday 23rd February Between 10.20 – 10.50 (approx.) 

The closure points will be as follows: 

North End closure: Trelleck Road junction. 

South End closure: Royal George junction. 

Closure times are estimated based on the forecasted tide times.  Natural Resources Wales will be monitoring the situation and issuing Flood Warnings as necessary.  Road closures will only be temporary and only when tidal water actually overflows onto the highway.  The road will reopen as soon as the water has receded from the highway.  

Monmouthshire County Council will take a significant step towards setting its budget for next year when Cabinet outlines a recommended budget at its meeting on 20th February, which will then be considered by full Council on 7th March. It has been a difficult process and we have been listening to feedback from residents about our initial proposals since 19th December 2018. As a result, there are some changes that will be put forward.

Cllr Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said:

“I would like to thank all of the people who have shared their feedback with us. We have listened to you. The proposed changes to the budget that we are considering are based on what you’ve told us matters to you. Monmouthshire receives the lowest funding per head of population of any local authority in Wales – since 2013/14 the council’s revenue support grant, the core funding received from central government, has reduced considerably. The largest reduction of any local authority in Wales – with such significant budget cuts listening to our residents is more important than ever. Our approach continues to be to change, improve and adapt our services rather than to close them down. We refuse to lose our ambition for the county although financial realities are restraining our abilities somewhat.”

‘The Council will receive £600k less in hard cash from Welsh Government next year than it received this year. Together with some £6 million of spending pressures identified through the budget process and £3.6 million of other pay and price increases we have had to find a savings package totalling some £10.2 million. £3.6 million will be found from cost reductions, £3.2 million from increases in income and £3.4 million from a Council Tax increase of 5.95%.’

Councillor Murphy added that the Cabinet’s strategy has been straightforward and is directly linked to the Councils approved Corporate Plan. Some of the major investments proposed by Cabinet are:To protect schools by fully funding all pay and pension increases at a cost of £1.9 million.

To recognise social care pressures; primarily around our ageing population and an increasing number of looked  after children at a cost of £1.2 million.

To honour all national pay awards and continue its position to set a Living wage in line with the Living Wage  Foundation.

To make available an additional £300,000 for Disabled Facility Grants to enable more people to live independently for longer.

To spend an additional £1.2 million on highways maintenance schemes.

To continue work on a new 3-18 school in Abergavenny.

To commence the build of Abergavenny community hub and complete the town centre refurbishment programme.

To make necessary provision to bring forward a replacement for Severn View residential home.

To make provision to push on with feasibility works on new transport infrastructure in and around Chepstow.

To deliver a new post office in Usk community hub.

To continue on with plans to regenerate the centre of Caldicot.

To set aside £100k to support high street traders through a business rates discretion over and above national levels.

Councillor Murphy went on to say that a range of service changes / cost reductions will go forward, albeit some key changes arising from listening to residents views will be:

·       Blue badge charges – The proposal to introduce parking charges for Blue Badge holders will not go ahead in Monmouthshire. Further, we will improve signage and enforcement for disabled car parking spaces. We will not consider the introduction of charges for the remainder of this Council term.

·       Car parking charges – some residents felt that Sunday car parking charges would deter people who pop to their local high street for a short visit on a Sunday. Consequently Cabinet will be recommending that the first two hours will be free with a single charge of one pound for the rest of the day.

Christmas parking – The council will continue to provide free car parking for another year for residents and visitors to the county.

·       Business rate relief scheme – Cabinet will recommend that further support will be given to businesses through a locally determined Business Rate Relief Scheme. The views of the business community will be taken on board in designing the scheme. More information about how businesses can apply for business rate relief will be shared in due course.  The Cabinet also intends to make an offer to Welsh Government to work with them to examine options for the longer term reform of local taxes and to make sure such a system is progressive, fair and transparent.

·       Monmouthshire Specific Learning Difficulties Service – Concerns were raised about two roles which were potentially going to be deleted within the specific learning difficulties service team which supports schools –  the council is committed to supporting all learners and as a result of the feedback shared these roles will now not be deleted.

Registration has begun for residents to sign up for Monmouthshire County Council’s seasonal garden waste collection and those wishing to use the service must purchase a permit.

One permit provides the weekly collection of the contents of one brown garden waste bag which costs £18 per season with no restriction on the number residents can purchase. Garden waste will only be collected if a permit is visible on the bag.

Weekly garden waste collections begin on Monday 4th March and end on Friday 29th November 2019 – no collections will take place from Monday 2nd December 2019 to 28th February 2020. Residents are urged to register now before March 4th to receive your permit in time for the first collection.

Purchasing a permit is simple and residents are able to register in a variety of ways:

•             Monmouthshire website: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/garden-waste

•             The ‘My Monmouthshire’ app

•             Visit a Community Hub.

•             Phone: 01633 644705 (Monday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm and Friday from 9am to 4:30pm).

Once registered, residents must allow up to 14 days to receive a permit. Last year’s customers will receive a letter reminding them to renew their registration soon.

Cllr Bryan Jones Cabinet member for Waste and Recycling said:

‘I urge residents who require garden waste collections to apply for a permit today! Those who have purchased permits in the past need to reapply using the many available ways to get in touch. I hope residents who are new to the service will be satisfied with the high standard we provide in Monmouthshire.’

Feedback on the service is important, residents are encouraged to have their say via an online survey on the garden waste service which aims to find out what residents would like from the service in the future. To complete the survey visit:

www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/garden-waste

Free start-up workshops, hosted by Business Wales, the Welsh Government’s flagship business support service, are taking place to help and support people in Monmouthshire who are considering starting or running their own business.

The start-up workshops cover a variety of topics, including developing a business idea, sourcing finance, business planning, pricing and marketing, and will take place between 9.15am and 4pm on Wednesday, 27th February in Abergavenny’s Youth Centre (Old Hereford Road) and in the Bridges Centre in Monmouth on Thursday, 21st March.

The courses aim to aid budding entrepreneurs to take the plunge and decide whether self-employment is for them. All workshops are designed and delivered by experienced Business Wales advisers and provide an opportunity to ask questions and network with like-minded people.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Cabinet Member for Enterprise at Monmouthshire County Council said: “The council is keen to support and encourage business growth and job creation.  We’re delighted to recommend these helpful workshops to anyone aiming to start their own business in the county.”

Melanie Phipps, Business Adviser at Business Wales, said: “Our role as business advisers is to share experience, provide practical advice, support and knowledge to instil confidence among people at the start of their business journey.

“Our fully-funded workshops provide a great starting point for all attendees who want to gain an understanding of the key principles and practical skills required to start and run their own business, so I would encourage everyone in Monmouthshire who is considering self-employment, to come along.”

For more information on venues and to book places, visit https://wales.business-events.org.uk/, email southwales@businesswales.org.uk or call 01656 868500.

  • Business Wales, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, supports the sustainable growth of small and medium size enterprises across the country by offering access to information, guidance and business support.  To find out how Business Wales can help start or develop your business, call 03000 6 03000, follow @_businesswales or @_busnescymru or visit www.businesswales.gov.wales/ or www.busnescymru.llyw.cymru/ for further information.

Monmouth celebrated a red letter day on Monday, 11th February with the launch of the local leisure centre’s eagerly-awaited swimming pool and health spa.  The new facilities set high standards for leisure provision in the county and beyond, offering an ideal opportunity for users of all ages to relax and have fun as well as achieve their fitness goals.

The leisure centre – now known as Monmouth’s Premier Leisure Facility – closed for refurbishment in November 2017 but re-opened last August to offer a large gym, spin studio, toning suite, spacious changing rooms, a children’s play centre, open plan café and a multi-purpose room for parties and meetings as well as relaxation areas, all featuring the latest market-leading equipment.

Meanwhile, the council has worked tirelessly to unveil the second phase of the £7.4m refurbishment with a brand new, state of the art five lane 25 metres swimming pool, beauty treatment rooms and a health spa.

The original pool was only 20 metres long so the new facility will present improved options for bathers.  The first to dip his toe in the water was Jim Saunders of Coleford who was invited as the last person to swim in the original pool.  Jim is a very keen swimmer and looks forward to visiting on a regular basis.

The health spa features a jacuzzi, sauna and steam room while the treatment rooms offer the highest quality facials, manicures, pedicures and massage provided by a team of three headed by beauty therapist Vicki Goodway. 

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for leisure, Councillor Bob Greenland said: “It’s a very great pleasure and privilege to celebrate a successful project three years in the making.  At a time when other councils were closing leisure centres, we committed to this new modern facility and we now see the fulfilment of our promise to the people of Monmouth and the surrounding areas.  Members of the leisure centre’s staff have demonstrated faith in a time of uncertainty but they can now look forward to a bright future.  I’d also like to recognise the contribution of development specialist Alliance Leisure which has supported the council throughout the project and the ISG construction services company for its wonderful work here in Monmouth.”

Councillor Greenland promised a formal opening of the refurbished leisure centre later in the summer after work had been completed in the adjacent comprehensive school.

Monmouth’s Premier Leisure Facility manager Nick Butler added: “We’ve been delighted with the number of people visiting here today and it’s great to hear such positive comments.”

For more information on Monmouth’s Premier Leisure Facility log onto: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/things-to-do/monleisure/monmouth-leisure-centre

Caldicot Community Hub welcomes residents to join a new shared reading session called ‘Book Cwtch’ every Friday at 2.30pm. 

Book Cwtch is a shared reading session that enables people to listen to stories and poems being read aloud.

Shared reading can improve mental health and wellbeing. The sessions are an opportunity for people to make new friends and listen to stories and poems read aloud by the leader of the group. The stories and poems can ignite imaginations and provide a space to reflect.

Cllr Paul Jordan Cabinet Member for Community Hubs said:

‘Our hubs have many things on offer and can provide residents with opportunities to try something new. I encourage everyone to visit their local hub, go along to a shared reading session or just pop in and see what it’s all about. The beauty of our hubs is that they are at the centre of the community and are there to help everyone.’

If you are interested in finding out more please contact Caldicot Community Hub on 01291 426425 or email CaldicotCommunityHub@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Come along to Time to Talk day at Usk Hub on Thursday 7th February 9.00am – 12.00pm for a cup of tea and a chat. Time to Talk Day is a national initiative and aims to encourage people of all ages to take time to stop and talk to someone to maintain positive mental health.

 

Justine Jamieson and Lynn Green from the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board Primary Care Mental Health Team will be at the Hub to offer help and advice. The team can help people can access services to help treat and manage mild to moderate mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, stress and other mental health issues.

This year the focus of the campaign raising awareness of the importance of sitting down with a cup of tea to and have a conversation. Residents are welcome to pop in to the hub and find out about the full range of support services on offer in Monmouthshire to help maintain positive mental health and wellbeing.

Contact with people is especially important in overcoming issues such as social isolation. Usk hub is a haven for residents who need a chat and a smile from a friendly face.

Cabinet Member for Social Justice Cllr Sara Jones said:

‘I encourage residents to take time out and visit the Primary Care Mental Health Team at Usk Hub. It is so important to make time in the day to stop and chat and at the same time get some help and advice.’

For more information contact Usk Hub email uskhub@monmouthshire.gov.uk telephone 01291 426888.
Usk Community Hub is based at 35 Maryport Street, NP15 1AE where there are two free car parks nearby.
For more information about Time to Talk visit: https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved

 

Usk Community Hub will feature a Meet the Author event on Thursday 7th February.

Local writer Cath Barton will read from her recently published work “The Plankton Collector” at 10.30am, explaining how she came to write the book and answering questions about her writing.  Tea and coffee will be available as well as a book signing session.

The Plankton Collector, described as “haunting and atmospheric”, tells of a family flung apart from one another in grief.  They are visited in turn by the mysterious plankton collector who appears in different guises – to one he is a gardener, to another he’s an old friend.  This is a fable about loss, memory and, in the end, hope.

Cath Barton has lived in Abergavenny since 2005 and is now completing a collection of short stories inspired by Dutch artist Hieronymous Bosch as well as working on a novel set in Kathmandu following a major earthquake.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community hubs, Councillor Paul Jordan said: “We welcome all to Cath Barton’s talk which promises to be a fascinating occasion.  Our community hubs offer similar occasions throughout the year and they are all well worth attending.”

For further information, email uskhub@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 01291 426888.  Usk Community Hub is based at 35 Maryport Street, NP15 1AE where there are two free car parks nearby.

Monmouthshire County Council welcomed residents to ‘Love Digital’ on Friday, 25th January – St Dwynwen’s Day, the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day – with the launch of Monty, Monmouthshire’s brand new chatbot which is available 24/7 on Monmouthshire’s website – monmouthshire.gov.uk – and via its Facebook messenger service – @MonmouthshireCC. Monty is the first local authority chatbot in Wales and will enhance Monmouthshire County Council’s digital experience.

The bot, named Monty by local people following a competition at Usk Show and via social media – who thankfully avoided the now ubiquitous moniker Botty McBotface – uses artificial intelligence and learns about the questions people ask most often to develop quicker and better responses, releasing council staff to support vulnerable people and those with more complex queries.

The council’s community hubs welcomed residents to pop in and enjoy a St Dwynwen’s Day tea and technology chat. Sessions took place in Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth with support provided for people looking to get online for the first time and learn more about digital technology. There was also an opportunity to understand the range of different ways people can contact the council including Monty, the My Monmouthshire app, the Monmouthshire website and also how to access online library resources.

People looking to find out about Monmouthshire’s beautiful countryside and attractions can see www.visitmonmouthshire.com where various events across the county are featured. In addition, blue badge holders can find out more about the new online system introduced to cut blue badge application time. The new service means applicants can complete the entire process online – details can be found at gov.uk/apply-blue-badge

Council Leader, Peter Fox said: “We’re really proud to be the first county council in Wales to have launched a chatbot. This St Dwynwen’s Day we helped people learn more about digital technology and meet Monty. The more people who start to Love Digital, the more can get the answers they require more quickly and as easily as possible. And what better day to share the digital love than on St Dwynwen’s Day.”

Monmouthshire County Council is proposing changes to its schools admission arrangements and has launched a public consultation programme with a deadline for responses of Friday, 1st March.  Feedback from the consultation will help to determine the criteria for which applicants are awarded places to their preferred school when demand exceeds capacity.

If agreed, the proposals will affect all the county’s schools and any changes will be effective from the start of the 2020/21 academic year.

Anyone wishing to respond to the council’s proposals may complete the council’s consultation questionnaire, which is available on its website – https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/admissionconsultation – or attend one of the consultation meetings the council has organised in February:

Caldicot Cluster

Thursday, 7th February at 6pm – Durand Primary School

Chepstow Cluster

Thursday, 14th February at 6pm – Chepstow School

Abergavenny Cluster

Monday, 11th February at 6pm – Cantref Primary School

Monmouth Cluster

Thursday, 21st February at 6pm – Overmonnow Primary School

All areas daytime drop-in sessions

Wednesday, 6th February from 9.30am to 11.30am – Innovation House, Magor

Friday, 22nd February from 9.30am to 11.30am – County Hall, Usk

In accordance with the School Admissions Code Wales (July 2013), local authorities must consult annually on the admission arrangements for those schools for which it is the admissions authority.  Where changes to existing arrangements are proposed, consultation must be undertaken with those likely to be affected by the proposals.

The consultation report will be published by Wednesday, 27th March and Monmouthshire’s cabinet will consider the results of consultation and agree how to proceed at its meeting on Wednesday, 3rd April.

Councillor Richard John, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Children and Young People said: “There are a number of schools in Monmouthshire which are often oversubscribed and places need to be allocated in a priority order.  Through this consultation, we want to hear from residents about what that priority order should be and the weight given to siblings, applications from out of catchment and distance from home to school.  We need to keep class sizes to strict limits and that means schools can’t always accommodate parents’ first preference.  I would urge as many people as possible to tell us what they think about how we should prioritise the allocation of primary and secondary school places.”

Residents with questions on the proposals should email the council’s Access Unit – accesstolearning@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 01633 644508.

Monmouthshire County Council is proposing changes to its secondary school catchment areas and has launched a public consultation programme with a deadline for responses of Friday, 1st March.  If agreed, the proposals will affect primary school pupils living in four areas of the county – Goetre, Trelech, Usk and Llandogo – and any changes will be effective from the start of the 2020/21 academic year.

Anyone wishing to respond to the council’s proposals may complete the council’s consultation questionnaire, which is available on its website – www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/catchmentconsultation – or attend one of the consultation meetings the council has organised in February:

Goetre and surrounding areas

Tuesday, 5th February at 6pm – Goytre Fawr Primary School

Trelech and surrounding area

Tuesday, 12th February at 6pm – Trelech Primary School

Llandogo and surrounding area

Monday, 18th February at 6pm – Llandogo Primary School

Usk and surrounding area

Wednesday, 20th February at 6pm – Usk Church in Wales Primary School

All areas daytime drop-in session

Thursday, 14th February from 9.30am to 11.30am – County Hall, Usk

In accordance with The School Admissions Code Wales (July 2013), local authorities must consult on admission arrangements for those schools for which it is the admissions authority.  Where changes to existing arrangements are proposed, including school catchment areas, consultation must be undertaken with those likely to be affected by the proposals.

Councillor Richard John, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Children and Young People said “Making a secondary school preference is a really important and emotive decision for parents.  Secondary school catchment areas have been largely unchanged since 1996 and there are a number of anomalies.  The changes we’re proposing mean that as far as possible, primary and secondary school catchment areas will align meaning peer groups formed in primary school may be less likely to be split up on transition to secondary school.  I hope that as many residents as possible will contribute to this consultation by writing or emailing in or attending our public meetings, so we can make an informed decision so catchment areas are fit for the future.”

The consultation report will be published by Wednesday, 27th March and Monmouthshire’s cabinet will consider the results of consultation and agree how to proceed at its meeting on Wednesday, 3rd April.

Residents with questions on the proposals should email the council’s Access Unit – accesstolearning@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 01633 644508.

Three of Monmouthshire’s community hubs raised money for a good cause while bringing the community together by supporting The Samaritans’ Brew Monday campaign with fundraising events on Monday 21st January.

Usk Community Hub’s activities included a pop-up shop offering tea, coffee and cake as well as a performance from the Usk Singing Group.  In addition, the Usk-based Gwent Therapy Centre offered free ten minute Indian head massage sessions.  Similar events held at Chepstow and Monmouth featured tea and cakes, shared reading board games, colouring and a Knit and Natter group.

Brew Monday is offered as an antidote to “Blue Monday” – the third Monday in January – which is claimed to be one of the most difficult days of the year in the northern hemisphere as post-Christmas financial pressures coincide with dark, gloomy days and low motivational levels.  But The Samaritans say this doesn’t have to be the case and they invited communities to beat the January blues by gathering with friends, family or colleagues over a brew to raise vital funds.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for the council’s community hubs said: “We’re delighted to support The Samaritans in carrying out such valuable work.  Over the last 64 years, the charity’s volunteers have helped save countless lives, but as demand for services grows, they need support now more than ever.  Money raised will help keep Samaritans phone lines open and volunteers supporting people in need.”

Community Hub Manager Richard Drinkwater added: “It’s Brew Monday, not Blue Monday here in Monmouthshire.  We’re taking the time for a cuppa in our community hubs to support the Samaritans.”

Monmouthshire County Council will be holding two public evening meetings to enable residents to find out more about the budget proposals for 2019/20. The meetings are addition to the four Area Committee meetings and Access for All meeting.

Residents are welcome to attend King Henry VIII School on Tuesday 29th January 6.30pm – 7.30pm and Chepstow Hub on Wednesday 30th January 6.30pm – 7.30pm.

In previous years attendance at evening meetings has been very low and so the decision was made to not hold evening meetings. The council has listened to residents thoughts and added additional public meetings.

It is hoped that the meetings will bring more people into the engagement process and enable those who are not able to come along to the Area Committee meetings which take place in the daytime to be involved and have their voice heard.

Cllr Phil Murphy Cabinet Member for Finance said:

‘I hope that residents take advantage of the evening meetings. I welcome feedback and hope that the new meeting times encourage more people to get involved.’

For more information visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2019-2020  for dates of Area Committee Meetings and an opportunity to complete an online survey.

A community engagement event in Monmouth at the end of this month will aim to bring residents and local groups together to build new relationships and strengthen existing networks to benefit the town and local area.  Organised on behalf of the local community it will take place from 4:30pm to 8pm on Thursday, 31st January in Monmouth Comprehensive School and will include funding bodies, voluntary and third-sector organisations, communities and statutory bodies. It follows the success of a similar occasion in Abergavenny last summer.

 The event will raise awareness of the excellent support – including advice, guidance, funding, and training opportunities – offered to volunteers and community groups while introducing organisations seeking funding to those providing it.  It will also provide an opportunity to thank individuals for the area’s impressive volunteer-based activity.

In addition, the meeting will identify members of a core steering group to produce and deliver a Vision for Monmouth plan to support community initiatives.

Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for community development, Councillor Sara Jones said: “We’re aiming for an informal gathering and welcome the participation of anyone who lives or works in the area with its best interests at heart.  We want to get as many together as possible, knowing that through talking to each other, great ideas can result.”

Anyone wishing to attend can reserve a place by visiting www.eventbrite.com/e/be-community-networking-event-monmouth-tickets-53995241220 though organisers will also welcome those arriving on the evening.

For further information contact Monmouthshire County Council’s Communities and Partnership Development Officer, Joe Skidmore – JoeSkidmore@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Three of Monmouthshire’s community hubs will support The Samaritans’ Brew Monday campaign with fundraising events on Monday 21st January.

Usk Community Hub’s activities to raise money include a pop-up shop offering tea, coffee and cake between 12.30pm and 3pm as well as a performance from the Usk Singing Group at 12.30pm.  In addition, the Usk-based Gwent Therapy Centre will offer free ten minute Indian head massage sessions between 1pm and 3pm.

Similar events will be held at Chepstow Community Hub from 10am to 12noon with tea and cakes, shared reading and board games. Monmouth Community Hub is holding its event from 12noon to 3pm featuring activities like films, colouring and the Knit and Natter group.

Brew Monday is offered as an antidote to “Blue Monday” – the third Monday in January – which is claimed to be one of the most difficult days of the year in the northern hemisphere as post-Christmas financial pressures coincide with dark, gloomy days and low motivational levels.  But The Samaritans say this doesn’t have to be the case and they invite the community to beat the January blues by gathering with friends, family or colleagues over a brew to raise vital funds.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for the council’s community hubs said: “We’re delighted to support The Samaritans in carrying out such valuable work.  Over the last 64 years, the charity’s volunteers have helped save countless lives, but as demand for services grows, they need support now more than ever.  Money raised will help keep Samaritans phone lines open and volunteers supporting people in need.”

 Chepstow Community Hub will commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day with an event at 7pm on Thursday 24th January to remember the millions killed under Nazi persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.  All are welcome to attend.

This year’s theme, “Torn from home” focuses on how the enforced loss of a safe place to call home is part of the trauma those experiencing persecution and genocide will face.

During the event a Holocaust survivor will witness the lighting of a candle while Chepstow School pupils will talk about their visit to the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Berlin.  In addition, there will be a film clip from the Holocaust Memorial Day website of a survivor talking about her experience of participation in the Kindertransport humanitarian rescue programme.

A short presentation from local refugee support charity iNEED will bring the event up-to-date.

County Councillor Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for equalities said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is about promoting equality, respect and understanding and is a time for us to reflect, to remember the victims of persecution and murder and to learn from the past to build a better future.”

For more information about Holocaust Memorial Day visit the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust web site http://www.hmd.org.uk

Monmouthshire’s community education service has organised a number of wedding workshops for those about to tie the knot or interested in learning a new craft.

The workshops are a new venture for the council and will take place over three weekends in February at the Usk Community Hub.  Six sessions will offer the ability to fashion a bridal tiara, create wedding invitations and design button holes as well as learn other skills to enhance the big day.

The workshops are as follows:

 

Saturday, 2nd February

9.30am to 12.30pm – Design and make a bridal tiara: £15 plus materials

1.30pm to 4.30pm – Bridal hand tie and button hole: £55 including materials

Saturday, 9th February

9.30am to 12.30pm – Sew your own bridal garter: £15 plus materials

1.30pm to 4.30pm – Wedding cupcake decorations: £15 plus materials

Saturday, 16th February

9.30am to 12.30pm – Wedding invitations/favour boxes: £15 plus materials

1.30pm to 4.30pm – Wedding scrapbooking: £15 plus materials

 

Booking is essential; email – uskhub@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 01291 426888.  Usk Community Hub is based at 35 Maryport Street, NP15 1AE where there are two free car parks nearby.

 

In coming week’s residents across Monmouthshire will receive a new glass recycling box Following the successful glass recycling trial of over 6,500 properties in 2016, households across Monmouthshire will soon receive a new recycling box for their glass bottles and jars.  The glass recycling boxes will be collected fortnightly. From March 4th glass will no longer be accepted in recycling bags. Separating the glass into boxes will improve the quality and value of all recycling in the county.

For the majority of households, the glass boxes will be collected at the same time as household waste this is due to new vehicles which have a separate compartment for glass. Residents in rural areas will have their glass collected on smaller vehicles that can easily navigate the country lanes.

For some residents living in flats and sheltered housing, a communal wheeled bin may be provided for convenience. For elderly and disabled residents, boxes with handles can be provided for ease of carrying.

Monmouthshire’s glass will be sent to a reprocessing plant in Cwmbran then transported to be recycled into fibre glass, new glass bottles and concrete products.

Red and purple bags recycling will continue to be collected weekly.  Food waste will also continue to be collected weekly. For most households, food waste and recycling will be collected at the same time but on new vehicles with separate compartments. Rural areas are likely to be serviced by smaller vehicles.

The new vehicles with separate compartments for materials will deliver better quality recycling and greater overall efficiencies. Collecting materials differently means that collection days will change from March 4th.

The first of two information leaflets, will be delivered with the new glass recycling box in the coming weeks and will contain an overview of the many ways residents can recycle.

The second information leaflet will contain details of the new collection days. Letters will be individually addressed and sent to households across the county.

Cllr Bryan Jones Cabinet Member for Operations said:

‘The new glass boxes will enable glass to be recycled over and over again and saves the planet’s finite resources.  Residents have always risen to the challenge of increasing recycling when we introduce new services, and we are confident they will do so again. I hope that residents continue to recycle and embrace the changes ahead.’

The boxes and leaflet will be delivered throughout January and into early February. Residents are welcomed to contact the council if a box has not been received by 15th February via the My Monmouthshire App, visit a community hub or call 01633 644644.

 

 

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Monmouthshire County Council’s area committees are due to meet this month to consider budget consultation and speed management as well as other crucial items.  Members of the public are encouraged to attend area committees and they are given the opportunity to discuss matters of interest.

The Central Monmouthshire Area Committee has brought its meeting forward by two weeks to allow discussion on budget consultation and will now be held at 10am on Wednesday 30th January in County Hall’s Conference Room in Usk.

The North Monmouthshire Area Committee will meet at 1pm on Wednesday 30th January at Abergavenny Town Hall rather than Llanfoist Village Hall as additional members of the public are likely to attend for the council’s budget consultation.

The Severnside Area Committee will meet at Magor’s Innovation House within the Wales 1 Business Park at 1pm on Wednesday 23rd January.  This is a change from the previously advertised time.

Meanwhile, the Lower Wye Area Committee will gather as advertised at 10am on Wednesday 23rd January in Chepstow Leisure Centre.

The four area committees are chaired by Councillor Mat Feakins (Central Monmouthshire), Councillor Maureen Powell (North Monmouthshire), Councillor David Evans (Severnside) and Councillor David Dovey (Lower Wye).  In a joint statement they said: “We warmly invite the county’s communities to attend the council’s area committees every three months and raise awareness of local issues while receiving important information as well as providing councillors with valuable feedback.”

The agenda for each committee features on Monmouthshire County Council’s website a week before they are due to take place.  Visit: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/home/democracy-councillors for further information.

 

 

 Monmouthshire County Council is to hold a series of events to receive feedback that will inform and change the way it provides services for people living with dementia.

The Have Your Say on Dementia Day events are intended to gather information about the experiences of people with dementia, their carers, friends, families and the experiences of people working in the field.  Members of the public and professionals will be welcome to attend and an emphasis will be placed on creating new and innovative projects.

The events will be held as follows:

  • Wednesday 16th January: Bulwark Community Centre, Chepstow – 10am to 12noon
  • Tuesday 22nd January: Caldicot Town Offices, Caldicot, – 2pm to 4pm
  • Wednesday 23rd January: Bridges Centre, Monmouth – 10am to 12noon
  • Wednesday 13th February: Maryport Centre, Usk – 10am to 12noon

Councillor Penny Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for social care, safeguarding and health said: “The Have Your Say on Dementia Day events aim to be fun and interactive occasions allowing a wide range of people to express their thoughts and opinions.  We look forward to people helping us shape the future of our services to people living with dementia.”

For further information contact Fred Weston (Chepstow and Caldicot areas) on 07890 559566 or Ashley Morgan (Abergavenny, Usk and Monmouth areas) on 07971 160455.

Monmouthshire County Council will be hosting a special Budget Access for All Forum on Friday 25th January 10.30am – 12.30pm at The Memorial Hall Usk.

The forum will focus on the Monmouthshire County Council budget proposals affecting vulnerable residents. At the event people with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities and older people from across Monmouthshire will hear from council officers about the budget proposals and will provide an opportunity to ask questions.

The Forum is a valuable platform to enable residents to have their voice heard, receive information and contribute to consultation and engagement processes.

The Access for All forum is supported and coordinated by Tony Crowhurst. Tony is an advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities. Future Access for All meetings will focus on a variety of themes that are important to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and will include money, housing, health and young disabled people.

Everyone is welcome including individuals and groups who have previously attended Access for All Forums.

The day will begin at 10.30am and include refreshments, free transport is also available. Parking is available at the venue; Usk Memorial Hall, South Car Park, Maryport St, Usk NP15 1AD.

Cllr Sara Jones Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Equalities said:

‘The event will provide an opportunity for our most vulnerable residents to have their voices heard, share ideas and suggestions whilst becoming informed about things that affect them. If residents are not able to come along more information can be found on the council website where a survey is available to post thoughts.’

For transport contact Rhian Cook by Friday18th January 2019 email: rhiancook@monmouthshire.gov.uk or call 01633 644364.

For more information about budget proposals visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2019-2020

Monmouthshire County Council will hold a series of drop-in events in the New Year so that people interested in fostering can chat about the options available. January is a time for New Year’s resolutions and fresh starts so the council is urging people considering fostering to contact them because children and young people in Monmouthshire need homes today.

The events will be held in Monmouth’s Shire Hall on Thursday 10th January, the Angel Hotel in Abergavenny on Thursday 17th January and the St Pierre Marriot Hotel near Chepstow on Thursday 24th January. Each event will run from 10am to 12noon with a further session from 6pm to 8pm.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for its fostering service, Councillor Penny Jones said: “If you’ve previously considered fostering please come to talk to us – you won’t regret it. Monmouthshire County Council offers excellent training and support for foster carers and it really is so rewarding. This could be the year that you transform a child or young person’s life.”

Text the word “Foster” to 84222 or visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/fostering for further information.

It is my great pleasure as Monmouthshire’s Chairman to wish the county’s communities a very happy New Year. I hope you all enjoyed the Christmas festivities.

My term of office enters its second half with my wife Jan and I reflecting on an extremely busy, interesting and delightful time. We have attended many functions over the past eight months – some poignant and some paying tribute to unstinting service – and it’s a great honour and a pleasure to represent the county in this way.

As we’ve travelled around Monmouthshire talking to schools, businesses and other organisations we’ve been left with an impression that the county’s communities are blessed with resilience. They have a positive outlook and wish to get on with their lives, willing to lend a hand where needed. Examples of this are the fantastic work that volunteers carry out as they link with the council to benefit the county’s communities and the wonderful participation of our residents to ensure that our waste and recycling service is among the best in Wales.

Among the ceremonies we’ve attended have been the official opening of Caldicot’s state of the art secondary school, the launch of a sensory garden at Chepstow’s Severn View Residential Home and an event where we recognised the priceless contribution made by the county’s foster carers.

It was with great joy that we attended the ceremony renaming the Second Severn Crossing as Y Bont Tywysog Cymru/The Prince of Wales Bridge and meet Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall. I hope that the recent abolition of tolls on both Severn bridges will have a positive effect on Monmouthshire’s economy and culture, drawing people together from both sides of the estuary.

The role of the armed forces has featured prominently in a year when we marked one hundred years since the Great War. We represented the county at a number of moving remembrance ceremonies in November and welcomed RAF personnel to County Hall in May to celebrate the founding of the service in 1918. I was delighted to pay a visit to HMS Monmouth on the south coast five months ago and look forward to reciprocating when we entertain members of the crew at County Hall in the spring.

My chosen charity during my year of office is Gwent Music which is at the heart of music making in South Wales and a flagship music service in the UK. We were very pleased to attend a prestigious occasion when the Gwent Youth Wind Orchestra performed at the Royal Albert Hall in October. In addition, Gwent Music entertained throughout the day at the council’s pavilion in Usk Show last September. I hope that funds raised during my year of office (which ends in May) will benefit the service, enabling it to continue its good work.

As 2019 unfolds, I ask you to recognise and cherish the invaluable duties undertaken by those who serve us, protect us and care for our vulnerable residents. May we also witness solutions to the many conflicts across the world.
Finally, I hope you look forward to the New Year and I bring best wishes for good health and prosperity in the coming twelve months.

Free drop-in surgeries hosted by the Development Bank of Wales, Business Wales and Monmouthshire County Council next month will aim to help entrepreneurs and owners of firms discover more about funding for growth.

The Grow your Business drop-in surgeries will be held in Caldicot on Tuesday 22nd January from 9am to 5pm with thirty minute appointment slots available on a one-to-one basis. Micro loan investment executive Tara Lee-Fox will be present at the town’s Castle Gate Business Park (NP26 5AD) to discuss the range of funding available.

Ms Lee-Fox said: “We help businesses to grow by providing flexible loans that are quick and simple to access and this funding can be used to finance the purchasing of much needed stock, plant, equipment or premises. It could also support cash flow for the purchase of another business.

“By working in partnership with Monmouthshire County Council and Business Wales, we are able to provide loans from £1,000 to £50,000 for local businesses. In fact, if you’re an established business looking for a loan up to £10,000 we can give you a decision in just two working days.

“We’re keen to talk to as many local business owners and managers as possible so please do come along to our drop in surgeries.”

To book a 30 minute slot businesses should email Tara.Lee-Fox@developmentbank.wales by Monday 14th January.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Cabinet Member for Enterprise at Monmouthshire County Council added: “We’re keen to support and encourage business growth and job creation. We’re delighted to recommend these helpful workshops to anyone hoping to boost their own business.”

Support over 18 months from Caldicot Leisure Centre and Monmouthshire’s Sports Development team has enabled a local club to grow and promote a night of outstanding boxing. St Joseph’s Caldicot Amateur Boxing Club recently organised its very first show before 350 spectators at the leisure centre with 16 bouts featuring contestants of all ages, demonstrating their skills and knowledge. The host club was represented in eight matches and faced opponents from as far as Birmingham.

Among those taking to the ring was 16 year old Scott Marchant making his debut for St Josephs. Even though his bout against Tyler Evans of Gilfach Goch was ended early by the doctor, Scott loved every minute. He said: “This was the best boxing show I’ve ever been to and it’s even better that I got into the ring. I’ve been boxing at Caldicot for a year and it’s the best decision I’ve made. I’m not embarrassed to say that without this club, I would probably be in a lot of trouble by now. I suppose I just got bored and was always looking for something to do – and not all of my choices were good ones. Boxing makes me focussed and wanting to better myself. I’m buzzing for the next one – I’m going to train harder and faster.”

Martin Lewis, the club’s founder and coach, couldn’t have been happier with the evening. He commented: “Even though we didn’t get all the decisions we wanted, a lot of lads represented us for the first time and we’re proud of everyone’s performance and the way they work in the gym. We have a great set up and a friendly atmosphere – it’s a brilliant place for these kids to spend their time. The show was incredible and it certainly didn’t feel very amateur! The professional organisation meant that the boys had to step up to the plate. I can’t wait for the next one.”

Nathan Thomas of Monmouthshire’s Sport Development team added: “We’ve supported the club since it first started and it’s come a long way in that time. Martin and his team have done an incredible job motivating local young people to take up boxing. The show was outstanding and it was really was an impressive joint effort between the club, our team and the leisure centre. We’re looking forward to more of the same!”

Funding from a local supermarket’s token scheme has contributed towards a much-needed facility at Mounton House School after customers at Chepstow’s Tesco store raised £4,000 for a new therapy and sensory room. This generous move will benefit pupils’ needs, especially their well-being.
In addition, the school has taken advantage of Tesco’s food share project giving organisations the opportunity to receive produce from the supermarket approaching its sell-by date and use it in cookery classes. Twice-weekly cooking sessions promote life skills and healthy eating as well as bring pupils and staff closer together to enjoy break time feasts.
Headteacher Beverley Randall thanked Tesco for its funding and the food share programme. She said: “We’re very grateful for both the magnificent grant towards our therapy and sensory room and ingredients for our cookery sessions. Healthy snacks at break time have benefitted pupils – particularly those who miss breakfast – and make a positive impact on their learning.”
Representatives from Chepstow’s Tesco store recently donated an impressive Christmas hamper for pupils to share. They also visited Mounton House to witness the new therapy room and cookery projects with both the school and Tesco keen to work together on future schemes.
Meanwhile, parents, staff and pupils have collected a variety of items for Christmas hampers distributed by the Salvation Army in Newport.
Councillor Richard John, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Children and Young People said: “It’s great that Mounton House School has benefitted from two initiatives offered by Tesco and I warmly thank the store for its much-appreciated and welcome contribution. I’m also glad that the school’s community has gathered together to provide festive cheer for those less fortunate.”

Monmouthshire County Council launched its draft budget proposals and engagement process on Wednesday 19th December. Its proposals have been put together amidst a set of challenging circumstances where the council continues to face significant financial challenges, in terms of further reduced funding from Welsh Government as well as significant and unavoidable pressures.

These budget proposals look to support the priorities of the council. Specifically, they seek to recognise in full all pay and pension-related spending pressures in its schooling system and the increasing demand placed on children’s social care services. The budget proposals see a continuation of the council’s preparedness to challenge all services to improve rather than to see the closure of services that matter to citizens. There is an acknowledgement that when things close they never return and it is better to scale back rather than absolutely withdraw. In overall terms there are some £5.7 million of new unavoidable pressures that needed to be accommodated for the 2019/20 budget.
It is never popular to charge for services but the reality is that the council needs to do so. It proposes increases in a number of areas. Likewise, increasing council tax is never popular but with the retreat of Welsh Government funding, local taxation is by default having to shoulder a greater proportion of overall funding. These budget proposals assume a council tax rise of 5.95% for 2019/20 and 3.95% for the remaining years of this council.

The proposals will lead to changes in a number of areas which could impact on residents. The proposed changes include:

Household Waste and Recycling Centre – where the council will introduce the use of permits for Monmouthshire residents. No charge will be paid for the permit. They are aimed to reduce use by the public from neighbouring counties. In turn, the permits will reduce the waiting times at Monmouthshire sites for residents. The council is also considering limited day closures at its recycling centres, the pattern proposed avoiding weekend closures.
Recycling bags – proposals to introduce new reusable hard wearing polypropylene plastic bags which will end the use of red and purple single use bags. This will improve the quality of material collected for onward recycling as well as reduce the use of single use plastics. The bags will hold more recycling and create an increase in kerbside recycling.
Food Waste recycling – which looks to increase and encourage more households to recycle food waste using recycled plastic bags.
Changes to car parking charges – where proposals include amendments to the current charging regime and introduction of charging at Severn Tunnel Junction.

A comprehensive list of the proposals can be found on the website: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2019-2020
A range of engagement opportunities will be available to provide residents with an opportunity to hear about the draft proposals and the wider budget context for the council and enable residents to share their thoughts too.

Face to face meetings with groups include disability groups, older people and young people, the council website, its social media channels, select committees and visits to town and community councils. Residents are welcome to attend the sessions to gain an understanding of the budget and impact on communities.

The following engagement events will take place with more to follow:

Access for All Forum – Budget Special Friday January 25th  10.30am to 12.30pm at The Memorial Hall, Usk, South Car Park, Maryport St, Usk NP15 1AD.

The forum is an opportunity and a valuable platform to enable people with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities and older people from across Monmouthshire to have their voice heard, receive information and contribute to consultation and engagement processes.
Communities are welcome to attend area committee forums to hear information based on their locality.

  • Lower Wye Area Committee 23rd January 10.00am Chepstow Leisure Centre
  • Severnside Area Committee 23rd January 1.00pm Innovation House Magor
  • Central Mon Area Committee 30th January 10.00am County Hall, Usk
  • North Monmouthshire Area Committee 30th January  1.00pm  Abergavenny Town Hall

Leader of the Council, Cllr Peter Fox OBE said:
“I encourage residents to take the opportunity to take a look at our proposals. For many years we have been hit by the Welsh Government Settlement and this year is no exception. We will continue to try our best to provide services for our communities but with this comes with challenges and changes. I urge residents to read about the changes and come along to a forum or meeting to hear how we are working to make savings, not lose services.”
A survey is available to share feedback – visit: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2019-2020

 

 

Over 220 looked-after and vulnerable children from Monmouthshire will benefit from a Christmas gift thanks to generous festive gestures by a number of parties. The council’s Children’s Services team organised the scheme.

Some imaginative and wonderful Christmas presents have been donated by the young people of Abergavenny’s Verve kick boxing club, customers from the Monmouthshire Building Society, Curtis Legal Ltd of Monmouth and pupils from Chepstow’s St John’s on the Hill Preparatory School in collaboration with St Mary’s Priory Church as well as a number of Monmouthshire’s county councillors. In addition, council social workers created a wonderful handmade quilt for a raffle with proceeds going towards the purchase of presents.

Councillor Penny Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for looked-after children said: “I’m very, very grateful for the wonderful presents received thanks to the amazing community contributions. These gifts will bring a smile to the faces of our most vulnerable children.”

“I was also delighted to work with fellow councillors who purchased and wrapped gifts for specific children and young people.”

Members of the Children’s Services team were overwhelmed with the support received and enjoyed delivering the gifts around the county in the approach to Christmas.

Monmouthshire County Council has made contingency plans to ensure essential services are available throughout the Christmas and New Year period.  In addition, it has published opening times for its leisure centres, museums, community hubs, libraries, contact centre and household waste and recycling centres.

A number of council services will run throughout the Christmas and New Year period.  The community meals team and caring staff will work each day including Christmas Day while a number of social workers will be on duty with others on call on a 24 hour basis.

The council’s gritting teams will be on standby throughout the Christmas and New Year period to work whenever roads need treatment.  Highways staff will be assisted by colleagues from the council’s grounds and waste & recycling teams if required.  Maintenance staff in the council’s Raglan Depot will also be available to ensure vehicles are fully operable while members of the Property Services team will be on call to safeguard buildings and infrastructure.

Arrangements have been made for the collection of waste and recycling over the holidays and these will be published on the council’s website – see www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste for details.  No collections will take place on Christmas Day or Boxing Day so waste and recycling due to be picked up on Tuesday 25th December to Friday 28th December will be collected two days later than usual.  No collection is scheduled for New Year’s Day either, so waste and recycling due to be picked up from 1st January to 4th January will be collected one day later.

The council’s household waste and recycling centres at Llanfoist, Five Lanes near Caerwent, Mitchel Troy and Usk will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.  They will be open from 8am to 4pm on December 24th and from Thursday, December 27th to Monday, 31st December.

The council’s leisure centres will open from 6.30am to 3pm on Christmas Eve but will close on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Thursday 27th December.  They will open as usual on 28th, 29th and 30th December, with restricted hours – 6.30am to 3.00 pm – on New Year’s Eve.  All centres will close on New Year’s Day but will open as usual on Wednesday 2nd January, except for Caldicot Leisure Centre.  This will be closed to the public, on Wednesday 2nd and Thursday 3rd January for essential maintenance with its pool closed on Friday 4th January.  Meanwhile, Chepstow Leisure Centre will close for maintenance on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th January.

Fitness classes at Abergavenny, Caldicot and Chepstow Leisure Centres will run until Sunday 23rd December before re-commencing on Wednesday 2nd January in Abergavenny, Monday 7th January in Caldicot and Tuesday 8th January in Chepstow.  Monmouth Leisure Centre will continue its Les Mills Virtual Fitness Classes throughout the Christmas and New Year period while the centre is open.  Further details are available at www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/things-to-do/monleisure

The county’s museums at Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth will close on Christmas Eve until re-opening as usual on Friday 28th December, with a further closure on New Year’s Day.

The council will close Magor’s Innovation House, one of its main office buildings, in the period between Christmas and the New Year.  This move, following consultation with employees, will save money for the council and its agile working policy means that staff present on Friday 28th December and Monday 31st December will be able to operate normally from one of the county’s community hubs, Caldicot Leisure Centre, Abergavenny Library or County Hall.  They are also able to work from home if they wish.  The Registrar Office adjacent to County Hall will open as normal on both days.

Residents looking to visit any of the council’s community hubs and libraries should note that they will open during their usual hours except for closure on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Thursday 27th December and New Year’s Day.  In addition, all community hubs and libraries will close at 3pm on Christmas Eve.  For details visit: http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-libraries

The council’s contact centre will close at 3pm on Christmas Eve until it re-opens as usual on Friday 28th December, with a further closure on New Year’s Day.

Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Councillor Peter Fox said: “Most of us will enjoy a well-deserved break over Christmas and the New Year but we shouldn’t overlook those vital workers who carry on serving the community whether it’s ensuring the safety of the roads, caring for the vulnerable in our society or liaising in a crisis with the emergency services.”

For further details log onto www.monmouthshire.gov.uk – residents faced with an emergency over the Christmas and New Year period normally dealt with by the council should contact 0300 123 1055.

 

Monmouthshire recognises part played by volunteers in council’s leisure and culture sector

The role of volunteers supporting Monmouthshire’s Tourism, Leisure, Culture and Youth service was celebrated at a recent event in Monmouth’s Shire Hall. Nearly 200 people, ranging from enthusiastic teenagers to passionate octogenarians, give their time, commitment, skills and life experience to support the council’s wide variety of attractions run by the museum service, youth service, sports development team, countryside service and Tintern’s Old Station visitor centre.

The event was attended by 60 volunteers as well as staff and senior managers.

Volunteers are a vital asset for Monmouthshire County Council and the authority offers opportunities, training, support and guidance to ensure that volunteering is a valuable, enjoyable experience. While volunteers make a prized contribution to society they can benefit in turn from their participation as it increases their confidence and helps them gain further capability, understanding and friendship, in addition to achieving an increased sense of purpose.

Councillor Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for social justice and community development said: “I sincerely appreciate the continued support and tireless energy, time and commitment given by volunteers, enabling us to provide valuable opportunities for our communities. Volunteers share thousands of hours across our county, improving people’s lives and the communities in which they live. Their efforts make Monmouthshire a great place to live and richer for their beneficial effects.”

Head of Tourism, Leisure, Culture and Youth, Ian Saunders added: “Our volunteers work with our Countryside service to ensure our rights of way are accessible for walkers while those assisting our museum staff catalogue history, preserving it for future generations, tend to the historical grounds and guide people around our collections and exhibitions. Other notable examples are the willing helpers at Tintern’s Old Station who run the miniature train and pass on their valuable knowledge of the local area as well as those young volunteers supporting a range of activities to encourage their counterparts to be active while enjoying sport and recreation.”

Contact Richard Poynter – richardpoynter@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 07976 837613 for further information on volunteering with Monmouthshire County Council.

It started with a tweet! Pupils from Gilwern Primary School were invited to attend Monmouthshire County Council’s Llanfoist Depot after tweeting the council to find out more about grit and winter weather.

In early December year five pupils took part in a science lesson about ice and salt. The lesson created many questions, inquisitive and keen to put their questions to the people who would know best the pupils with the help of teacher Mrs Parry tweeted @MonmouthshireCC.

The willingness to tweet stemmed from the schools approach to learning. Pupil-led learning is embedded within the school. Pupils are part of the planning process and saw a tweet as an instant method of getting in touch with the council. Pupil led learning leads to children becoming absorbed in whatever they are interested in what they are learning about.

The Communications Team at Monmouthshire County Council quickly liaised with the Highways department and secured a visit to Llanfoist Depot. The visit enabled pupils to see for themselves why grit is so important in icy conditions. This experience is also an example of an authentic learning experience that we aim to do as much as possible. This allows the children to get a deep understanding of new things.

The pupils were greeted by Steve Lane Highways Manager, Andrew Welsh Operations Manager and Mark Robinson Deputy Foreman at the depot. Pupils donned their high visibility jackets and fired their many questions at the team. Steve and his team explained the gritting process, shared with the group the vast routes of highway that the gritters look after when temperatures drop.

Gilwern Primary prides itself on creating an enriching learning experience. The school along with all schools across Wales is using STEM based curriculum to educate and inspire pupils using four specific disciplines science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The visit was a huge success with pupils and staff found the experience also an example of an authentic learning experience that we aim to do as much as possible and allows the children to get a deep understanding of new things.

Year 5 pupils Euan and Alice said:
‘It was exciting to find out how things work in real life.’
‘I enjoyed learning about how the salt keeps our roads safe.’

Cllr Richard John Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: ‘This a fantastic example of how our schools are striving to provide the best education for children and young people in Monmouthshire. Pupils need an understanding of life outside the classroom and this experience will enhance their knowledge and help apply science to real life which is integral to their future learning and living.  I would like to thank the staff at Llanfoist Depot enabling the visit to take place’

Throughout December Monmouthshire County Council has hosted a number of crafternoons – an afternoon devoted to the joys of crafting – raising over £300 for mental health charity Mind. Staff joined many groups across the UK to make a range of Christmas decorations while raising vital funds to ensure no one experiences a mental health problem alone.

A range of locations across the county hosted crafternoons for staff and residents. Teams in the community learning service encouraged learners to take part in book folding sessions as individuals learned how to make Christmas trees out of used books, while Monmouth Hub hosted a Christmas lino printing afternoon and created a community mosaic to raise funds for Mind, a cause close to the heart of many people.

The historic Market Hall, Abergavenny was the venue for a Christmas crafternoon creating beautiful Christmas puddings and robins from pom poms.

Staff at County Hall in Usk were supported by the Abergavenny Crafty Women group who made Christmas decorations from plastic bottle tops and recycled fabric while the Monmouthshire Community Choir performed to generate a festive atmosphere.

High-vis heroes at Raglan Depot including operatives from the waste and recycling team and the county’s highways team took time out to participate in crafternoon activities including wreath making and recycled paper decorations – a popular choice for all staff. Festive treats and hot chocolate were provided.

The council’s payroll and HR support team at Magor’s Innovation House also hosted a crafternoon with staff crafting beautiful paper decorations. A wealth of festive treats were donated in the lead up to the event and combined in a hamper which was later raffled.

Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health Penny Jones said:

“This is a wonderful initiative. Taking time out to sit down and craft is such a positive thing to aid mental health and wellbeing. Mind is such an important charity and the support from staff in our many offices has been tremendous. They really showed their creative sides and joined in the festive spirit too.”

Monmouthshire Mind provides a wealth of information, advice and support to anyone living with a mental health problem. Mind Monmouthshire is located at 28 Monk Street, Abergavenny, NP7 5NP.

Find out more: www.mindmonmouthshire.org.uk

Monmouthshire County Council is seeking the views of residents and others to help inform their Local Toilet Strategy. The council is required to publish the report by 31st May 2019 due to the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017.

The Act aims to address a number of specific public health concerns, and to create social conditions that are conducive to good health and includes the provision of toilets for public use. Each local authority in Wales is required to prepare and publish a local toilets strategy for its area.

The strategy must include an assessment of the provision and accessibility of toilets across the county, including changing facilities for babies and changing places facilities for disabled people. The views of residents, and other interested parties, are essential and will help to ascertain the level of provision which currently exists and help inform the councils plan for the future.

The Act does not place a duty on local authorities to provide or maintain public toilets. In Monmouthshire a large proportion of public toilets are provided by Town and Community Councils.

As well as traditional public toilet blocks, the public are able to access other Council facilities, including leisure centres and libraries, together with privately available toilets, in restaurants, supermarkets and public houses.

Monmouthshire’s Cabinet member with responsibility for Public Protection, County Councillor Sara Jones said:

‘I encourage residents, local businesses and visitors to complete the survey. It is so important to listen to our communities, to find out what provision currently exists and where there is a need for more toilets and changing facilities.

‘The results of the survey will help inform future planning with our partners, including Town and Community Councils. We are pleased that they have taken over the running of many of the public toilet blocks since 2010. We will continue to work with them and other providers, to ensure we meet the future needs of our communities.’

‘It is unfortunate there is no additional funding from Welsh Government to improve existing facilities. We look forward to working with providers to look for creative solutions to increase accessibility in Monmouthshire.’

The survey will run from 19th December to 11th January 2019 and can be accessed online or hard copies of the survey can be accessed from your local Community Hub here:

Monmouthshire Toilet Survey

Monmouthshire County Council is seeking two people to serve as independent members on its Standards Committee. This body plays a vital role in maintaining the highest ethical standards at county and community council levels and its functions include advising the council and its members in the adoption, monitoring, operation, enforcement and review of various local codes of conduct and other ethical guidance.

Independent members are appointed for a period of between four and six years and may be appointed for one further consecutive term. The Standards Committee meets at least four times per year though occasional unscheduled meetings are held at a few days’ notice. This would call for flexibility on the part of committee members when required to attend.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for governance said: “Membership of the council’s Standards Committee can be an interesting and rewarding role. We seek people who are good listeners, who are inquisitive and can weigh up often conflicting evidence to reach an effective conclusion. In addition, we’re looking for good team players with respect for others and an understanding of diverse ethical issues as well as the possession of integrity and good character.”

The law restricts certain categories of people from serving on Monmouthshire’s Standards Committee. These are:

• a serving councillor or officer (or the spouse or civil partner of a councillor or officer) of Monmouthshire County Council, any other county or county borough council, a fire authority, a national park authority, or a community or town council
• former councillors or officers of Monmouthshire County Council
• former councillors or officers of any other county or county borough council, fire authority or national park authority until at least one year after ceasing to be a councillor or officer of that authority.

In addition, independent members should not have or have had significant dealings with the council that might compromise their impartiality.

Independent members are entitled to a daily fee of £198 (£99 for half day) and appropriate travel and subsistence payments. The chair of the committee is elected annually and receives a fee of £256 per day (£128 for half day).

People who would like an application form or more information about serving as an independent member on the council’s Standards Committee should contact Monitoring Officer and Head of Law, Matt Phillips – matthewphillips@monmouthshire.gov.uk – via Twitter: @MattPhillipsMCC or by writing to: Matt Phillips, Monitoring Officer and Head of Law, Monmouthshire County Council, County Hall, The Rhadyr, USK, NP15 1GA. Alternately, an application form can be accessed by clicking on: https://bit.ly/2A0niyH

Applications must be received by Friday 8th February.

Free drop-in surgeries hosted by the Development Bank of Wales, Business Wales and Monmouthshire County Council next month will aim to help entrepreneurs and owners of firms discover more about funding for growth.

The Grow your Business drop-in surgeries will be held in Caldicot on Tuesday 22nd January from 9am to 5pm with thirty minute appointment slots available on a one-to-one basis.  Micro loan investment executive Tara Lee-Fox will be present at the town’s Castle Gate Business Park (NP26 5AD) to discuss the range of funding available.

Ms Lee-Fox said: “We help businesses to grow by providing flexible loans that are quick and simple to access and this funding can be used to finance the purchasing of much needed stock, plant, equipment or premises.  It could also support cash flow for the purchase of another business.

“By working in partnership with Monmouthshire County Council and Business Wales, we are able to provide loans from £1,000 to £50,000 for local businesses.  In fact, if you’re an established business looking for a loan up to £10,000 we can give you a decision in just two working days.

“We’re keen to talk to as many local business owners and managers as possible so please do come along to our drop in surgeries.”

To book a 30 minute slot businesses should email Tara.Lee-Fox@developmentbank.wales by Monday 14th January.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Cabinet Member for Enterprise at Monmouthshire County Council added: “We’re keen to support and encourage business growth and job creation.  We’re delighted to recommend these helpful workshops to anyone hoping to boost their own business.”

The festive season has begun and is a time to eat drink and be merry. Careful planning and buying can reduce the amount of food we waste, but some food waste is unavoidable. From December 2018 Monmouthshire residents will be able to put food waste in plastic bags.

Food bags will still be available from One Stop Shops and Community Hubs but residents are being encouraged to re -use their old bags such as bread bags, frozen food bags, and cereal bags.  These bags can now be re-used as liners in the food waste caddy without the rush to obtain council supplied bags.

Monmouthshire’s food waste is now sent to an Anaerobic Digestion Plant in Bridgend. Food waste is digested to create methane which is burnt to generate electricity. As part of the process a rich fertilizer is also produced which is used on local farms. The process cannot handle compostable and plastic bags. All waste is then removed from the bags, the excess bags are then squeezed dry and burnt to produce more electricity.

For every eight tonnes of food waste processed, the Bridgend Plant saves the equivalent of one tonne of coal.

The Bridgend facility produces enough electricity to power a town the size of Abergavenny, Chepstow, Monmouth or Caldicot.

Cabinet Member for Waste and Recycling Bryan Jones said:

“Monmouthshire’s food waste was previously sent for ‘in vessel composting’ where our corn starch food waste bags could be fully composted as part of the process.

The new Anaerobic Digestion process can help to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, nuclear power and imported energy as well as offering a more environmentally friendly way of disposing of any unwanted plastic bags

Anaerobic Digestion is the preferred option of The Welsh Government and we are working closely with our neighbouring authorities to deal with food waste.

We hope that this enables more residents to recycle their food waste easily and provides another use for bags which for some people would end up as rubbish.’

For top tips on reducing food waste all year round visit www.lovefoodhatewaste.com

Single use plastic packaging is also a growing environmental concern. Residents can find out how to reduce their plastic footprint by visiting Surfers Against Sewage website: www.sas.org.uk/campaign_issue/plastic-free-communities/

Monmouthshire’s waste and recycling collections will be two days later than usual after the Christmas bank holidays and one day late after New Year. For more information visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste

The Dell Primary School in Chepstow has become the first primary school in Wales to gain a Carers Trust South East Wales’ Award for achieving the ‘Basics’ of the Young Carers in Schools Programme. The school has been recognised for its outstanding provision, which enables young carers to thrive.

The school was highly commended for the pastoral care embedded in the school that enables all pupils to receive the support they need. Listening to pupils has been fundamental to the school gaining the ‘Basics’ award.

Working in partnership with The Carers Trust South East Wales pupils, parents and teachers have gained awareness, understanding and compassion needed to support young carers.

The Dell has achieved ‘The Basics’ accreditation, the first award of the three-stage programme. Further stages are; ‘Beyond the Basics and Best Practice’. Five important standards are set to enable young carers to prosper and bloom. They are: ‘Understand, Inform, Identify, Support and Listen.’

There have been seven secondary schools across Greater Gwent including King Henry VIII School, Abergavenny to achieve ‘The Basics’ award and further funding has allowed the work to develop with primary schools. Schools involved in the programme have developed support packages for young carers, gathering the evidence required for the young carer led peer review panel who passed the submitted portfolios in November. Schools were awarded with the plaques recognising the achievement.

The programme ensures young carers are not missed in schools and receive the help and support they need to learn. Schools across Wales work with Carers Trust South East Wales to provide fundamental support for pupils via Carers Trust South East Wales Young Carers Service.

Carers Trust South East Wales work alongside the development of the Successful Futures curriculum, ensuring that the Young Carers in Schools Programme provides an integral approach to supporting vulnerable learners. The programme provides vital partnership opportunities with health boards, local authorities and young carer’s services to give young carers, their families the best support.

Carers Trust South East Wales provides children and young people with support outside of school including training, activities and trips, which provide young carers with opportunities to share thoughts and gain solidarity from their peers in similar situations.

Cllr Richard John Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said:
‘I congratulate The Dell on gaining this award. Recognising and responding to the needs of our young carers is a fundamental to enabling children and young people to have the best start in life. Growing up is hard and even harder if you have to grow up faster than your peers. It is fantastic to see the commitment and support in our schools to give every child an equal opportunity to thrive and learn.’

Dell School Family Support & Pastoral Leader, Debbie Cass, said: “We are very proud of the work we’ve done to support young carers at the Dell. Being a young carer can be life changing and we’ve put a range of practical measures in place to support children caring for relatives.”

For more information call 01495 769996 info@ctsew.org.uk

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Communities in Monmouthshire will benefit from a £3.5m grant earmarked for spending by March 2019. The cash is an award from the Welsh Government to fund local transport projects to improve walking and cycling, road safety and public transport.

A total of £765,000 will support walking and cycling opportunities in Abergavenny’s town centre. The public realm improvement works on Lion Street and the middle part of Frogmore Street are already complete, and these will continue along the remainder of Frogmore Street to the cenotaph.  Caldicot’s Cross and Church Road areas will also benefit from a grant – of £305,000 – to enhance walking and cycling opportunities and regenerate the area as set out in the recent public consultation.

The Welsh Government has also provided nearly £900,000 to start pre-works on the proposed Abergavenny-Llanfoist walking and cycling bridge for which planning permission was granted last month.  Design details are the subject of negotiation with National Resources Wales so this scheme will start later in 2019 subject to Welsh Government agreement.

In addition, the announcement also includes £750,000 towards a third lane to reduce traffic congestion on the A40 at Monmouth Wye Bridge. However, the council requires confirmation from the Welsh Government on the future funding so this project may now start in the next financial year.

Meanwhile, the council’s Grass Routes Community Transport service, which provides transport connecting outlying communities with the county’s towns, will receive £317,000 to purchase additional vehicles.

Up to £175,000 is allocated to develop improvements to key walking and cycling routes, following the Welsh Government’s acceptance of the council’s integrated network maps which set out the proposed active travel networks.  Of this, £75,000 will be spent on outline design and appraisal of options for a new active travel bridge to provide a safe and convenient walking and cycling connection between Monmouth and Wyesham.  A public consultation is planned for spring 2019.

Further funding is allocated to Safe Routes in Communities/road safety schemes and to progress the council’s plans to develop and upgrade Abergavenny and Chepstow stations, including better bus-rail interchanges.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for county operations, Councillor Bryan Jones said: “This funding will help to support the active travel agenda and public transport, and will offer incentives for people to opt for active travel and ditch their car journeys in favour of safer and healthier cycling or walking.  The money allocated for investment in our Grass Routes service will further help to link people in remote communities as well as contribute to tackling loneliness and isolation which we have identified as a major issue in a large rural county like Monmouthshire.”

For further information on Monmouthshire’s active travel programme log on to: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/the-active-travel-act

  • The statutory basis for this funding is sections 70 and 71 (1) of the Government of Wales Act (GOWA) 2006, along with section 6 of the Transport (Wales) Act 2006 and Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013.

The gas and electricity networks have come together to help members of the public prepare in case they have a power cut or gas emergency this winter.

 

How to prepare for winter

Know your free emergency numbers – in a power cut call 105 or, for a gas emergency, dial 0800 111999.

Prepare your home – keep a torch handy and get your appliances serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Vulnerable households can also get extra support by signing up to the Priority Services Register.

Keep your eyes open – keep an eye on the weather forecast and, if you have a power cut or a gas emergency, check on your neighbours.

 

The Priority Services Register

The Priority Services Register is a free service provided by Western Power and is eligible for anyone who is of a pensionable age, disabled, has children under 5 years old or relies on medical equipment.  As part of the service, customers are kept informed as much as possible of power cuts affecting their home and are given special help, if needed, through the British Red Cross.

 

To find out more information or to register, please call us on 0800 096 3080 or visitwww.westernpower.co.uk/psr

 

A Warm and Safe Homes Action Guide created by National Energy Action (NEA) in partnership with the ENA’s Winter Resilience Committee is available via: https://www.nea.org.uk/advice/

Monmouthshire County Council will host a bumper Christmas Artisan Market in Abergavenny on Sunday 9th December.  It will run from 10am to 4pm in the Market Hall and the adjacent Brewery Yard, offering produce from over 60 food, drink and craft vendors – some local and others from further afield.  Food and drink will be available to consume on the premises or to take home.

Vendors will include Clams Handmade Cakes., NoodlesToGo, Hays Wines Ltd, Rachel Morgan Babyclothes, Apple County Cider, Chocolate Voyage, Raglan’s Untapped Brewing Company, The Welsh Cheese Company, Cusan Welsh Cream Liqueur, Sciolti Chocolates & Black Cat Fudge, Flour’d up Pizza and Devon Fishcakes.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for the county’s markets, Councillor Phil Murphy said: “Abergavenny’s Christmas Artisan Market is the very place to go if you’d like an enjoyable festive experience this weekend with plenty of opportunities to buy imaginative gifts for your loved ones – or even to treat yourself to some tasty high quality produce.”

Entrance to the Market Hall is free and four-legged friends are welcome.  Seating around the venue will allow those attending to relax and enjoy the festive ambience with some favourite Christmas tunes.

There is plentiful free car parking near to the Market Hall.  For further information contact Sandra Rosser – SandraRosser@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone the market office on 01873 735811.

Five companies which successfully bid for inclusion in Monmouthshire’s GovTech Catalyst Challenge featured in a recent (Tuesday 4th December) fact-finding day in Monmouth’s Shire Hall.

The challenge was launched last July and focuses on digital solutions to combat loneliness and rural transport deprivation.  It aims to enable people to help each other.

The summer launch stimulated interest from 100 companies and over 50 applications were submitted with positive ideas to tackle and alleviate loneliness and isolation.  The five successful companies – Box Clever Digital, GPC Systems, Enable International, Behavioural Insights Team and ZipAbout – all have a shared interest in using digital methods to connect communities to the things they need, and the technologies to be developed include apps, websites, online channels and text services.  The companies are exploring how to integrate with existing channels such as landlines and voice responsive technologies to ensure accessibility for all and are also examining vehicle tracker data, existing resources and open data sources to improve services and enhance wellbeing.

The event at Shire Hall provided a valuable opportunity to build relationships with the council’s officers from a wide variety of teams including those from transport, the digital office, social care and health, and the rural development programme whose experience was invaluable in providing an insight into the county.

Monmouthshire is traditionally seen as an affluent county, but the council’s Monmouthshire Wellbeing Plan indicates many areas experience various forms of deprivation and isolation.  The GovTech Challenge aims to address this inequality.

Council Leader Peter Fox OBE said: “I’m very pleased to welcome the five successful companies to Monmouth today and extend my thanks to those officers who worked so hard to secure the GovTech Challenge to benefit our communities.  Monmouthshire is a large rural county and its beauty and presumed affluence masks a range of debilitating issues that affect many people of all ages.

“All businesses selected will develop their ideas and test them with the community, the third sector and other organisations over the next three months.  This spring two companies will be selected to receive further GovTech funding of up to £1m to develop their products ready to be launched”.

Councillor Sara Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Justice added: “Rural transport and digital deprivation are issues that we need to tackle and our Social Justice Strategy will help provide the focus to prioritise these issues.  I am excited to see how the GovTech Challenge progresses to help our communities and there will be opportunities for other local authorities to apply some of our solutions.  We need to make a difference to those who often get left behind and I look forward to the rest of the journey.”

For more information about Monmouthshire’s GovTech Challenge visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/govtech_challenge

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The county’s agricultural community has celebrated five years since the opening of the Monmouthshire Livestock Centre near Raglan.  Over two thousand people attended the official opening by BBC Countryfile’s Adam Henson in November 2013 and the facility has since lived up to its promise to provide local farmers with a state of the art livestock market.

Council Leader Peter Fox attended a recent market and said: “The council recognised it was important to provide a first class market to allow farming to thrive in Monmouthshire for generations to come.  Farming is fundamental to the county’s economy, it is a crucial part of our infrastructure and it plays a wider role within our localities.  The Monmouthshire Livestock Centre is also important for the social interaction it offers, bringing together farming communities.  This is especially so as we look to tackle social isolation in a large rural county like Monmouthshire.”

The Monmouthshire Livestock Centre is easily accessible for farmers with two regular sales on Mondays and Wednesdays as well as additional seasonal auctions and it highlights the county’s reputation for producing top quality beef and lamb.

Keith Spencer, auctioneer and company secretary of Monmouthshire Livestock Auctioneers added: “The last five years have underlined the importance of livestock markets in enabling producers to obtain the best price possible for their stock in an open and competitive manner whatever the circumstances and prevailing economic conditions.  We are thankful to all the farming community for their support and it is very gratifying that we are seeing many new buyers and sellers as well as those who have attended the livestock markets in Monmouthshire throughout their lifetime.  It has also become an important venue for social and charitable events with a successful community carol singing evening last weekend which also raised a significant sum for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.  We have no doubt that the market will continue to be the focal point for the rural community in Monmouthshire and surrounding areas for many years to come.”

Usk Community Hub will host an exhibition featuring work by students attending art classes run by the council’s community learning service and taught by tutor and local artist Philomena Vaughan.  The event starts at 6.30pm on Tuesday, 11th December with a theme of Celebrating influential women artists from 100 years ago.

 As part of the course requirements students chose an early twentieth century female artist and produced drawings and paintings in her style.  As well as exhibiting this work, learners will discuss their chosen artist, the satisfaction gained from the project and the challenges they faced.

Ms Vaughan said: “Learners were very enthusiastic about this project.  Each researched and painted works of their chosen female artist with fantastic results!”

The exhibition is free and complementary coffee and mince pies will be available.  Everyone is welcome to attend to view the high standards achieved by the students and discover more about the female artists of yesteryear.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community learning added: “This is an imaginative project that highlights women’s work from so long ago and I’m sure it will be of interest to contemporary artists as well as the general public.”

The students’ work will be on general view until the New Year – anyone wishing to view it  over the festive period should check the hub’s Christmas opening times on: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-libraries

Contact uskhub@monmouthshire.gov.uk for more information.  Usk Community Hub is based at 35 Maryport Street, NP15 1AE where there are two car parks nearby.

 

 

 Monmouthshire County Council is to hold a series of events to receive feedback that will inform and change the way it provides services for people living with dementia.

The Have Your Say on Dementia Day events are intended to gather information about the experiences of people with dementia, their carers, friends, families and the experiences of people working in the field.  Members of the public and professionals will be welcome to attend and an emphasis will be placed on creating new and innovative projects.

The events will be held as follows:

  • Wednesday 5th December: Mardy Park, Abergavenny – 10am to 12noon
  • Wednesday 16th January: Bulwark Community Centre, Chepstow – 10am to12noon
  • Tuesday 22nd January: Caldicot Town Offices, Caldicot, – 2pm to 4pm
  • Wednesday 23rd January: Bridges Centre, Monmouth – 10am to 12noon

Councillor Penny Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for social care, safeguarding and health said: “The Have Your Say on Dementia Day events aim to be fun and interactive occasions allowing a wide range of people to express their thoughts and opinions.  We look forward to people helping us shape the future of our services to people living with dementia.”

For further information contact Fred Weston (Chepstow and Caldicot areas) on 07890 559566 or Ashley Morgan (Abergavenny, Usk and Monmouth areas) on 07971 160455.

A great range of events will take place across Monmouthshire in the approach to Christmas offering residents and visitors the opportunity to celebrate the festive season in style!

Caldicot starts its Christmas Market at 9am on Saturday 1st December with a day of fun, shopping, music and a treasure hunt while Usk’s popular Christmas Festival returns the same day, featuring craft and charity stalls, food, drink, entertainment and music across the weekend. The town’s Christmas lights will be turned on at 6pm on Saturday evening with the highlight of the festival – the annual Usk Town Council Reindeer Parade – taking place at 5pm on Sunday 2nd December.

Abergavenny offers Christmas in the Courtyard on Saturday 1st December in the town’s Tithe Barn as over 20 local artists and makers join St Mary’s Priory Choir, Abergavenny Borough Band and other musicians with warming mulled wine, cider, mince pies and hot drinks. The event will start at 10am and finish at 5pm with car parking nearby as well as the town’s bus and rail stations.

Also on Saturday 1st December is Chepstow’s festive extravaganza with market stalls from 11am, a free grotto, music and a switch-on of the lights at 6pm by BBC weatherman, Derek Brockway as well as a performance by X Factor contestant, Russell Jones Jr.

Other festive events taking place in Monmouthshire include Tintern’s Christmas Craft Fayre on Sunday 2nd December, Monmouth’s Christmas lantern display on Friday 7th December, a craft fair at Llanfoist Village Hall on Saturday 8th December and Grosmont’s Winter Market on Saturday 15th December.

A number of performances will feature over the festive period including a unique celebratory show of Christmas music from Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band at Abergavenny’s Borough Theatre on Wednesday 5th December, followed by the evergreen Andy Fairweather Low and his band, The Low Riders on Friday 7th December.  The Chepstow Male Voice Choir Christmas concert takes place at the town’s leisure centre on Saturday 15th December with support from the Allegra Ladies Choir while Wednesday 19th December sees the launch of the Spontaneous Productions version of popular pantomime Dick Whittington at Monmouth’s Savoy Theatre.  Further performances follow from Friday 28th December to Wednesday 2nd January.

The Gwent Branch of the RSPCA offers an evening of Christmas carols and Welsh humour compered by Radio Wales personality Chris Needs on Saturday 8th December at the Choir Hall in Caldicot with the audience given the opportunity to join in the singing.  Music will be provided by the Severn Tunnel Brass Band and award-winning guitarist Chris Moreton.

Throughout December Monmouthshire County Council will work in partnership with mental health charity Mind to hold a number of festive crafternoon sessions.  Council staff will work in a variety of locations across the county to make Christmas decorations while offering a small donation to the charity to ensure no one experiences a mental health problem alone.  Among the events organised is a Christmas wreath workshop at Abergavenny’s Mardy Park Resource Centre on Thursday December 6th.  Meanwhile, Monmouthshire’s Community Learning Team will welcome residents to join fellow crafters and make amazing Christmas trees out of old books at Abergavenny Youth and Community Centre on Thursday 6th December from 4pm to 5pm.  For more information or to book a place, contact Jemima – jemimajones@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 01291 426880.

These are just some of the many seasonal activities taking place in Monmouthshire.  For more information check out: www.visitmonmouthshire.com/christmas

County Councillor Bob Greenland, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for leisure and culture said: “Christmas is a very special time and where better to spend it than in our lovely county.  I wish our residents and visitors a very Merry Christmas and hope that they join in Monmouthshire’s festive spirit.”

 

Five tech companies have been awarded contracts to use cutting-edge technology to tackle the problem of rural isolation and loneliness.

These businesses will create new technology platforms to match the supply and demand for transport in rural areas, as well as minimise the risk of digital exclusion among older people and those in more isolated, rural areas with limited connectivity.

Speaking at the Digital Leaders Innovation Conference in London, Cabinet Office Minister, Oliver Dowden, said:

“I am delighted that our funding for innovative tech companies is helping to tackle loneliness and rural isolation – to improve people’s lives and enable them to feel a part of their local community.

The GovTech fund encourages firms to find innovative ways to address the big social problems we all face, including loneliness, plastic pollution and national security. Through emerging technologies, this fund will help to elevate British companies onto a global market while transforming the delivery of public services for people across the UK.”

Councillor Sara Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development at Monmouthshire County Council, said:

“In Monmouthshire, we are blessed with beautiful, rural surroundings and thriving towns. Yet the diversity of our landscape has its challenges, where journey times on public transport to local services can exceed two hours. That is why we are determined to address this issue to ensure people feel connected and part of the community.

“We are delighted to be working with innovative businesses who have developed a range of digital solutions for transport and rural isolation. Given the importance of the small business sector to the fabric of our country, it was great to see that sixty-five percent of the applications were from Welsh and UK-wide micro businesses with less than 10 employees.”

In November 2017, the £20m Govtech Catalyst Programme was launched to help fund innovative tech firms, to solve public-sector challenges through innovation and emerging technologies.

As part of a wider commitment to use technology to improve lives and transform the delivery of public services, the government will publish an innovation strategy in spring 2019.

Monmouthshire’s community hubs and libraries have organised an array of festive events sure to appeal to a wide range of people in the approach to Christmas.

Chepstow Community Hub will host a free evening of Christmas celebration at 7pm on Wednesday 19th December featuring the Chepstow Singing Group with seasonal readings.  The following day, a Christmas-themed rhyme time will be held at 2.15pm and on Friday 21st December under-fives can enjoy a seasonal story with Father Christmas from 10.15am.  The hub is also running a Christmas tree-folding workshop and a fund-raising morning in collaboration with mental health charity Mind from 10am to 12noon on 12th December.  A similar event takes place at Caldicot Community Hub from 12:30pm to 2:30pm on Thursday 13th December.  The hub has also arranged two story and craft events for four to eight year olds on the themes of Christmas (Monday 24th December) and winter (Wednesday 2nd January).  Both will be held from 10am to 11am.

Monmouth Hub hosts a morning of festive entertainment provided by the Monmouth U3A Recorders combo with complementary tea, coffee and mince pies on Tuesday 4th December at 10am.  An under-fives Christmas story session will feature on Tuesday 18th December at 2pm.

Cath Barton, winner of The Welsh Writing Awards 2017, will perform a short reading and discussion session about her book “The Plankton Collector” at Gilwern Library from 11am to 12.30pm on Friday 7th December.  Gilwern Library will also host Christmas craft sessions on Tuesday 18th  and Wednesday 19th December at 3pm and Friday 21st December  at 1.30pm as well as a 2019 calendar-making craft event on Friday 28th December from 11am to 12noon and 2pm to 3pm.  Meanwhile, the nearby Abergavenny Library will host an evening of music and carols on Thursday 20th December from 5pm, with the junior section of the town’s Borough Band.  Christmas stories and activity sessions will feature on Friday 7th December (Elf Day), Friday 14th and Friday 21st December for under-fives and on Saturday 15th December and Saturday 22nd December for children aged five to eight – all sessions run from 10.30am to 11.15am.  In addition, Abergavenny Library will hold a Welsh language Christmas rhyme time at 2.15pm on Thursday 13th December.

Usk Community Hub is running its popular Christmas Fayre on Saturday 1st December from 10am to 3pm with 18 stalls selling locally crafted gifts, cakes, bakes, jams and preserves, tea coffee and mince pies as well as an appearance by Father Christmas from 11am to 1pm.  The hub also features a children’s Christmas craft session on Wednesday 19th December at 11am and a Christmas story and rhyme time on Thursday 20th December at 10:30am.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community hubs and libraries said: “We extend a warm welcome to those joining us in our Christmas celebrations at the county’s community hubs and libraries.”

  • For further details visit the community hubs’ social media channels: @MonmouthshireCCHUBS (Facebook) and @MonCCHUBS (Twitter) or call into the nearest location.

Monmouthshire County Council’s major review of its recycling services means that its garden waste collection service will cease through the winter months and this year it will come to an end on Friday 30th November before recommencing on 4th March 2019.  As a result, the authority will no longer collect and recycle Christmas trees when the festive season is over.

Residents continuing to buy real Christmas trees can dispose of them in a number of ways:

  • Garden waste permit holders can retain their tree until early March when it will be collected as garden waste collection resumes.
  • Trees can be taken to one of the council’s four household waste and recycling centres at Usk, Five Lanes, Llanfoist and Mitchel Troy to be recycled

Alternatively, a potted tree could be planted after Christmas and reused while artificial trees can be used year after year without the nuisance of loose pine needles.

Cllr Bryan Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for waste and recycling said:  “I know that the Christmas tree collection is a very popular service and one that will be missed. However the decision to end it came whilst making savings to our garden waste service. During the winter months there is a substantial reduction in service use meaning the service is underused and inefficient.

“As a direct response to the increasing pressure on council budgets we were faced with the difficult decision to either increase the charges significantly to cover a full year service, or deliver a seasonal service and maintain current charging levels. I hope that residents continue to buy real, buy local and get the tree they want this year.”

The move is part of a package of changes to waste and recycling in Monmouthshire. In coming months changes include the introduction of new vehicles with the ability to collect food waste separately from garden waste. This will enable food waste to be used to generate electricity and the garden waste composted on local farms.

Glass recycling boxes will be rolled out across the county in March 2019 following a successful pilot in the Abergavenny area. Residents will receive a box for glass to be collected separately, adding value to the material collected.

For more information on waste and recycling in Monmouthshire: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/garden-waste

Monmouthshire Access for All meeting took place on Friday 23rd November at County Hall, Usk. The Forum is a valuable platform to enable people with disabilities from across Monmouthshire to have their voice heard, receive information and contribute to consultation and engagement processes.

The theme of the meeting was loneliness. Isolation and loneliness is a theme which has become apparent through engagement with residents when writing the Monmouthshire Wellbeing Plan. A plan and survey has been produced to show how Monmouthshire aims to tackle loneliness and social Isolation. A Connected Monmouthshire page: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/a-connected-monmouthshire

The meeting aimed to provide information on projects that are taking place in Monmouthshire to tackle isolation.

Kate Williams from Monmouthshire County Council shared with the group details of the Gov Tech Challenge. The Challenge seeks tech companies to research and pilot new technology in a bid to combat rural loneliness and transport deprivation. Helping people to help each other, the solutions would ease pressures on health and social care budgets and reduce local transport subsidies.  The Challenge is at an exciting stage as final projects are being chosen and more details will be shared in coming weeks.

Community Wellbeing leads Fred Weston and Ashley Morgan talked of the local authorities Community Wellbeing Network. The Network is a collaboration of services including health, voluntary organisations and the council who work together to provide a joined up and seamless services approach to keeping people well.

The preventative approach aims to provide help and support at the earliest opportunity to reduce hospital admissions, doctor’s surgeries and prevent referral to social services which aids wellbeing and hope to reduce isolation and loneliness.

Future meetings will focus on the following themes, Money, Housing, Health and Young Disabled People. Residents are welcomed to attend any of the meetings which at the moment take place at Monmouthshire County Council County Hall, Usk. The group is hoping to engage more and more people for coming months to help improve the lives of disabled people.

Cllr Peter Fox, Leader of the Council said: ‘I am so pleased to attend the Access for All meeting. The group is so important. We need to make sure the voices of disabled people are heard and listened to. I hope that more and more people join. As an authority we value feedback from everyone I thank Tony for his work in leading and supporting the group.’

For more information about the Access for All Forum please contact Tony Crowhurst tony_crowhurst@yahoo.co.uk

Lack of short-term parking in Monmouthshire’s towns is regularly raised as an issue by residents so enforcement at the county’s short stay car parks has been improved to strictly offer a maximum stay of four hours, followed by a period of two hours before drivers can purchase another ticket for the same vehicle.  New car parking machines have now been introduced that feature dedicated software to prevent drivers from feeding a meter immediately after their first ticket has elapsed. This gives more people the opportunity to pop into the county’s towns and shop locally as well as support Monmouthshire’s businesses.

The council’s designated short-term car parks are at Abergavenny’s Brewery Yard, Tiverton Place and Trinity Terrace, Glendower Street in Monmouth and Nelson Street in Chepstow.

The council widely consulted the public over 28 days and advertised its intention to create new parking measures – including the short-term two hour restriction – in all its car parks, online on the council’s website and through extensive adverts in the Abergavenny Chronicle, Monmouthshire Beacon and South Wales Argus.

Councillor Bryan Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for the county’s car parks said: “The council provides a considerable amount of long-term car parking in Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth for those people intending to spend more than four hours – the maximum term in our short-term car parks – in our towns.  Vehicles which previously unlawfully occupied spaces in our short-term car parks potentially deprived a considerable number of visitors who wished to stay for perhaps half an hour or less.  This is not good for business and caused inconvenience for those wishing to make a brief call in our towns to purchase goods, deliver or collect items or attend an appointment. We encourage everyone to support their local shops and businesses, and better access to short term parking will help.”

For more information on Monmouthshire’s car parking policies visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/car-parks

 

Monmouth’s University of the Third Age (U3A) recorder combo will perform festive tunes at the town’s community hub at 10am on Tuesday 4th December.  The recital is free and complimentary coffee, tea and shortbread will be served.  In addition, a raffle for a hamper will raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support – one of Britain’s largest charities providing specialist health care, information and financial support to people affected by cancer.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community hubs said: “We welcome all to Monmouth Community Hub’s latest event – a great example of how we enable local organisations to entertain and engage with the public while raising money for a very good cause.  I hope people give generously while enjoying this seasonal performance.”

Monmouth’s community hub is situated in Whitecross Street.  Car parking is available nearby.

Monmouthshire County Council is providing free weekend parking in Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth in the approach to Christmas.  This will be a welcome boost for the towns’ shops, help remind people of the county’s fantastic range of independent retailers and encourage shoppers to buy locally.  Free Saturday parking will be provided in Chepstow on 1st, 8th and 15th December while Abergavenny and Monmouth will offer free parking on 8th, 15th and 22nd December.

Councillor Bryan Jones, Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for the county’s car parks said: “Free weekend parking over the approach to Christmas has been such a success over the past seven years that it’s right to repeat it.  It costs the council around £19,000 in lost revenue each year but of course our towns benefit enormously from increased custom in shops and restaurants. And it reminds people what a brilliant range of outlets we have in our towns.”

Monmouthshire’s retail outlets, including those in the county’s other shopping centres within Usk, Caldicot and elsewhere where parking is free throughout the year, feature many long-established family businesses and a variety of local markets offering a wide selection of goods to residents and visitors.  The council will advertise the free parking dates in its car parks and has produced posters which can be downloaded from the council’s website.

Monmouthshire County Council is seeking people to serve on its appeal panels that oversee the admission of pupils to schools and the exclusion of pupils from schools.  These panels ensure a fair and independent hearing for parents or carers who are dissatisfied with the council’s decision to refuse their child a place at a particular school and to hear appeals against decisions to exclude pupils from schools in the county.  Panel members will need to be impartial, objective, sensitive, decisive and keen to contribute, and those appointed will receive training before assuming their duties.  Applicants may be excluded from consideration if there is reason to call into question their ability to act in an impartial manner.

The panels will consist of lay members as well as other members who have experience in education, are acquainted with educational conditions in Monmouthshire or are parents of registered pupils at a school.

To be considered as a lay member, persons must:

(a) be a person without personal experience in the management of any school or the provision of education in any school (other than as a school governor or in another voluntary capacity)

(b) not, nor at any time have had, any connection with the local education authority or any person who is a member of, or employed by, the authority.

Panel members are eligible to receive allowances for financial loss, travel and subsistence in line with the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011.

Councillor Richard John, Monmouthshire cabinet member with responsibility for education said: “The council values openness and panel members can play an important part in ensuring that parents or carers receive a fair and independent hearing.  I hope people will offer themselves for these interesting and rewarding positions.”

Suitable people who wish to be considered by the county council should write to Claire Williams at Legal Services, Monmouthshire County Council, County Hall, The Rhadyr, Usk, NP15 1GA by Friday 14th December.  For further details contact clairewilliams@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 01633 644026.

The Usk Community Hub will hold its Christmas Fayre on Saturday 1st December from 10am to 3pm.

Eighteen market stalls will sell locally crafted gifts, cakes, bakes, jams and preserves, and much more. Refreshments including tea, coffee and mince pies will be available and Father Christmas will make an appearance from 11am to 1pm.  In addition, an amazing colourful quilt, Christmas stocking and a beautifully embroidered towel handcrafted by staff from the council’s social services team will be on display and those attending will be offered raffle tickets for a chance of winning the three items. The winners will be announced on December 13th and funds raised will provide looked-after children and care leavers with gifts this Christmas.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for the county’s community hubs said: “Usk’s Christmas Fayre is just one example of how the council’s five hubs can bring people together and support local community activity.”

Usk Community Hub is based at 35 Maryport Street where there are two car parks nearby.

For further details contact: Senior Information Assistant Louise Greaves – LouiseGreaves@monmouthshire.gov.uk – 01291 426888 or 07971 828422.

Chepstow School will host an anti-bullying evening event on Tuesday 27th November in conjunction with award-winning charity BulliesOut.  Running from 5pm to 6.30pm, this free session will be of interest to parents, social care workers, safeguarding officers, teachers and other educational professionals and will cover the identification of bullying, working with schools and the experience of being bullied, followed by a question and answer session.

Established in May 2006, BulliesOut is one of the UK’s most dedicated and ambitious anti-bullying charities. Its award-winning work is delivered across the UK and each year, through its work with schools, colleges, youth and community settings, it provides education, training and support to thousands of young people.

Children who are bullied are more likely to have low self-esteem, develop depression or anxiety, become socially withdrawn, isolated and lonely, have lower academic achievements due to avoiding or becoming disengaged with school and be unable to form trusting, healthy relationships with friends or partners in the future.  Meanwhile, children who frequently bully others are more likely to drop out of, or be expelled from school, engage in criminal behaviour and be abusive towards their sexual partners, spouses or children as adults.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for safeguarding, Cllr Penny Jones commented: “Monmouthshire has taken great steps in recent years to prioritise safeguarding so I’m pleased to support Chepstow School’s initiative.  The cumulative impact of bullying can affect the mental health and well-being of both children and adults alike so this event will highlight its consequences and how we can minimise its effect.”

Jo Lindley, Deputy Head of Chepstow School added: “We are delighted to host this exciting event at Chepstow School and share the good practice of BulliesOut with our wider community.  As a school we are committed to our students following our code of ‘Ready, Respect, Safe’.  BulliesOut has supported the work of our Invisible Army – a team of dedicated student leaders who look out for those in need of support, raise awareness of speaking out against bullies and provide a safer environment for our students.  The high quality training from BulliesOut has ensured confidence among our dedicated team of volunteers to deliver a first class service for our school.”

For further information on this event contact Suzie O’Rourke – suzieorourke@chepstowschool.net – the school’s ASD coordinator. Chepstow School is situated on Welsh Street, Chepstow, NP16 5LR.

Local author Ian Richardson will discuss his debut murder mystery City Crime as well as offering creative writing tips at a free event in Monmouth Community Hub at 5.30pm on Tuesday 27th November.

Born in Washington DC, Ian has spent much of his working life in the UK civil service and now lives happily with his wife near Usk.

City Crime is a murder mystery set in London featuring two dead bodies and several suspects with motives—a neglected wife, a belittled business partner, a scorned mistress and a humiliated daughter who keep two City of London detectives very busy in this compelling twisty page-turner.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community hubs said: “We welcome all to Ian Richardson’s talk which promises to be a fascinating evening.  Our community hubs offer similar occasions throughout the year and they are all well worth attending.”

Monmouth’s community hub is situated in Whitecross Street.  Car parking is available nearby.

Usk Community Hub will host a free talk by local poet Mair Pitt at 12noon on Monday 19th November.  Mair will discuss her new book of poetry, Power Play, illustrated by mixed media artist, Cwmbran-based Jill Powell.

Mair has written poetry for a number of years and her work has been published widely in magazines and anthologies.  She also teaches creative writing in Usk Community Hub.  Power Play is published by arts organisation Culture Matters and it explores the theme of power as it affects children, women and society as a whole.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community hubs said: “It’s always fascinating to hear how writers approach their work and our meet the author events provide an absorbing insight.  This talk is just one of many that our community hubs hold throughout the year and they’re well worth attending.”

 

Usk’s community hub is situated at 35 Maryport Street, NP15 1AE.  Car parking is available nearby.

A partnership between Monmouthshire County Council’s highways and environmental health teams with volunteers from a local caving club and construction and engineering company Costain has liberated a Monmouthshire beauty spot from the scourge of fly-tipping.

The outstanding scenic area at Llanelly Hill near Abergavenny has suffered from fly-tipping for a considerable time with large amounts of rubbish thrown into an inaccessible gorge but an operation carried out on Sunday 4th November retrieved all visible waste material, leaving an immaculate site.

Monmouthshire’s highways directorate agreed to waive the usual fee for a road closure, allowing members from Brynmawr Caving Club to abseil down a steep slope between Darenfelin and Gellifelin to collect the rubbish.  Karon Williams from the council’s environmental health team was present.  She said: “Thanks to great work by Brynmawr Caving Club we have rid this beautiful area of two mattresses, headboards, cushions, five large pieces of carpet, plastic bags full of rubbish, general household items and over 60 plastic bottles, cans and glass bottles.  Incredibly, we also found an agricultural show trophy for best milker and a prosthetic foot!  We shall investigate the rubbish to ascertain whether we can trace it to any original owners.”

Victoria Bluemel of Brynmawr Caving Club lives close to the site.  She said: “As a local resident I’m appalled to see that fly-tipping is still an issue in the vicinity despite previous warnings to the public. Thankfully, the community were happy that we were willing to clear it ourselves and raise the issue again. It’s such a shame as the gorge is a spectacular scene of natural engineering.”

Her caving colleague Barry Burn added: “As cavers, we are always mindful of the impact our actions can have on the natural environment and always saddened when we see such mindless acts that cause great harm to both the underground and above-ground environment. We were happy to help out and apply the skills we have gained from exploring our local caves to reach the rubbish dumped in what, to most people, is a difficult to reach, if not inaccessible, place. I find it unbelievable that someone would go to such lengths to dump this rubbish, spoiling such a beautiful part of the Clydach Gorge, when the local civic amenities site is just down the road and open to all residents.”

Costain, the principal contractor on the A465 dual-carriageway construction project between Gilwern and Brynmawr, coordinated and signed the traffic management arrangements and deployed resources to transport the fly-tipped rubbish to a local community amenity site.  Bruce Richards, Costain Project Director commented: “Once we were informed of the problem and the difficulty in recovering the material, we were keen to assist where we could.  I’m pleased that the area has been cleaned so that we can all enjoy its beauty.  I hope that the offenders are traced and brought to justice.”

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for public protection, Councillor Sara Jones said: “We’re very grateful for the magnificent contribution made by members of Brynmawr Caving Club and Costain to help restore this site to its former glory.  Fly-tipping is an anti-social activity and causes wider problems than the aesthetic impact on the environment.  It can reduce inward investment into the area, affect house prices and adds to the risk of flooding if it occurs near water courses, as is the case at Llanelly Hill.  Fly-tipping is often difficult to clean up, especially in sites like this beautiful gorge, and deprives other front line services of much-needed resources.  The council has prosecuted a number of fly-tippers in recent years and asks residents to report incidents of fly-tipping.”

 

Monmouthshire County Council is to host a free open house event focussing on career opportunities for people looking for employment in the care sector.  Staff from the council’s Social Care, Safeguarding and Health team will be present with representatives from local domiciliary care organisations at the St Pierre Marriott Hotel & Country Club near Chepstow on Thursday 15th November to outline the opportunities available.

Dubbed “Dare to Care”, the open day will run from 10am to 7pm and will guide prospective job seekers looking for openings in this rewarding field.

Councillor Penny Jones, Monmouthshire cabinet member for social care said: “Carers can make a positive difference to people’s lives and opportunities exist to develop a career in this line of work.  You will meet new people in your local area and take an active part in your community.  Flexible hours mean you can fit your duties around other daily activities – ideal if you have family commitments or study plans. Please go along and find out more – it is the type of work that can give you great job satisfaction.”

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available.  For further information contact People Development Lead Officer Sian Sexton on SianSexton@monmouthshire.gov.uk or telephone 07920 794112.

  • St Pierre Marriott Hotel & Country Club, NP16 6YA, lies between Chepstow and Caerwent on the A48.

Usk Community Hub is seeking stallholders for its Christmas Fayre on Saturday, 1st December from 10am to 3pm.  The popular seasonal market provides a great opportunity for people to offer crafts, home made goods, foodstuffs, children’s toys, knitwear and associated merchandise in the approach to the festive period and for buyers to seek out bargains.  Father Christmas will make an appearance and refreshments will be available.

Stallholders will be charged £15 per table and they must register their interest by Tuesday, 20th November.  Details may be obtained by emailing uskhub@monmouthshire.gov.uk or telephoning 01291 426888.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for the county’s community hubs said: “Usk’s Christmas Fayre is just one example of how the council’s five hubs can bring people together and support local community activity.”

Usk’s community hub is based at 35 Maryport Street with two car parks nearby.