Monmouth’s Bridges Centre has launched the first Cycling Without Age scheme in Wales, which allows the opportunity for elderly and less-abled residents of Monmouth to be chauffeured in trishaw bikes by generous, local volunteers.

Bridges Centre is an independent Monmouth-based charity whose aim has always been to enhance the wellbeing of the local community. Their recent Cycling Without Age scheme aims to offer the opportunity for older people, or those with mobility difficulties, the chance to get out of their homes, meet new people, reconnect with their community and nature and have some fun. The scheme runs with 5 guiding principles:

Generosity: Cycling Without Age is based on generosity and kindness. It starts with the obvious generous act of taking one or two elderly or less-abled people out on a bike ride. It’s a simple act that everyone can do.

Slowness: Slowness allows riders to sense the environment, be present in the moment and it allows people the rider can meet along the way to be curious and gain knowledge about Cycling Without Age because you will make time to stop and talk.

Storytelling: Older adults have so many stories that will be forgotten if we don’t reach out and listen to them. The Cycling Without Age scheme aims to give elderly and less-abled people someone to talk to, especially following a particularly lonely period throughout lockdown. The volunteers are also encouraged to tell stories as well as listen to them, being the catalyst for potential friendships too.

Relationships: Cycling Without Age is about creating a multitude of new relationships between generations, among older adults, between pilots and passengers, care home employees and family members. Relationships build trust, happiness and quality of life.

Without Age: Life unfolds at all ages, young and old, and can be thrilling, fun, sad, beautiful and meaningful. Cycling Without Age is about letting people age in a positive context – fully aware of the opportunities that lie ahead when interacting in their local community.

The Cycling Without Age scheme was originally set up in 2012 in Copenhagen, Denmark, when local entrepreneur Ole Kassow saw that many local older people wanted to get back into cycling but with limited mobility, an ordinary bike was unsuitable. For many people, having been stuck at home for an extended period of time, this is the chance to meet new people and see parts of their community they would never had had access to, being the highlight of their week. 

The scheme also has partnerships with three local businesses to make trips even more enjoyable. If the bike stops at Monmouth coffee shop “Quench”, volunteers and passengers can have a free tea, coffee or ice-cream. Similarly, if a stop is made at “MonTeas” both passenger and pilot will receive a free sample of tea, and if they stop at “Wye Weight” they will receive a small bag of dried fruit or nuts to snack on during the remainder of the trip.

The Lord Lieutenant of Gwent, Brigadier Robert Aitken, attended the Cycling Without Age launch, and said: “I’m so please to be involved, in the smallest way, in this project. It was lovely meeting such a delightful bunch of people, all inspired by this project, and all willing to contribute their time and effort in making this scheme work. Thank you to the local businesses, including MonTeas, Quench and Wye Weight who have made a generous offer that if you stop at their shops whilst on the Trishaw bike, you will receive free samples, which will hopefully encourage the other businesses in Monmouth to do the same as it is a wonderful exemplar of what community spirit is all about.”

There are plans to expand this scheme to other towns in Monmouthshire with bikes being ordered for Caldicot and Abergavenny later in the year to enable more people across the county to have the opportunity of being a part of this rewarding scheme, as a volunteer or passenger.

Bridges Centre is always looking for a team of warm, friendly volunteers over the age of 18 to become ‘pilots’ and ‘co-pilots’ with a basic level of fitness, although the bikes are battery operated to help navigate through Monmouthshire’s hills.

If residents are interested in volunteering for this rewarding scheme, or want to gain more information on becoming a passenger, please contact Marianne Piper at Marianne.piper@bridgescentre.org.uk.

A cul de sac of modern and spacious self-contained apartments are helping to provide some of Monmouthshire’s homeless residents with a new start. It’s thanks to the ongoing collaboration between Melin Homes and Monmouthshire County Council which has seen two blocks of apartments built.  The recently opened accommodation is made up of eight, one-bed homes and supports the need for additional one-bed single person accommodation – something which is greatly needed in Monmouthshire.   

The accommodation has been sensitively designed to be in keeping with its location, with each apartment containing a spacious kitchen with white goods, a lounge area, a large bedroom and a modern bath/shower room. Each apartment has been built to a high standard with high quality fixtures and fittings. The surrounding areas have been tastefully landscaped, creating an inviting and homely location for those who have faced hardship or have been sleeping rough to be welcomed into.

The new accommodation is just one of many of Monmouthshire County Council’s projects aimed at supporting the county’s homeless and also reinforces the continued benefits of partnerships with the organisations like Melin Homes and Monmouthshire Housing Association. The work builds on other collaborative projects which has seen temporary accommodation established in Caldicot, Abergavenny and Monmouth.

The need to increase temporary accommodation provision in the county follows the rise in people presenting as homeless in recent years. The last 17 months has also seen an increase in the number of people falling on hard times due to the impact of the pandemic, and the surge in relationship breakdowns during lockdowns. The Welsh Government recently established a new vision for homelessness and put a requirement on all local authorities to make sure no one slept rough during the pandemic. The Phase 2 Guidance for Homeless & Housing Support sets out aims such as;

  • More temporary homes
  • Better quality temporary homes
  • Movement towards self-contained accommodation
  • A wider range of temporary homes
  • More housing support
  • Rapid rehousing

Speaking about the development, Chief Executive of Melin Homes Paula Kennedy said: “The pandemic pushed homelessness to the very top of Welsh Governments’ agenda and they made £50 million available to support projects across Wales. Thanks to some impressive partnership working with our colleagues in Monmouthshire County Council, we are proud to have played our part investing £660,000 to build eight brand new flats providing temporary accommodation for homeless people. I’m very proud that our work will enable vulnerable people in our communities will be given a safe place from which they can get all the support they need.”

Upon visiting the new apartments, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice, Councillor Lisa Dymock said: “I am completely blown away by these high quality and spacious homes. I am delighted we are able to provide some of our residents who have faced difficulties or fallen on hard times with this standard of accommodation. Nobody should have to be in a situation where sleeping rough or sofa surfing is the only option and Monmouthshire County Council is fully committed to ensuring we have the right provisions and mechanisms in place to enable us to support anyone experiencing this.  The new accommodation will have an important role in supporting people to rebuild their lives.

“This also proves that there is power in partnerships and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Melin Homes for helping provide this accommodation, which can sometimes be a lifeline for people. Our work doesn’t end here. Ensuring people have the resources, support and means to help them out of temporary accommodation and to finding their long term home is of utmost importance. That’s why our continued gratitude goes to our partners at Pobl, Llamau and MHA and many other agencies for their support and expertise in ensuring no one gets left behind.”

For more information visit: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/homelessness-prevention-and-housing/

A new state of the art single storey community hub earmarked for the communities of Magor and Undy has moved a step closer thanks to £1,145,000 of Economic Stimulus Funding from Welsh Government.

The project follows years of work and consultation with the residents of Magor and Undy to identify the needs of their communities and to learn what features should be included in the new space, with the Magor with Undy Community Hub project (MUCH) playing a key role in seeing the project come to fruition.

The facility will be designed for social, culture, leisure, sporting and other community activities. The exciting project will be built on the ‘Three Fields’ site, which is located adjacent to the B4245 in Magor/Undy. The Hub will also support the delivery and establishment of the Magor and Undy walkway train station which has been proposed adjacent to the site.

Monmouthshire County Council, in partnership with the MUCH group, have now entered the pre-construction phase of development with Kier Construction as preferred contractor. Work on the new facility is to begin in early 2022. The project is estimated to take eight months to complete.

Speaking on the announcement, Cabinet Member for Resources, Councillor Phil Murphy said: “We are delighted to announce this exciting project has taken a step forward and we would like to take this opportunity to thank the MUCH group and residents of Magor and Undy for their continued support”.

“It is our shared vision to create a Community Hub that the residents of Magor and Undy can be proud of, a place where local communities can come together to socialise, take part in leisure, sporting and cultural activities and to be a place for meetings, events and support networks.”

The numbers of mourners permitted to attend funerals at Gwent cemeteries and Gwent Crematorium is changing in line with updated government guidance.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 Coronavirus outbreak, it has unfortunately been necessary to limit the numbers permitted to attend funerals at cemeteries within the five local authority areas of Gwent, and at Gwent Crematorium.

The councils fully recognise and understand how difficult these restrictions have been for the family and friends of the deceased, and as such made a commitment to keep them under regular review.

With the Welsh Government announcement that Wales has moved fully into Alert Level One, the Gwent Local Resilience Forum, covering the five council areas, has agreed to increase the number of mourners permitted to attend funerals at cemeteries and the Gwent Crematorium.

Attendance at a funeral as a mourner continues to be limited to those specifically invited by the organiser of the funeral and the carer of anyone attending.

The number of permitted attendees with effect from 22/07/21 is:

Cemetery burials: unlimited

Gwent Crematorium:  30

However, despite the easing of the restrictions, we all still have a part to play in taking reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure and spread of coronavirus. 

This includes keeping a distance from each other as far as possible and avoiding physical contact such as shaking hands or hugging, especially with those outside of your permitted groups and households. 

Also, frequent handwashing and the use of hand sanitiser gel remains important, as does refraining from touching your nose/mouth with unwashed hands. Partners of the Gwent Local Resilience Forum will keep this matter under continual review

Following the meeting of Full Council on Thursday 22nd July, Monmouthshire County Council has confirmed that the proposed refurbishment of Abergavenny Leisure Centre has been agreed.  To enable residents to see the full development plans and find out more, MonLife has today (Friday 23rd July) launched their new microsite www.monlifeleisuredevelopment.co.uk.

The new microsite will provide residents with updates the the project progresses

Monmouthshire County Council’s MonLife is committed to investing in projects which will benefit the health and wellbeing of the county’s community.  Its leisure centres provide a vital hub to support physical and emotional wellbeing across all age demographics. 

The proposed refurbishment of Abergavenny Leisure Centre will create a wellness hub over the first floor of the building, to create modern leisure facilities for the local community and helping to increase participation in regular physical activity.

The proposed new facilities will include:

·        Extended Fitness Suite

·        Power Assisted Exercise Studio

·        Dedicated Spin Studio

·        New Fitness Changing Facilities

·        Ground Floor Coffee Vending Offer

Councillor Lisa Dymock, Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice, said: “We are committed to investing in and developing leisure facilities across our county to support the health and wellbeing of our citizens.  The continued investment in leisure facilities will have a significant impact on wellbeing for not only now, but also for our future generations. I would encourage local residents to have a look at the plans and find out more about this exciting project.”

Bittern (Photo: Andy Karran)

A thought-provoking new report, published on Wednesday 21st July, has looked at the breadth of wildlife in Gwent, recording the ecological successes and identifying those species most at risk. The Greater Gwent State of Nature report is intended to inform the forthcoming Local Nature Recovery Action Plans and other conservation work. It’s hoped that the information within the report will be used to direct further recording and monitoring, as well as future conservation action.

The report, funded by the Welsh Government’s Enabling of Natural Resources and Well-being Grant, has covered the five Local Authorities of Greater Gwent; Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen, looked at the species found within the region. It aim is to reverse biodiversity decline and increase resilience of nature through partnership working.

The RGG partnership and Gwent’s Local Nature Partnerships (LNPs) chose 100 species to represent the breadth of wildlife found within the region, whose stories inspire, raise concern, and even make us curious. By studying species populations and trends, changes and threats in the wider ecosystems that support them are revealed.

Water vole (Photo: Andy Karran)

Councillor Lisa Dymock, Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice, said: “This report provides invaluable information that will help us target those species most at risk. It’s clear there are some great success stories as well. Bittern are back breeding on the Gwent Levels for the first time in 200 years, for example, and colonies of horseshoe bats are thriving. Worryingly, evidence shows that we are rapidly losing lapwing from the area. Of even greater concern is data that suggests that adders will be lost entirely in just 30 years if nothing changes.

“For many of the 100 species included, this has been the first time that regional trends have been recorded. The monitoring and collection of wildlife data is incredibly important and will help inform us going forward. It’s key to safeguarding the ecological future of the region.”

For more information about the State of Nature report: blaenau-gwent.gov.uk/en/resident/countryside/resilient-greater-gwent/

Monmouthshire County Council has submitted bids to the UK government Levelling Up fund to support the investment in projects to improve infrastructure and regeneration in Monmouth and Caldicot.

The Levelling Up Fund is a £4.8 billion fund administered by the UK Government and is to be used for infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK, and supports town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets.

In Monmouth, the projects include the creation of a modern visitor attraction and community asset within the Shire Hall, major investment in Monnow Street and Blestium Street to enhance the public spaces whilst modernising the public facilities and reimagining how the Market Hall may become an asset for businesses and the community in the future.

In Caldicot, the projects include the modernisation and upgrading of the leisure centre, acquisition and repurposing of a major retail block in the town centre and creating an enhanced public area in the town centre, and the active travel links to the centre. Each bid is a multi-million pound package that would bring much needed investment to the towns.

Local MPs have lent their support for Monmouthshire’s bid, with David Davies, MP for the Monmouth constituency and Jessica Morden, MP for Newport East Constituency, endorsing the submission.

Jessica Morden commented “The bid is an opportunity to bring funding to some fantastic projects that will greatly improve Caldicot for residents, businesses and visitors. Having seen the presentations on the future plans, I am very pleased to formally endorse the proposals”.

David Davies, MP for the Monmouth Constituency, has also backed the submission writing to the Minister in support of the bid. David Davies commented “I am delighted to endorse the submissions for the Levelling Up Fund. If successful, this funding will make a significant difference to Monmouth and help improve the infrastructure in the town and what the town has to offer to visitors, residents and businesses.”

Councillor Richard John, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, has praised the work undertaken by the officers in preparing such high quality bids that address some of the fundamental priorities highlighted for the town.  He added: “I am impressed by the submission to the fund and equally by the universal support offered by representatives of the community, not only in Westminster but also at the Senedd and by leaders more locally. This investment would make a huge difference to the future of the towns.”

For more information about the Levelling Up Fund, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/levelling-up-fund-prospectus

The applications may be seen on the Monmouthshire County Council website – follow this link: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/levelling-up-fund/

From the beginning of October 2021, Monmouthshire County Council will continue its rolling programme of testing the safety of memorials in its cemeteries by checking memorials in Monmouth Cemetery.

The Council has an obligation to ensure, as best it can, the safety of those visiting or working in its cemeteries and checking of the stability of memorials is an important part of that obligation. 

The testing will be carried out by trained employees and if the memorial remains stable to a pre-determined level, it is deemed to be safe.

Those memorials which fail will be made safe with a stake and a band placed around them as a short term measure. Notices will also be attached to the memorial to provide information to family members who may visit the cemetery with details of why the ‘make safe’ system had been used and details of who to contact for further information.  The council will also make efforts to contact, where possible, family members to advise them of the steps they need to take to have the memorial re-erected.

If a memorial has not been re-erected within six months of test failure the council will sink the memorial headstone to a 1/3rd of its depth at the head of the grave until family arrange to have it re-erected by a Registered Memorial Mason.

Monmouthshire County Council recognises there is a potential for family members to become upset in the event of a memorial being found to be unsafe but it is hoped that those affected will understand that the overriding principle is to ensure the safety of people visiting the cemetery.  If any family member has concerns about the stability of a memorial or requires further information please contact the Cemeteries Officer on 01873 735852. E-mail -cemeteries@monmouthshire.go.uk

Make some magical memories this summer,’ that’s the message as MonLife, gets ready to welcome children and young people in Monmouthshire to its exciting wealth of activities and fun across the county. The Monmouthshire Games, indoor play centres, theatre events and many more activities have been organised with the intention of keeping children and young people active and entertained during the summer break.

The Summer of Fun kicks-off with ‘The Monmouthshire Games’ taking place between July 26th and August 27th, with action-packed days offering more than 30 different sporting activities that can be enjoyed by children and young people aged 5-11 years old at all four of the county’s leisure centres. The Monmouthshire Games provides a unique opportunity for both children and parents. Participants can meet new friends, develop new skills and confidence, whilst parents are content knowing that their child is safe, happy and having hours of sporting fun.

MonLife has organised free activities for the whole family to enjoy over August, including archery, a climbing wall, clay play, badge making, natural art collage and orienteering. Visit the MonLife Activities website to see what free activities are at your nearest local venue: Family Days – MonLife Holiday Activities.
The dates and locations are:

  • 10th August – Old Station Tintern 11:00 – 16:00
  • 11th August – Shire Hall 11:00 – 16:00
  • 17th August –Abergavenny Museum and Castle 11:00 – 16:00
  • 18th August –Caldicot Castle 11:00 – 16:00


MonLife’s Youth Service will also be providing a ‘Summer of Fun’ with provision for 11 years plus and a range of activities and opportunities including Graffiti workshops, outdoor activities, Skate Jam plus much more. 

Open-air theatre events at Abergavenny Castle grounds have also been scheduled this summer, with Horrible Histories: Gorgeous Georgians & Vile Victorians taking place live on stage on 28th July. There are plenty of other theatre events on at Abergavenny Castle throughout summer for all the family to enjoy, including The Great Gatsby (11th August), Pride & Prejudice (14th August) and David Walliams’ Mr Stink (22nd August).

Families can also book a visit to MonLife’s indoor play centre at Monmouth Leisure Centre this summer, which features an exciting three storey, action-packed climbing maze and a unique ‘beat the clock timing’ system. All of Monmouthshire’s leisure centre swimming pools are open for the summer holidays, including family bubble sessions, junior swim lessons and aqua classes.
Local swimming timetables can be found here: Swimming – MonLife Holiday Activities

Lisa Dymock, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice said: “MonLife has done an excellent job ensuring the children of Monmouthshire have a fantastic summer with all they have planned. There were less opportunities for children to enjoy a variety of experiences in 2020, this summer promises to be different with many new memory-making opportunities being held again. There is something for every child in Monmouthshire to enjoy this summer – sporty, creative, arts loving, or fans of the great outdoors – this summer will be lots of fun in the gorgeous, Monmouthshire, great outdoors.”

Summer of Fun is a Welsh Government initiative and runs from 1 July until 30 September. It provides a range of free leisure, recreational, sporting and cultural activities for children and young people aged 0-25 to help support their social, emotional, physical and mental wellbeing.

For more information on the events and activities in Monmouthshire this summer, visit: https://www.monlife.co.uk/monactive/childrens-activities/

Monmouthshire County Council is joining forces with all local authority fostering services in Wales to become ‘Foster Wales.’ Teams across the nation will combine their efforts and expertise to significantly increase the number and diversity of local authority foster carers.

Despite over a third (39%) of Welsh adults claiming they have considered becoming a foster carer, there is still a need to recruit an estimated 550 new foster carers and families across Wales every year. This is to keep up with the numbers of children who need care and support, whilst replacing carers who retire or are able to provide a permanent home to children.

The new national network, ‘Foster Wales’ brings together the 22 not-for-profit local authority fostering teams across Wales. With decades of experience, they work together and share information and expertise to make a significant national impact on the futures of young people.

Launching Foster Wales Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan MS, said: “It is fantastic to be launching Foster Wales. I know from listening to foster carers just how rewarding fostering can be. This new initiative will benefit looked after children and allow Local Authority fostering and recruitment teams across Wales to think bigger, creating a national impact without losing their advantage of specific local expertise.”  

“This government is committed to reducing the number of children in care, giving care experienced children better outcomes and importantly eliminating the profit element of children in care. Foster Wales is part of achieving this promise and will better enable children to stay in their community and meet the evolving needs of foster children and the people who foster them.”

Across Wales, every child in need of a foster carer is in the care of their local authority, so continually forming relationships within their local communities will help Foster Wales enable children to stay in their local area when it’s right for them.

Local authority teams already share information through regular contact, but just over a quarter (26%) of adults in Wales mistakenly believe fostering services delivered by councils probably aren’t very well joined up across the country. The move to unify the 22 local authority fostering services under the Foster Wales name therefore seeks to reassure and do justice to the pan-Wales work being undertaken.

Councillor Penny Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health said: “Significantly increasing the number and diversity of foster carers recruited directly to local authorities will enable us to have more choice available when matching a child; finding the right fostering family for each child is key to our ultimate goal of building brighter futures for children in our care.

“In the majority of cases, finding placements for children that keep them in their local area is a great benefit. It keeps them connected to their friends, their school and their sense of identity. It builds confidence and reduces stress. Working with Foster Wales means offering the right local home to a child who needs that opportunity and getting the expert local support and training needed to equip foster carers for the journey ahead.”

Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru, Heads of Children’s Services member Tanya Evans, said: “Becoming a foster carer is a decision to help make a real difference to the lives of children. There are hundreds of children across Wales right now who have a right to thrive and need somebody in their community to support and believe in them.

“Dispelling the myths surrounding foster care is a key task. For example, no two children are the same and neither is the foster care they need. There is no ‘typical’ foster family.

“Whether you own your own home or rent, whether you’re married or single. Whatever your gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or faith, there are young people in your community who need someone on their side.

“All we need is more people like you to open their doors and welcome them in.”

To find out more about local authority fostering in Wales, visit fosterwales.gov.wales / maethucymru.llyw.cymru

Artist’s impression of the new space

It’s all about you! Yes, the new community wellbeing space in Caldicot is taking shape and Monmouthshire County Council would love your help to design a fantastic sign for the TogetherWORKS space! Its name has been decided by local residents (via an online vote that attracted over 600 responses), so it seems only fitting that members of the community should help create a design to proudly display at the front of the state of the art space for community collaboration around recycling, art, making and wellbeing. 

Interested? If so, have a read about all the wonderful aspects of TogetherWorks to inspire your design, please also take a look at the images of the space attached, and some of the amazing projects that are being brought to the space below: 

Library of Things: This will allow residents to borrow things that they don’t need to own, donate things they own but don’t need and meet people to share knowledge and skills with the community. 

Repair Café: This will be a place where the local community can bring their broken household items to be repaired for free by volunteers. 

Community Fridge: The project is designed to cut down on food waste by giving away free food from supermarkets and other food outlets that is past its sell by date, but is still fresh and within its use by date. 

Makers’ Space: Located in a wooden clad shipping container, the Makers’ Space is a place where people can come together to make a range of new products from wood, recycled plastic and a variety of other materials. The space will feature a fully kitted out carpentry workshop and will also host a state-of-the-art laser cutter and plastic recycling machinery. 

Trishaw Bike Trips: Older residents and those with mobility difficulties will also be able to enjoy trishaw bike trips later in the year, a great way to get out the house and explore the area. 

The designs for the TogetherWORKS sign can be as creative and colourful as you want! However, here are some things that we would like you to consider: 

·         The sign should be simple to read 

·         The sign should be eye catching 

·         A sign that promotes the inclusivity of TogetherWORKS would be fantastic 

If you would like to get involved, please send your designs to Bethan Warrington (email: bethan.warrington@gavo.org.uk or call 07376 023 546).  


All entries for the competition should be sent by the closing date of4pm on Friday 23rd July. 

Monmouthshire libraries are inviting all children aged 4 – 11 to become Wild World Heroes this summer. This year’s Summer Reading Challenge is all about nature, amazing books, lovely rewards, and plenty of ideas for taking care of our environment.  It is free and very easy to take part.

Children need to sign up at their nearest library, where they will receive a foldout map of Wilderville to keep a record of their Summer Reading Challenge journey.  As children read library books of their own choice, they collect special stickers to complete their map.

To complete the challenge, children need to read four library books during the summer break. Each child who successfully completes the Challenge will receive lovely prizes including a certificate, a Wild World Heroes medal and a Wild World Heroes kit bag. 

The challenge is designed to encourage children to pick up new books and enjoy reading, especially over the long summer holidays where children’s quality of reading can take a  ‘dip’. Each year, the Summer Reading Challenge encourages children to keep reading and to discover wonderful new books.

Produced by The Reading Agency, this year in partnership with WWF UK, the annual Summer Reading Challenge is delivered by libraries throughout the UK. Wild World Heroes, Summer Reading Challenge 2021 starts in libraries across Monmouthshire on Saturday 10th July and finishes on Saturday 18th September.

Children can also take part online at https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk

Please contact your local library or follow Monmouthshire Community Hubs on social media to find out more information.

Cllr Jo Watkins, Cllr Ann Webb, Cllr Matt Feakins (Chair of Monmouthshire County Council), Cllr Jane Pratt and Cllr Phil Murphy.

Monmouthshire County Council’s Five Lanes Recycling Centre in Caerwent has officially opened with bargains and treasures to be uncovered. The Reuse Shop was officially opened by Councillor Jane Pratt on Thursday 8th of July.

Five Lanes Reuse Shop is a first for south Monmouthshire and follows in the footsteps of the Llanfoist shop at the Household Waste & Recycling Centre near Abergavenny, which opened in 2019 and serves the north of the county.

The Reuse Shop sits alongside the Household Waste and Recycling centres and offers pre-loved items at bargain prices. The stock for both shops comes from items rescued by dedicated teams who work at the centres, intercepting safe and useful items as they leave the cars’ boots before they’re thrown in the skips.

Cllr Jane Pratt cuts the ribbon to declare the Five Lanes Reuse Shop officially open, alongside Cllr Phil Murphy and Cllr Ann Webb.

The not-for-profit Reuse shops plough all profits directly into Monmouthshire Council’s tree planting programme. This helps in the fight against climate change and reduces the council’s waste disposal costs. This summer, the Five Lanes Reuse Shop is also selling compost/soil improver at a £1 a bag. The compost is made from the garden waste brought into the recycling centres by residents and is supplied by Abergavenny Green Waste.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for Climate Change, led the opening ceremony. “I am proud to officially declare this Reuse Shop open. I would like to thank all our Recycling and Waste teams, and the volunteers who work at the sites for their hard work and commitment. In creating this new shop, we can hope to double the opportunity to reduce landfill and plant even more trees in the county. I would also like to thank all those residents who have supported the shops so far, every penny they have spent makes a difference to our efforts to make Monmouthshire greener.”

The Five Lanes Reuse Shop relies on support from the local community. Dedicated staff and a team of enthusiastic volunteers work to stock the shop and present the very best salvaged and vintage items for sale. From garden equipment, including pots and tools, kitchenalia, antiques, small items of furniture, glasses, tableware, pictures, toys, books, bicycles for all ages, and collectables, the selection is constantly being added to as more items are saved by the team on site.

“Many of the items in the shop are almost as good as new, while others would make enjoyable makeover projects,” said Cllr. Pratt. “Items such as coffee tables are perfect for a bit of upcycling with a lick of paint or wax, while the chairs could provide a fun re-upholstery project for very little cost. I would encourage residents to come and take a look for themselves. The amount of stock on display just shows how much might have been wasted if it were not for the efforts of the team. When you buy these pre-loved items, you’re helping to plant more trees in Monmouthshire, reducing landfill and you bagging a bargain all at the same time. What could be better?”

Since the Llanfoist Reuse Shop opened in June 2019, it’s estimated that more than 11,000 items have been saved from the skips and profits have helped fund the planting of more than 8,100 trees across Monmouthshire. This autumn/winter the council is hoping to plant a further 5,000 whips (small saplings) and standards (young trees 6ft-8ft tall, often seen in parks and open spaces).

The Llanfoist Reuse Shop is open every Wednesday, from 10am-3pm, while the new Five Lanes Reuse Shop is open from 10am-3pm every Thursday.  For more information visit: monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/reuse-shop/

As the eligibility checker for the latest round of Welsh Government funding goes live, Monmouthshire businesses in the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors that continue to be severely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions are being encouraged to register.

The eligible businesses in the affected sectors (and their supply chains) could receive a payment of between £1,000 and £25,000, depending on their size, structure and circumstances under the latest Economic Resilience Fund round. The emergency package of support will cover the operating costs for July and August 2021 of businesses required to remain closed and who remain severely impacted as a result of the continuation of the restrictions.

“Monmouthshire businesses have been working incredibly hard to try and recover from the impact of the last 15 months,” said Councillor Sara Jones, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County ,who has been visiting businesses across Monmouthshire to hear their experiences first-hand . “As we head into the summer holiday season, we must not forget that many who rely on tourists and visitors are still struggling. We will continue to promote all available support and our Business Resilience Forum provides a regular and ongoing opportunity for us to hear directly from businesses about the challenges they are facing and what help they need.

“This latest round of funding is designed to offer much-needed support for businesses in the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors,” said Cllr. Jones. “This could include travel agents, attractions that have had to limit numbers in order to enable social distancing and venues that would normally receive school visits, for example. I would ask any business that thinks they might be eligible to use the eligibility checker as soon as possible, we want everyone who is eligible to be able to access this support.”

To qualify for support, businesses must show their turnover has reduced by more than 60% compared to the corresponding timeline in 2019 or equivalent. Any businesses that have previously received a coronavirus grant payment will still need to reapply as payments won’t be made automatically.

The first step to applying is to complete the eligibility checker on the Business Wales website. This enables businesses to check their eligibility and the amount of support they are able to apply for, which will help them to start preparing their applications.

Applications from eligible businesses with a turnover above £85,000 are open using the eligibility checker from Tuesday 13th July 2021, with payments being handled by Welsh Government. Meanwhile, eligible businesses with a turnover of less than £85,000 will be able to apply using the eligibility checker from Monday 26th July and these payments will be processed by Monmouthshire County Council.

“In the meantime, we’re continuing to roll out our Shop Local campaign. It features some of the countless incredible independent businesses and offers a sense of why everyone should visit,” added Cllr Jones. “Each business owner has a powerful message about why it matters where we spend our money and is passionate about their town or village. Monmouthshire’s businesses are the livelihoods of local people, and their families, and provide local jobs. Please shop locally whenever possible.”

For more information and for a link to the eligibility checker and for more information about the Business Resilience Forum visit Monmouthshire.gov.uk/business-advice

Cardiff Council has joined forces with Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) in a collaborative venture which will see Cardiff’s award-wining procurement team manage MCC’s procurement operations and functions for the next three years.

The move, which will take effect from August 1, 2021, will enable both authorities to combine resources and maximise use of spending power to help drive the recovery of their local economies.

Both councils have ambitions to see this collaboration move to a rolling contract whereby the authorities would work together in the discharge and provision of their procurement services.

The arrangement will also see Cardiff Council deliver:

·        Leadership and management of Monmouthshire Council’s Procurement Function;

·        Technical capability, expertise and category-specific knowledge to support delivery of the contract pipeline;

·        Support on the development and delivery of their procurement strategy and policy.

It’s also expected that the initiative will provide an opportunity to share wider good practice.

Monmouthshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, Councillor Phil Murphy said: “Entering into this important agreement demonstrates our commitment to ensuring we procure in an efficient way, utilising the expertise and knowledge of this highly-respected team, while also understanding the needs in Monmouthshire. I’m proud to see our two progressive organisations coming together to combine resources and look at ways of delivering the very best for our communities.”

Councillor Chris Weaver, Cardiff Council Cabinet Member for Finance, Modernisation and Performance, said: “This is an important partnership for Cardiff and for Monmouthshire. We want to lead the way in delivering major, collaborative, procurement arrangements for the Welsh public sector and this is a step towards that goal. It can help both authorities use their spending power to secure the best deals and to drive local recoveries as we come out of lockdown.

“In Cardiff we have developed an award-winning procurement team which is highly respected across the public sector and we are looking forward to bringing our skill, knowledge and expertise to Monmouthshire to help them realise all of their ambitions. This venture will also see the recruitment of three new procurement officers to complement the existing Cardiff and Monmouthshire staff – a welcome investment in building procurement capacity within Local Government in Wales.”

‘Jobs for caring people’ – that’s the urgent call from Monmouthshire County Council as it looks to recruit people from all different walks of life and localities to support some of the county’s most vulnerable residents.

Lucy is just one of many amazing home carers in Monmouthshire.

A number of opportunities are available within the Home Care team – an army of amazing people who work to support residents who need extra care and to help keep them in their homes. The call comes as the continued pressures brought on by the pandemic and expected winter pressures mean resources are needed urgently. There are opportunities to discuss working patterns that might suit you and your family’s needs such has part time hours.

To coincide with the recruitment drive, Monmouthshire County Council has also launched a campaign highlighting how rewarding becoming a home carer can be, as well as the incentives for working with Monmouthshire. This includes good rates of pay, night enhancements, supported training, annual leave as well as the opportunity to grow your career. Most significantly, home carers really can make a difference to the lives of people in the county, many of whom are impacted by loneliness and isolation.

Christina says she loves her job as a home carer.

Christina Harris has recently joined Monmouthshire’s Home Care team. Christina is encouraging people who might want to try a different career path to get in contact. She said:  “I saw an advert, to work in Home Care and I just thought I would give it a go and I’ve got to be honest I love it. It’s one of those jobs where you work alone some of the time but you don’t always work alone, you do meet colleagues. You’ve got full support and these people are a different level of special, honestly. Everybody is there to help you and you just feel part of an amazing team. I wish I had done it ten years ago, I really do.

You are keeping people in their homes, you’re getting to meet people and I get to use the skills I would use in my previous jobs, such as conversation and people skills.”

Cllr Penny Jones is calling on people to consider becoming a home carer.

Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said: “The pandemic has meant many people have revaluated their career prospects or have been left with the desire to help others. These opportunities within the Home Care will do exactly that and we really do need caring people to get in touch to deliver this vitally important service. It’s not just a job, it’s the chance to meet new people, work with amazing colleagues who all have the same passion of wanting to help others, all while getting paid. We welcome enquiries from people from all sorts of backgrounds, no matter what your experience might be. As long as you have the desire to care for others and work hard we can support you with all the rest. We are also keen to hear from people who live outside of Monmouthshire who would be happy to travel around our beautiful county to reach our residents. Please get in touch today if you are interested or have any further questions.”

The full job description, along with pay details and other incentives can be found at www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/socialcarejobs

Jack Rutter, a Team GB Paralympic footballer, is using his inspirational story to motivate and get pupils moving at Usk Primary School as part of the ‘Sports for Schools’ programme. The programme seeks to get professional athletes into schools to share their enthusiasm for sports, promote a healthy lifestyle and inspire pupils to overcome challenges, all whilst raising funds to support the school’s sports facilities.

Jack was due to become a professional footballer until an unprovoked assault led him to suffer a serious brain injury. After years of hard work and rehabilitation, Jack has since captained the England Cerebral Palsy team, and with his leadership, came 5th in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. As part of the Sports for Schools programme, Jack is one of over 40 professional athletes involved that introduces the pupils to a fun fitness circuit, encouraging both pupils and staff to be more active. On Monday 5th of July, Jack’s fitness circuit incorporated all children in Usk Primary School, following up with an inspirational assembly explaining his life story and welcoming questions asked by the pupils.

Councillor Paul Pavia, Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for Education, said: “I’m delighted that Jack has been able to attend Usk Primary this morning to share his inspirational life story with the children. I think it shows that if you have a positive mental attitude you can achieve whatever you want to achieve, which is exactly what these pupils need after a challenging 16 months dealing with the pandemic. Jack has certainly had the children working hard this morning.”

The Sports for Schools programme has raised over £4 million to fund new sports equipment for primary schools across the UK, as well as partly funding GB Athletes train for Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

For more information on the Sports for Schools programme, please visit: School Fundraising Ideas | School Sports Equipment (sportsforschools.org)

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To ensure the county’s communities remain connected and supported, Monmouthshire’s community hubs are offering a wide range of face-to-face adult learning workshops this summer, including accredited courses, such as numeracy, literacy and cookery, as well as non-accredited courses such as languages, photography, pottery and a variety of art courses, plus many more.

Initially opening in May, Monmouthshire community hubs are now offering fun for parents and children during the summer. As the sessions coincide with the summer holidays, the community hubs will also be running a range of adult and child art and craft workshops at Usk, Caldicot, Chepstow and Abergavenny hubs, so those with children can bring them along. These include soft pastels, acrylic on canvas, adult & child foam art, and many more. The role of the council’s community hubs is more important than ever during the pandemic to ensure the county’s communities remain connected and supported. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, all community hubs have worked hard to ensure that adult learning centres provide a safe learning environment with proper measures put in place.

Councillor Paul Pavia, Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for Education, said: “After a hard 15 months, I’m delighted to see our community hubs providing the public with great opportunities to learn new skills this summer. It is a great way to safely gain a sense of community again, and while the pandemic continues, the community hubs act as an aid to maintaining people’s mental health by offering means of support, and now education.”

Monmouthshire’s community hubs are currently offering courses online via Zoom at 5 hubs (Caldicot, Chepstow, Abergavenny, Usk, Monmouth) where a range of IT equipment is available to loan out to learners wanting to join online courses who lack the equipment. The hubs are also looking forward to recognising Adult Learners week at the beginning of September, by running a variety of online and in-person taster sessions for many interesting courses.

The accredited courses community hubs will be providing this summer 2021:

  • ESOL
  • Numeracy
  • Literacy / Digital Literacy
  • Cookery


The non-accredited courses community hubs will be providing this summer 2021:

  • Languages
  • Art (fine art, watercolours, acrylic, oil, pastels)
  • Sugarcraft
  • Willow Weaving
  • Pottery
  • Photography
  • Photo editing,
  • Creative writing
  • British Sign Language
  • Emergency First aid
  • Food Hygiene
  • Sewing

For more information on Monmouthshire community hub courses, please visit: In Person Courses – Monmouthshire

Monmouthshire’s leisure provider MonLife is gearing up for the exciting and popular Monmouthshire Games, with plenty on offer to keep children and young people active and entertained over the summer holidays. The five-week programme kicks off on Monday 26th July and will be run across all four of the county’s leisure centres, Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth.

The Monmouthshire Games are aimed at children between the ages of five and 11 and offers activities to suit a range of different interests and hobbies. The sessions run from 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday. All activities will be delivered in accordance with National Governing Body guidelines for each sport and will be COVID-19 compliant.

Since 2016, the annual Monmouthshire Games have encouraged thousands of children and young people to develop confidence, meet new friends and most importantly – have fun through sport. With the challenges brought on by the pandemic, it is also hoped that this year’s event will help to improve wellbeing and promote healthy bodies and minds.

The Monmouthshire Games are available to all young people in Monmouthshire, including any children of families visiting Monmouthshire on holiday. Each site has 50 spaces available per day and parents are being encouraged to book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice, Councillor Lisa Dymock said: “These holidays are not just about giving children and young people the summer they want but it should be the summer they deserve. After nearly 18 months of having lockdowns and restrictions, our younger generations have missed out on people able to have fun, socialise and be active. The Monmouthshire Games aim to provide a fantastic experience for children and they also give parents the peace of mind that their children are being looked after in a fun and safe environment while they work. Spaces fill up very quick so I would encourage parents to sign up as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”

To book a place please visit and fill out an enquiry form: https://forms.office.com/pages/responsepage.aspx?id=eQBNLCzFs0uzytjq8ba31dWg5QLf3fZNiBGUoeWdIcFUNElPNzdCMzVCRFlFOTJXWjRETEo4Rlo3OS4u

At yesterday’s (Thursday 24th June) meeting of full Council, the Children and Young People’s Annual Report gave an overview of its findings over the last 15 months, a time of uncertainty and challenges brought about by the pandemic.

The report showed encouraging findings regarding attendance in schools, with all of Monmouthshire’s schools achieving an attendance rate of over 90% since the end of May 2021, reflecting a high degree of confidence in schools and the work they are doing to keep their learners safe.

The report also demonstrated that wellbeing has been a key focus throughout the pandemic for the council’s Children and Young People’s team. There is a continued focus on children’s wellbeing and how they can best be supported. Monmouthshire schools have responded positively, in particular the continued development of Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs) in both primary and secondary schools providing a useful resource for learners and schools.  There are approximately 80 ELSAs working in schools across Monmouthshire.

Will McLean, Chief Officer for Children and Young People, said: “This is a vitally important service, ELSAs are integral to working with both individuals and small groups of children to ensure they feel safe in school and able to communicate how they feel, and through this communication, we can identify the necessary support for them.”

“We have also rolled out a project within Monmouthshire Primary schools that looks at putting children’s ambitions, aspirations and wellbeing first.  The Compass for Life project has been hugely valuable for children in our primary schools, asking them to articulate their ambition and allowing them to understand the steps they need to take to make this a reality. This rewarding project has engaged children across Monmouthshire, helping them understand the importance of resilience and having strong values. The council’s aims are now to ensure this project continues to roll out into secondary schools.”

Sincere gratitude was expressed for the commitment and care of all teaching staff across Monmouthshire’s schools. Councillor Paul Pavia, Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for Education, said: “Everyone; our caretakers, caterers, cleaners, teachers, support staff and leaders have done an incredible job in these difficult times to ensure schools are safe and secure, they have made an absolutely incredible contribution.”

Monmouthshire has become the first local authority in Wales to commit to aiming for gender parity so elected councillors are as reflective as possible of the residents they represent. The motion put forward by Council Leader Richard John was passed unanimously at yesterday’s (Thursday 24th June) meeting of full Council, with an amendment recognising protected characteristics.

Councillors across the four political groups agreed to take steps to make Monmouthshire the first local authority to achieve gender parity at next year’s elections.

Monmouthshire already leads the way with a Cabinet that is fully gender balanced.  An improved representation was announced last month when the newly appointed Council Leader, Councillor Richard John confirmed the appointment of Councillor Sara Jones as Deputy Leader, along with Councillor Lisa Dymock becoming Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice in addition to the current female cabinet members.

Councillor Richard John said, “Monmouthshire is already one of the most diverse councils in Wales with 35% female membership and councillors in their 30s and 80s and everything in between.”

Council Leader, Cllr. Richard John

“We’ve got some brilliant female role models across the parties, who challenge the typical image of local government and encourage more people to get involved in local politics,” continued Cllr John.

“No council in Wales has ever achieved gender parity and many councils are almost exclusively older men, which in this day and age is bizarre, so we’ve agreed to aim to be the first to secure a properly inclusive local democracy.

“A council that is more reflective of our community as a whole is better placed to adequately represent the broad range of views and experiences of residents.

“There is a direct link between the composition of a council – and its activities – the subjects it debates, the policies it scrutinises and the decisions it makes.

“We’ve now agreed that gender parity is a goal that is worth striving for and that we will all take steps to ensure residents have a diverse range of candidates from which to choose next year.”

Monmouthshire residents are being asked to lend their views to the final phase of a consultation which looks to improve the ways people in Monmouthshire get around in the future. The final phase of the Active Travel consultation will help in determining priorities for investment in the physical infrastructure of roads and paths suitable for cycling and walking as well as associated facilities. The Active Travel consultation is a requirement by Welsh Government under the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013.

The first phase of the consultation, which launched in 2020, undertook substantial engagement with the community to identify routes and facilities to encourage greater levels of Active Travel in everyday lives. Now concluded, the consultation has successfully captured the responses of 2700 people and 370 routes have been identified for consideration. Over 500 comments on the strategic focus of Active Travel in Monmouthshire were also received. All suggestions have now been independently assessed to produce a revised final Active Travel Network Maps.

Residents can now view and give feedback on the final maps, which are hosted on the Welsh Government sponsored website Common Place: https://mccactivetravelconsultation.commonplace.is/.  Due to the level of detail on the maps provided it is suggested accessing the site via a laptop, desktop or tablet for greater levels of interaction.  This website is also the main website for engagement for those individuals aged 12 years and over, with specific sessions taking place for primary aged pupils.  

To ensure good coverage of all groups in the community those that do not have access to a computer, alternative engagement methods of gathering responses are available, and can be viewed on https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/active-travel-consultation/  

The council has been working hard over the last 12 months to increase the focus on Active Travel. The aim is to encourage those who can, to leave their cars at home when travelling to work, shops, schools, a place of leisure or to get to a train / bus station. Active Travel is not about merely walking and cycling for leisure but it could also significantly enhance leisure activities by helping link up existing path and road networks, and is an important contributor in addressing the current climate emergency – helping to reduce vehicle emissions. It also has the benefit of improving physical and mental wellbeing.

Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Social Development, Councillor Lisa Dymock said: “As we look to accelerate decarbonisation and focus on improving our natural environment, we must concentrate of finding more green and efficient ways to get around. We have learned a lot from the pandemic and previous lockdowns about how a reduction in the pollution caused by vehicles and other forms of transport really has a positive impact on our climate. The future of how we work and live also means we have more opportunities to make the most of active travel, whether that be using our cars less or cycling places. We are working hard to ensure we have the infrastructure and policies to support these aims and we need the people of Monmouthshire to help us shape these very important decisions. Please take the time to have a look at the suggested routes and lend your views to the consultation.”

Residents with any queries are asked to contact either Sue Hughes, Active Travel Officer or Paul Sullivan Youth, Sport and Active Travel Manager ActiveTravel@monmouthshire.gov.uk  The consultation period ends 31st August 2021.

ENDS

Germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) and buttercups

Birds, bees, plants, flowers and trees have all received a boost thanks to a successful ‘No Mow May’ and Nature Isn’t Neat campaign. Over the last two months, verges and green spaces have been left to grow, allowing flowers and wild grasses to develop to support pollinators. The success of the campaign comes as Monmouthshire County Council gears up for the summer months and is reminding residents of its selective mowing policy.

Under the policy, sports pitches, path edges and road junctions will be mown while in other areas, the longer grass will gradually be cut, so residents will notice there will not be an immediate return to short green lawns. Some larger green spaces will have paths cut through them, and circles to provide areas for people to sit or children to play. This will create a more varied greenscape, providing a wider range of recreational and social opportunities as well as benefitting more species, and make a more interesting, natural environment. These changes will continue as the seasons progress, and some grass will not be cut until the end of the summer. There is no intention to return to flat, close-mown grass throughout the county’s green spaces, as this is not beneficial to the environment.

Bee orchid, Ophrys apifera, in Monmouth

Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for grounds maintenance and climate change, Councillor Jane Pratt, said: “It’s been wonderful to hear the overwhelmingly positive and supportive response to No Mow May from residents, who have reported enjoying the appearance of longer grasses swaying in the breeze, more wild flowers, and hearing the buzz of insects feeding on them. A wide diversity of different flowers have appeared in parks and footpath verges, ranging from daisies and dandelions to cow parsley, buttercups, hawkweed and trefoils. There have been rarities too, like the exotic-looking bee orchids spotted in Chepstow, Monmouth and Caerwent.

“Now we are moving into the next phase – selective grass mowing is resuming. As the mowing teams work their way around the county, they will still be observing the key principles of Nature Isn’t Neat, which partners the ethos of No Mow May perfectly,” said Cllr. Pratt.

Speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria)

Councillor Jane Pratt, added: “The changes are a key part of our response to the catastrophic decline in biodiversity, particularly in numbers of pollinators. Our mowing policy will directly increase habitats, shelter, food sources and hibernation sites for them. Pollinators need more than just flowers to survive and thrive, moths and butterflies for example have a caterpillar stage that need grasses and wild plants like nettles as an edible food source, and somewhere safe to develop when they are in their chrysalis stage. Wildflowers and plants are essential to the ecosystem, which support everything, including all of us. Our green spaces and gardens, whether in towns or the countryside, have a vital part to play, and the council has a duty to manage the environment under its control in a sustainable way. Our Nature Isn’t Neat principles are designed with this in mind. The changes they encompass will help make our towns and green spaces more resilient to climate change and help us all as we face the challenges ahead.”

For more information about Nature Isn’t Neat visit monmouthshire.gov.uk/nin/

Armed Forces colleagues and personnel are being honoured at the start of Armed Forces Week 2021.

The annual event acknowledges the outstanding contribution and commitment made by men and women serving or those who have served. The celebration culminates on Saturday 26th June with Armed Forces Day, where events will take place across the United Kingdom.

The week of special events has begun with a special flag raising ceremony held at County Hall in Usk. Representatives of the Armed Forces, the Royal British Legion, Town Councils, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff have joined Council Leader Richard John, Chairman Mat Feakins, members and MCC staff to show appreciation for the contribution made by all those who serve or have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

Monmouthshire County Council continues to demonstrate its commitment to supporting Armed Forces colleagues. In recent years, the council has been presented with a Gold award in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme. The accolade represents the council’s continued promise that those who serve or have served, and their families, are treated fairly. The council has been recognised for proactively demonstrating forces-friendly credentials as part of recruiting and selection processes. The Gold status also means, as an employer, MCC has demonstrated it has actively ensured that their workforce is aware of their positive policies towards issues facing people who are or have served.  

Members of the council have also reaffirmed the council’s commitment to working with the Armed Forces community by signing the Armed Forces Covenant. The covenant was signed together with the five Town Councils (Abergavenny, Monmouth, Usk, Caldicot and Chepstow) in 2020, making Monmouthshire the only local authority in the UK to have the principal authority and all town councils signing the covenant in unison.

As part of the ongoing work to support Armed Forces communities, colleagues continue to work with schools to raise awareness of Service Children and the potential educational difficulties they may experience by establishing a support network for the Armed Forces and their families. This includes a Gwent-wide directory of services which has been produced in order to provide the Armed Forces Community with a resource that combines all relevant information in one place.

Speaking at the flag raising ceremony, Councillor Lisa Dymock, member with responsibility for Armed Forces said: “This week we recognise the commitment and dedication of our Armed Forces colleagues. From those who have laid their lives on the line and those who continue to ensure we live fairly and freely. I am proud to be part of an organisation that acknowledges the excellent contributions of our Armed Forces and to ensure we provide those who are serving and those who have served with the best support available.”

Council Chairman, Councillor Mat Feakins added: “I am delighted to be part of such an important ceremony which shows our respect and gratitude to our selfless members of the Armed Forces community. We owe so much to these amazing men and women, not only the ones who have paid the ultimate sacrifice but also to those who are still fighting in conflicts today. Armed Forces Week is just one way we can show our appreciation and I hope everyone will join the council, members and other respective colleagues in paying homage to these great people.”  

More information about Monmouthshire County Council’s Armed Forces commitments can be found here: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/armed-forces/

On Monday 21 June, there will be less than 10 days to go until the deadline of 30 June 2021 for applications to be made to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

The Home Office will be marking this milestone with a daily count down on our social media platforms between now and the final day of the scheme to reach non-applicants with the urgent call to apply as soon as possible.

An application to the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021 secures your existing rights in UK law until you’re granted a status, so we’re urging eligible to people to apply now, and not to delay. Applications can be made at www.gov.uk/eusettlementscheme

There have been over 5 million grants of pre-settled or settled status, allowing millions of citizens to continue to work, study, and access free healthcare and benefits in the UK after 30 June 2021.

Help to apply

Support is available seven days a week by telephone and by email, for anyone who needs help with their application. The Home Office has a dedicated team of more than 1,500 people working alongside a UK-wide network of 72 charities and local authorities dedicated to supporting the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach applicants including those who are disabled, elderly, isolated, have language or literacy problems, are the victims of domestic abuse, struggle with technology or have further vulnerabilities.

Your contributions are invaluable in helping to reach these people in the final few days left before the deadline of 30 June 2021.

Works on the Wyndcliff site between Tintern and Chepstow are due to come to an end. The removal of the closure and reopening the road will take place by the close of today (Friday 18th June 2021).  This follows weeks of work to stabilise the cliff adjacent to the road.

There are a number of outstanding works that will need to be complete and Monmouthshire County Council will need to temporarily reinstall two-way lights for a short period to allow the workers a safe area to complete these works.

There were plans to complete repair works on another section of bank near to Tintern under the current closure but due to ecological issues the works could not be started.  Unfortunately, workers will have to return to complete these works at a later date but it is hoped that this can be done without a further closure.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services said: “We are pleased to have completed these essential safety works and be able to re-open this important part of our road network. We would like to thank residents and business owners for their patience during this time.”

Landlords and property owners are being called upon to help support refugees and families who need assistance under the UK Government Resettlement Programme. The council is currently looking for accommodation for those families who have arrived in Monmouthshire and need extra support. The fresh call follows the council’s ongoing commitment to supporting refugee families.

Landlords and property owners with any type or size of accommodation is being asked to get in touch with Monmouthshire County Council to find out more about initiative and the benefits they could access.

Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice, Councillor Lisa Dymock said: “The resettlement programme is incredibly important, providing support to families who are no longer able to remain in their home countries.

“In order for them to be able to start new lives, our Housing and Communities team is able to help them find accommodation. But, we need the help of property owners and private landlords too – we are currently looking to identify accommodation of any size or type and would welcome the opportunity to speak with anyone who might interested in working with us.

“Being part of this scheme offers a number of benefits, in addition to the knowledge that you are helping a family create a new, safer future – tenants under this scheme are supported by a team of support workers, there are no void costs, tenancies are long term and properties are always returned in the same, or better condition. If you have accommodation that might be suitable and would like to find out more, please do get in touch.”

Any interested landlords or property owners should contact Lindsay Stewart, Private Sector Liaison Officer at Monmouthshire County Council on 01291 635713.

Unpaid carers in Monmouthshire have been sharing their experiences of caring for a loved one and have called to make caring visible and valued at the start of Carers Week 2021. It comes as Monmouthshire County Council invites health and care services, schools, employers and businesses across the community to recognise the vital contribution made by unpaid carers in the county.

Carers Week is an annual awareness campaign that celebrates the UK’s unpaid carers who support family members and friends who are older, have a disability, mental or physical illness.

The council is supporting the campaign by highlighting the phenomenal work carried out by carers with a series of videos and social media content featuring carers and their loved ones. Rev. Canon Jeremy Harris is just one of hundreds of unpaid carers in Monmouthshire. He has shared his story of caring for his mother who has Alzheimer’s disease, it’s a caring role Jeremy carries out alongside his work as a Priest at St Mary’s Church in Magor.

He hopes Carers Week will raise awareness of the contributions of unpaid carers and also highlight the help and support available. He said: “It’s important to make sure the carers are looked after and supported, and to realise there is help out there. It’s important we recognise that caring role and ask for the help when we need it.”

As a young carer, 16-year-old Amelie supports her young brother Jacques who has Down Syndrome and shared her story with Monmouthshire County Council in 2020. While being a young carer has many challenges, Amelie is keen to highlight how important unpaid carers are in the lives of people they support.

Amelie said: “One of my favourite things about caring is the bond that I’ve got with my brother, It is a bond that is inseparable. I love him with all of me. I think it’s important that young carers are spoken about and that people are made aware of what young carers do because we do as much as paid carers and there’s a lot that people don’t see.”

Councillor Penny Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health said: “Carers play a vital role in supporting our most vulnerable residents and it’s important we recognise their contributions, not only during Carers Week, but throughout the year. It’s also important for those in caring roles to know there is help and support available and no one should ever feel alone in having to look after a loved one.”

For Carers Week 2021 charity Carers UK is joining forces with Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness to help raise awareness of caring around the country.

The six charities driving Carers Week 2021 are calling on individuals, services and organisations to do their part in Making Caring Visible and Valued – recognising the contribution made by carers and helping them get the practical, financial and emotional support they need to care for a loved one.

Hundreds of activities are taking place across the country during Carers Week and many people have Added Their Voice on the Carers Week website to make caring visible this year. To find out more about activities in Monmouthshire visit: https://www.carersweek.org/

Amelie and Jeremy’s stories will also feature on Monmouthshire County Council’s social media pages across Carers Week.

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Monmouthshire’s amazing army of volunteers have been praised once more for their work in supporting communities across the county. It comes as the annual ‘Volunteers Week 2021’ draws to a close. Volunteers have been vital in helping some of the most vulnerable residents during the pandemic and their work has continued as restrictions begin to ease.

The weeklong event, which celebrates kind and caring people, has highlighted some of the excellent work being carried out across the county. Every day, thousands of people give their time, expertise, knowledge, and commitment to the local community, doing their bit to improve the quality of life for all and to support and serve others. The list of potential opportunities to volunteer really is unlimited.

Monmouthshire’s Waste and Recycling Team have been thanking volunteers at the Llanfoist and Five Lanes reuse shops, who help to support the council’s climate emergency by encouraging people to reuse and recycle unwanted items.  

Elsewhere, children have been getting involved in keeping the county clean with litter-picking, supporting eco-systems by providing living spaces for plants and animals.   

Commenting on their volunteering, pupils from Thornwell Primary in Chepstow said:  

“I was amazed by how much plastic we gathered, most of it was in just one place and it made us feel really happy that the rest of the woods were quite tidy.”

“It’s really good for the environment to do litter picks plus we want our local area to be nice. If we don’t help out then a lot of this plastic will be blown down to the river and it will end up in the sea and that is really bad news for the animals that live there.” 

“We felt really proud that our school was doing something to help. It was lots of fun and I’d really like to do it again.” 

Road Safety Education volunteers have also been celebrating this week after being presented with certificates for completing their Safeguarding Level 1 Awareness course. Their role is vital in helping to deliver road safety education across Monmouthshire. 

Cabinet members have also been getting involved in activities like litter picking and coaching activities for young people.

Cllr Lisa Dymock, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice said: “Doing your bit for the community has a huge impact. I would like to thank you all for your time, effort and commitment to our communities and know just how valued and appreciated this is. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting out and volunteering ensuring our beautiful county is kept clean and litter free. The work of volunteers from across the county is amazing – and we would like thank all those who have represented Monmouthshire.” 

Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Sara Jones, who also volunteers as a ski coach, added: “Volunteering is so important, not least for the difference it makes to others but the difference it can have on those who volunteer. I love volunteering because it means I get to spent time with fantastic children and young people every week, seeing them have fun, making friends and develop in terms of their ski-racing journey. I want to say a huge thank you to all volunteers for everything you do for our communities.”  

As the annual event draws to a close, Monmouthshire County Council is calling on others to consider volunteering. People wanting to lend their time to supporting their communities are being encouraged to sign up to the Our Monmouthshire website: ourmonmouthshire.org, which has details of many varied ways people can help without a long-term commitment. It also offers the opportunity for people to timebank all the hours they put into supporting others.  

Our offices will be Closed on Monday 31st  

If your call is an emergency please telephone 0300 123 1055.    

There will be no Refuse collection Monday 31st  May, collections will be one day late.

This bank holiday weekend Monmouthshire County Council is launching its latest Shop Local campaign, aimed at supporting businesses across the county. The campaign comes as a direct result of regular meetings with local business representatives who expressed a need to encourage more footfall in our towns and of reminding everyone of the importance of spending money here in Monmouthshire, rather than online with a business with no local connections.

To bring local businesses into the spotlight, Shop Local showcases some of the people behind the shops, services and businesses that help make the county so unique via its ‘Faces of Monmouthshire’ campaign. Along with their staff and their families, the business owners are the stars of a series of posters and a video that will be shared across social media from this weekend.

The council’s latest Shop Local campaign launches with a focus on Tintern and the surrounding area, which is full of wonderful and diverse businesses ready to welcome visitors from across the county and beyond. A cross-section of businesses have been included, such as the owners of Abbey Mill, The Anchor, Crafticalia, Parva Farm Vineyard, Silver Circle Distillery, Spirit of The Green Man, The Filling Station and The Wild Hare. They all took part in the Faces of Tintern video which reinforces the Shop Local message, which can be found at Monmouthshire.gov.uk/faces-of-monmouthshire. There will be further coverage of Tintern later in the summer.

Councillor Sara Jones, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council and Cabinet Member for the Economy, said: “Businesses are having to work incredibly hard to keep afloat after a devastating and unprecedented year. It’s now a year since we first launched our Shop Local campaign to help raise awareness, and this summer we are really hoping it will resonate with more people than ever before. Hearing how much shopping matters locally, directly from those who own businesses, is moving and powerful. The underlying message is that every pound you spend with a local shop, pub, café, hairdresser, etc., is money that will support local jobs and local families.

“Over the past year, Monmouthshire County Council has been doing everything we can to support businesses – we have processed £44.98m in business grants and funding in the first 12 months of the pandemic alone, assisting businesses across the county. Our licensing team has dealt with 285 enquiries relating to assisting businesses utilise outdoor space when trading indoors has not been possible due to restrictions. We have introduced social distancing measures and introduced new parkletts and planters in towns include Abergavenny and Monmouth, which we hope will help encourage residents back to the high street,” said Councillor Jones. “We will continue to work with business owners and do everything we can to support them in their ongoing recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

“This is only the start of the summer campaign promoting local businesses,” confirmed Cllr Jones. “Follow our social media accounts and website for more Faces of Monmouthshire from Abergavenny, Chepstow, Caldicot, Magor, Monmouth and Usk in the coming months. We’re fortunate to have so many incredible businesses here in Monmouthshire, so let’s all do our bit and Shop Local.”

The council is also asking you to help thank those businesses that have gone the extra mile, or that deliver excellent customer service, or that have helped make our high streets special. If you would like to nominate a business for a ‘Shop Local Seren’ star simply tag the business in a social media post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and include @MonmouthshireCC in the post.

For more information about Shop Local visit Monmouthshire.gov.uk/shop-local

From ancient architecture to taking part in fun fitness – there’s plenty on offer for families across Monmouthshire this bank holiday and half term.

MonLife has a whole host of activities and places to visit across the whole county. Children and those young at heart will have the chance to say hello to MonLife’s newest family members – Ostin the Dormouse and Nerys the Dragon are part of new ‘Explore and Create’ family activity packs available at Caldicot Castle and County Park and Old Station Tintern across the half term break. These fun-filled resources enable families to explore two of Monmouthshire’s amazing attractions through a range of playful and creative activities. It also gives young ones the chance to discover more about the nature and history of the sites. Families will also be able to collect Ostin and Nerys stamps and stickers for completed activities, with the chance to don your best dragon and dormouse outfits with photo cut-outs of the characters. 

There’s plenty in store for older children and adults alike with the opportunity to step back in time with a visit to one of MonLife’s museums, which are open throughout half term. Entry to museums is free and children can take away quizzes and activity sheets so the journey into history can continue at home. For museum opening times, please visit: www.monlife.co.uk/heritage/

The half term will also see the welcome return of the Monmouthshire Games, the successful holiday programme for children aimed learning new skills, developing confidence, meeting new people and most importantly having fun through sport. With over 30 different sports, each day will be action-packed with a full range of sporting activities that children and young people aged 5-11 years can enjoy. A maximum of 20 spaces per day per site are available and there will be no additional spaces once full, so people are encouraged to book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Swimming sessions will also be taking place across all four leisure centres including, Abergavenny, Monmouth, Caldicot and Chepstow, all sessions need to be booked in advance. The excellent indoor play centre is also now open for young adventurers looking to reach new heights and it’s the perfect way to burn off some energy.

MonLife also deliver Youth Work in the community through a range of activities and opportunities for young people aged 11 plus.  During the May half term The Attik (Monmouth) will be open Wednesday and Thursday 10am – 6pm, the Zone (Caldicot) Tuesday and Thursday 12pm – 8pm, the Cabin (Abergavenny) Tuesday and Wednesday 12pm – 6pm and Thornwell Wednesday and Friday.

Speaking ahead of the half term break, Council Leader Cllr. Richard John said: “With the easing of restrictions and Wales moving in a positive direction in relation to the pandemic, I’m delighted to see so many wonderful activities making a return. While we continue to ask people to be sensible and follow the guidance, we are excited to see our younger residents back in our parks, leisure centres and historical sites. We really hope families will make the most of these excellent activities over the weekend and into next week.”

Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing, Cllr Lisa Dymock added: “With warmer weather on the horizon, there will be no better way to spend half term than venturing out and exploring our beautiful county. It’s wonderful to have our leisure centres and places of interest back open and available to our residents. There is so much fun to be had right on our doorstep in Monmouthshire and it’s ready and waiting to be explored.”

For more information about all the activities mentioned, please visit: https://www.monlife.co.uk/

More than £1.8 million pound is being invested in services to support vulnerable children in Monmouthshire thanks to a funding package from the Welsh Government,

The funding is part of the Children Communities Grant, which aims to address the support needs of the most vulnerable children and adults in Monmouthshire’s communities through a range of early intervention, prevention and support mechanisms via the delivery of a range of bespoke services.

It comes as the council looks to reinforce its commitment to making sure all young people have the very best start to life, especially during the challenging period communities have faced in the past 12 months.

The investment from the Children Communities Grant also reinforces the council’s strategic priority as laid out in the Wellbeing Plan, Corporate Plan & Social Justice Strategy of ‘Providing Children & Young People with the Best Possible Start in Life’. The support is offered through several services, which are delivered in conjunction with Monmouthshire partners and include;

  • Flying Start
  • Families First
  • Communities 4 Work +
  • Childcare and Play
  • Promoting Positive Engagement with Young People
  • St. David’s Fund

Evidence shows the pandemic has amplified and accelerated issues that were present in communities across Wales, however these are now also impacting people who were previously not deemed vulnerable or known to services. 

Monmouthshire has also seen a sharp increase in unemployment and homelessness across the county and as such, the impacts of poverty are now starting to become apparent in more families who, prior to COVID, were ‘just about managing’ but who have since been tipped into material deprivation.

People in need or those facing challenging circumstances are being urged to access the help to ensure they receive the full support available to them.

Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice, Councillor Lisa Dymock said: “Investing in services and projects aimed at supporting our vulnerable families is a key priority, especially following the difficult time we have faced due to the pandemic. That support is vital and the range of projects and services available at Monmouthshire County Council and partners means we can continue to offer a joined up approach to supporting people and to make sure no one falls through the gap. I’m delighted we have been able to utilise this funding and invest in supporting young people and families across the county who need it the most.”

For more information regarding the support available please visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk

Following consultation with contractors working on the stabilisation works above the A466 at Wyndcliff, Monmouthshire County Council has announced that the anticipated reopening of the road for the Whitsun bank holiday weekend will not be possible due to safety issues. This follows a potentially dangerous rockfall on the site on Friday 21st May.

The steepness of the rockface means that any rocks that fall might do so with such velocity that they could potentially breach concrete safety panels along the road. Additional rock has had to be removed where weaknesses have been exposed. To ensure road users’ safety, netting will now need to be installed to control any rocks and debris that come loose in the future.

A spokesperson for Monmouthshire County Council said: “This decision has not been taken lightly and we appreciate the disappointment and frustration this will cause among residents and businesses in Tintern and the surrounding area. However, the need to protect the safety of motorists and cyclists is paramount. Our immediate and ongoing priority remains to make the A466 safe, not just in the short term, but longer term. We’ll be discussing the matter further with the contractors later this week but at this stage we hope to reopen the A466 by 11th June. We’ll provide a further update at the end of this week.”

Tintern’s businesses are still open and accessible via the signposted diversion route. Drivers are asked to follow the diversion signs and not rely on a satnav, as many of the local lanes are very narrow with limited opportunities for vehicles to pass. Cyclists will still be able to dismount and use the A466 during the closure.

For the latest information visit: monmouthshire.gov.uk/a466

Above: Some of the pupils enjoying World Bee Day.

Pupils and teachers at Ysgol Gymraeg Y Fenni enjoyed a day of pollinator-related arts, crafts and dance on Thursday 20th May to mark the World Bee Day. This was the first time the Welsh language primary school in Abergavenny has celebrated the occasion, after becoming inspired by a book written by one of its teachers, Mrs Carys Glyn. The book, Criw’r Coed a’r Gwenyn Coll, which means ‘the tree crew find the lost bees’  explains the importance of bees in the eco-system. It touches on the mythical creatures of The Mabinogion and has helped introduce pupils to the issues around climate change.

Sarah Oliver, Head of Ysgol Gymraeg Y Fenni said: “We are really proud to be able to educate our children, from such a young age on the important of the eco-system, of the importance of bees and the wild flowers they need. We have also discovered just how many of our parents are beekeepers, so we will be running a beekeeping workshop as a result.”

Above: Sarah Oliver, Head of Ysgol Gymraeg Y Fenni, by the school’s ‘Remember The Bees’ mural.

The children enjoyed dressing up as bees, beekeepers and flowers as they learned about everything apian with tasks including labelling a bee, making a paper bee, creating a bee collage, drawing bees and flowers, painting an acorn bee and – which the pupils were most excited about – learning the Bee Dance! World Bee Day is now set to become an annual fixture in the Abergavenny school’s calendar.

The timing of the event is fitting, within No Mow May. Monmouthshire County Council has also reaffirmed its commitment to selective mowing of the county’s public green spaces to encourage wild flowers and plants that support pollinators. The county is buzzing with determination to help make our gardens, verges and parks perfect pollinator environments.

Councillor Paul Pavia, Monmouthshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “It’s wonderful to see the photographs from today’s event. I would like to congratulate the teaching staff and pupils of Ysgol Gymraeg Y Fenni for all their creativity and for their boundless enthusiasm for learning about the importance of bees and the environment.  Da iawn bawb!”

The World Bee Day campaign highlights key messages for every generation. For example, raising awareness that the greatest contribution of bees and other pollinators is the pollination of nearly three quarters of the plants that produce 90% of the world’s food. For more information about the annual event visit worldbeeday.org

If you met S, who would you see? You might see a young person who likes doing her hair and makeup, a young woman who is great at cooking and who loves to go for coffee or to a nail bar. You might see a young woman who is funny, kind and caring and for whom spending time with friends and family is really important. You might see someone who loves swimming and escaping into her music and who enjoys watching a good Disney film.

If you met S, what you might not see is that she has faced lots of challenges in her young life, a young person who has had to be independent from a very young age, who has had to cook and care for her younger siblings. You might not know that because of her experiences she is often anxious and needs reassurance and support from people who care about her.

Foster Monmouthshire is hoping to find carers S can learn to trust and who will learn to trust her too, who will help her achieve her potential and who will feel proud of her and her achievements.

S is having support from MyST who are a highly therapeutic support team working with S and helping her overcome her fears and anxieties. S is developing positive relationships with the team who provide a high level of support to both S and her foster carers.

Because of her early experiences S hasn’t always found it easy to build trusting relationships and because of this you may see on times an outwardly angry young lady, but she is a young person who longs to be loved. S really wants to feel cared about and valued by people who can be in her corner and try to understand what she has experienced.  She wants to know that she matters and is important to someone; to feel settled somewhere where she feels she can belong, with people who will help her develop into the amazing young woman she is becoming and walk beside her throughout this journey. 

So what about you? Could you be someone who could make S feel she matters? Could you be the someone with the time, patience and availability that S could trust to support her as she becomes a young adult and navigates the responsibilities of growing up? Could you provide a home where S could feel safe and not just cared for but cared about? You would have training, round the clock support and a financial payment to help you do this. Could you be the person to make this difference?

Speaking about S, Cabinet Member for Safeguarding, Social Care and Health, Cllr Penny Jones said: “S has experienced significant loss, trauma and placement breakdowns in recent years and in spite of that she continues to make progress in her academic path. She is a very bright and intelligent young lady and like every young person, S needs the stability and guidance of a loving and supportive family environment to help her recognise and acknowledge her strengths.

“S requires a carer who will be there for her, encouraging her and making her feel important. S needs a carer who is able to prioritise her needs and show her that they are committed to supporting her in all aspects of her life. If you could be this person in S’s life please contact Foster Monmouthshire today.” MyST therapeutic foster carers will receive excellent support and training, as well as a salary. For more information visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/fostering neu 01873 735950

A Monmouthshire County Council service, which offers impartial information about childcare and support for parents and guardians, is relaunching today (Tuesday 18th May).

The Monmouthshire Family Information Service (MonFIS) supports parents and guardians by providing impartial information related to childcare, nursery admissions and details on the 30 hours of free childcare offer in Wales. Today’s relaunch marks a refresh in the service, which has been successfully supporting parents since its inception in 2003.

MonFIS, which received the Families First Quality Start award in 2013, is a dynamic service which holds a database of all childcare providers in the county and a list of baby groups, family support services, activities and play provision for new parents.  

To celebrate the relaunch, a day of activities for families will be taking place on the FIS Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/moncfis, including a special story time for under 5s and a design competition for under 12s.

Children under 12 are being asked to delve into their creativity and design a new summer logo for Monmouthshire Family Information Service, with the winning entry being used in all the FIS’s promotional posts and adverts throughout the school summer holidays. The selected winner will also receive £100 of Amazon vouchers.  All entries need to be submitted via email to childcare@monmouthshire.gov.uk) by 5pm on Friday 4th June 2021. Full terms and conditions can be found on the FIS Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MonCFIS

Families will also be able to tune into the story time for under 5s via the MonFIS Facebook page from 10:30am and enjoy hearing an exciting tale that will captivate young minds.

Speaking ahead of Monmouthshire Family Information Service’s relaunch, Councillor Paul Pavia newly-elected Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: ““Parents and guardians having access to all the information and support they need in relation to childcare is extremely important. Our Family Information Service plays a significant role in ensuring people have the information they need to enable them to access all the packages of support available to them. There are some fantastic activities for young people to get involved in and ultimately help shape the face of the service, so, I would encourage all our creative young people to get involved in the competition.”

For further information relating to the relaunch of the service and access to childcare visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/monfis or email: childcare@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Artist’s impression of the new wellbeing centre in Caldicot

Caldicot residents are being invited to get involved in helping to shape and develop ideas for a new community wellbeing centre, work on which started last month.

The new centre – expected to be open this summer – will transform the Monmouthshire County Council’s existing ‘One Stop Shop’ Community Hub at Woodstock Way into a state-of-the-art space for community collaboration around recycling, art, making and wellbeing.

It will be run by the community for the community, offering a wide range of opportunities for volunteering and to exchange skills and talents. The centre will also provide the chance for residents to meet wellbeing organisations that provide support services, as well as provide a place to catch up over a coffee and access a wide range of activities.

Monmouthshire County Council has been awarded capital funding for the new centre through the Welsh Government’s Circular Economy Fund, which invests in projects that reduce waste, encourage recycling and support green enterprise. Initiatives that promote the reduce, reuse and recycle message will be at the heart of the Caldicot centre, which will include a Library of Things, a Repair Café, a Community Fridge and a Makers’ Space.

Library of Things: Working in partnership with Benthyg Cymru, whose message is ‘Borrow Don’t Buy’, the Library of Things will allow residents to borrow things that they don’t need to own, donate things they own but don’t need and meet people to share knowledge and skills with the community. The library will include toys and games, gardening equipment, power tools, entertainment equipment, kitchen essentials and camping equipment.

Repair Café: In association with Repair Café Wales, Caldicot’s Repair Café will take place regularly in the main activity area at the centre and will be a place where the local community can bring their broken household items to be repaired for free by volunteers. The types of things that can be fixed includes clothes, household electrics, technology, woodwork, children’s toys, furniture and bikes.

Community Fridge: The project, in partnership with Wye Gymnastics, is designed to cut down on food waste by giving away free food from supermarkets and other food outlets that is past its sell by date, but is still fresh and within its use by date.

Makers’ Space: Located in a wooden clad shipping container, the Makers’ Space – in association with charity organisation Men’s Shed and recycling organisation Precious Plastics – is a place where people can come together make a range of new products from wood, recycled plastic and a variety of other materials. It will be a chance to learn new making skills, share talents and gain inspiration by creating a community of makers. The space will feature a fully kitted out carpentry workshop and will also host a state-of-the-art laser cutter and plastic recycling machinery that granulates single use plastic and turns it into material that can be shaped into new products.

Older residents and those with mobility difficulties will also be able to enjoy trishaw bike trips later in the year, a great way to get out the house and explore the area. The project will be run in partnership with Bridges Community Centre and Cycling Without Age. More information can be gained by contacting Marianne Piper at the Volunteering for Wellbeing Project (marianne.piper@bridgescentre.org.uk or via 07980 941946).

Over the next couple of months, the council will be running a competition to name the new centre and are keen to hear residents’ ideas about what other things they would like to see at the centre. If you would like to get involved contact Fred Weston (fredweston@monmouthshire.gov.uk; 07890 559 566). Closing date for suggestions for the new centre’s name should be sent by4pm on Monday 31st May.

Updates on Caldicot’s wellbeing centre will be shared on the council’s website as the work progresses – Monmouthshire.gov.uk

For more information about Men’s Sheds https://menssheds.org.uk/

Library of Things: https://borrow.benthyg.org/

Precious Plastics: https://preciousplastic.com/

Bridges Community Centre http://www.bridgescentre.org.uk/

At its Annual General Meeting on Thursday 13th May, Monmouthshire County Council appointed its new Leader, Councillor Richard John. He has taken over from Councillor Peter Fox, who has stepped down from the role following his appointment as Member of Parliament for Monmouth at the Senedd in the recent election.

Cllr. Richard John, confirmed as Leader of Monmouthshire County Council at its AGM on 13th May 2021.

At 38 years old, Former Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Richard has become the youngest council leader in Wales and has already appointed Monmouthshire’s first gender-balanced cabinet. Councillor Sara Jones has become Deputy Leader, alongside the current Deputy Leader Councillor Bob Greenland.

“It is a real privilege to have been elected to lead Monmouthshire County Council at this critical point in the county’s recovery from the pandemic,” said Cllr. John. “This has been the most challenging year for so many of our residents and our immediate priority is to ensure the wellbeing of our communities and enable our residents to get back to living their lives. This means helping our businesses, including those in retail and hospitality, to get back on their feet, offering children and young people the best possible start in life, enabling more opportunities for good physical and mental health and ensuring dignity and independence for older people.”

Richard John was elected to Monmouthshire County Council in the Mitchel Troy ward in May 2017 and has served as Cabinet Member for Education and Leisure since that time. During his tenure, Cllr. John opened two brand new schools in Caldicot and Monmouth, set in motion plans for a new school in Abergavenny, and led major changes to school catchment areas to enable more Monmouthshire pupils to attend Monmouthshire schools. He has successfully federated leaderships across several schools, paved the way to upgrade the county’s leisure centres and has overseen many improvements in school standards.

“I am truly humbled by the faith that colleagues have placed in me and I will do everything I can to make Monmouthshire an even better place to live, work and raise a family,” said the father of two.

As Ward Councillor for Mitchel Troy, Richard has organised litter picks and community clean-up sessions. He has also served as a school governor and a scout leader and is also a trained chef.

“I’m looking forward to working with councillors of all political colours and of none, and our county’s partners, together with the Welsh and UK Governments to deliver for the people of Monmouthshire,” said Cllr. John, who has a background in languages, with a degree in French and Spanish.

Commenting on the new council cabinet, Cllr. John said: “I have appointed a dynamic and progressive top team, from a wide range of professional backgrounds, and we’re all united by a sense of urgency to get things done and make a difference for our communities.

Outgoing Leader, Councillor Peter Fox OBE said: “Over the past four years Richard has been an outstanding Cabinet Member, he has earned the trust and respect of residents and councillors alike. He’s forged strong relationships across Wales representing the county, especially important right now as we emerge from the pandemic. I am more than confident that he will be an outstanding Leader.”

Cllr. Fox has been a Monmouthshire County Councillor for over 20 years, and the Leader for 13 years. He was awarded the OBE for Services to the Cardiff Capital Region in 2017 and has recently been elected as the Monmouth constituency representative at the Senedd. Peter will remain in Monmouthshire, where he lives with his family and four grown-up children on the livestock farm he runs in the south of the county.

Councillor John’s first act as Leader was to pay tribute to Cllr. Fox: “The way in which Peter Fox has led this authority for 13 years has been exemplary, and has brought plaudits from so many people across the county. Peter is a great collaborator – he played a key role in securing the Cardiff Capital Region deal, amongst so many other achievements. A more humble, genuine and inspiring man you could not hope to find. Peter has inspired so many of us to believe in ourselves, to strive for the best for our county. The impact he has made to our local authority has been beyond measure, I am sure I speak for everyone in Monmouthshire when we thank him for all his hard work.”

Above: The new cabinet for Monmouthshire County Council has been confirmed as: Cllr Richard John, Leader; Cllr Sara Jones, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy; Cllr Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Governance & Strategic Planning; Cllr Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources; Cllr Paul Pavia, Cabinet Member f or Education; Cllr Lisa Dymock, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice; Cllr Penny Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health; Cllr Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services.

Photo: Councillor Mat Feakins

At Monmouthshire County Council’s annual general meeting on Thursday 13th May, Councillor Mat Feakins was confirmed as the council’s new Chairman to serve for the next twelve months. Councillor Feakins was elected following nomination by outgoing Leader Peter Fox. 

Councillor Fox said: “Cllr. Mat Feakins has proved himself as an excellent member of the council. His keen interest in Monmouthshire’s community and his astute business acumen has been a great asset to this county. He has been held in high esteem by Monmouthshire residents during his recent role as Mayor of Monmouth. Mat is a man of many talents and experience. He will be an excellent ambassador for this county.”

This will be Councillor Feakin’s first time as Chairman following tireless work within the Monmouth community. Mat has recently served as Mayor of Monmouth Town Council and has been an active councillor for a number of years, championing the rights of residents and pursuing the goals and aims of local businesses.

Following the announcement, Cllr. Feakins said: “I am delighted to be elected chairman and look forward to the next 12 months in which time we hope to be through the worst of the pandemic. I wish to convey my sincere thanks and gratitude to all those who have worked tirelessly to get us through this significant period of time, from those in the fields to those on the medical front line, from those in the recycling and waste department, in social care, and to the team that deliver meals on wheels across the county.  We could not have got through this without the dedication of team Monmouthshire County Council.”

Born in Carmarthen and schooled in Somerset, Mat has always been a team player, enjoying the first XV, first XI and county squad for athletics; returning to the family farm just outside Monmouth for ten years before leaving the country to pursue his ambitions.

One of the very early pioneers of the internet, Mat migrated to the Caribbean and established one of the very first internet lotteries in the world. Whilst there he also established several related companies to include an on-line payment gateway and offshore bank.  He later swapped the tropical climate and island life for a new venture offering offshore legal services in southern Spain.

Returning to the UK for family reasons, Mat had to essentially start over and quickly set to work as a labourer on a building site, hodding bricks and carrying blocks. Saving up over a number of years, he trained as an electrician and quickly grew an electrical contracting business, which blossomed into renewables and culminated in becoming the principal contractor on over £70m worth of solar PV development across the UK, building out over 500,000 solar panels, which continue to provide electricity for over 50,000 homes.

Mat continues to be actively involved in renewables and energy and has since returned to his roots in farming in Monmouthshire. He is a member if the Energy Institute, Institute of Engineering and Technology and the Institute of Directors.

Leaders of the council’s political groups paid tribute to the work significant work performed by outgoing Chairman, Councillor Sheila Woodhouse, on her two years of office.  “Cllr. Woodhouse chaired the council through the unprecedented times of the COVID pandemic and through the storms which have affected Monmouthshire’s communities, continuing to be incredibly kind and caring and supporting others through some very difficult times,” said Councillor Fox said.

Cllr. Feakin’s charity for the year will be The Prince’s Countryside Fund and his Chaplain will be the Venerable Cherry Vann, Bishop of Monmouth. Councillor Ann Webb has been confirmed as Deputy Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council.

The Community Nature Spaces project is working to bring together communities and revitalise un-used or unloved playgrounds and make them accessible play areas that embrace nature. Residents and stakeholders were invited to take part in a public consultation in February and by the end of March, Monmouthshire County Council and the consultants Pegasus had received in excess of 130 responses. Now, the council is asking residents of Monmouth’s Rockfield Estate to share their thoughts once again, in order to finalise plans for nine sites across the community.

The recent lockdowns have reinforced the importance of having a variety of good quality outdoor spaces that are easily accessible by everyone, so that they can spend time safely outdoors experiencing what nature has to offer in local neighbourhoods.

Ideas that fall within the Community Nature Spaces scope include community food growing, fruit trees and mini-orchards, re-wilding areas and the creating of mini-meadows on mounds and slopes for wild play and to encourage pollinators, and local provenance tree nurseries and planting for pollinators.

A spokesperson for Monmouthshire County Council said: “We’d sincerely like to thank everyone who has got involved and contributed so far – the detailed designs shaped by this consultation are now available on the Community Nature Spaces website (monnaturespaces.co.uk). We would now like to hear from local residents and groups that would be interested in becoming more involved in the project as it moves forward, or in specific aspects of the project, such as community food growing. The emphasis on community is key to this project coming to successful fruition.”

The detailed plans show the council’s current aspirations for the sites, subject to the further public consultation. Monmouthshire County Council have secured funding to deliver the Community Nature Spaces project during the 2021/22 financial year. In addition, separate consultations will be undertaken regarding the play areas at Hendre Close, Goldwire Lane and King’s Fee in Monmouth, which will all be improved for both play, enjoyment and wildlife.

Monmouthshire County Council has been working in partnership with Monmouth Town Council, Transition Monmouth, ACE (Action on Climate Emergency), Gwent Wildlife Trust, Rockfield Community Centre, the local schools and NRW (Natural Resources Wales) consultants Pegasus Group, and residents to develop Community Nature Spaces that benefit local communities at various locations, initially in Monmouth.

The Local Places for Nature funding is administered by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) on behalf of Welsh Government.

Welsh artist Nathan Wyburn wants to shine a light on the work Foster Monmouthshire’s foster carers do, as Abergavenny Market Hall prepares to light up orange this Foster Care Fortnight.

While many of us have had family and friends there to support us during difficult times faced over the last year, many children and young people across Wales need that support more than ever before. Now, as Foster Care Fortnight – a national awareness raising and recruitment campaign run by The Fostering Network – begins, Monmouthshire County Council is calling on more people in the county to consider fostering.

With this year’s theme being ‘#WhyWeCare’, Welsh artist, Nathan Wyburn, who is known for his unique methods of creating art, has produced a piece using LED lights to help prove how any house can become a safe and loving home. Nathan said, “I was sent a poem that encompassed everything foster carers do in providing a brighter future for children across Wales and wanted to create something that champions them in the way they open the doors to their homes – and their hearts.

“I chose to turn those words into art with a piece that signifies a home being the literal light at the end of the tunnel for children and young people.

“I think one of the biggest myths around fostering is that you have to have a big house with a big garden to be a foster carer – and that’s just not true.”

A video showing a time-lapse of the piece coming together and overlaid with said poem shows how the context of the art is unclear, “It’s only when the lights are switched on, there is clarity,” adds Nathan.

“A sense of possibility and positivity shines through!” Now people across Monmouthshire are being asked to show their support for Foster Care Fortnight by placing a lamp in their front window next Thursday (20th May) to ‘shine a light’ on the work being done by Local Authority foster carers, and celebrate their efforts in transforming children and young people’s lives. Buildings across Wales, including Abergavenny Market will also be lit up in orange to observe the remarkable work they do. Councillor Penny Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health said, “Foster carers provide day-to-day support, love and stability to children and young people who can’t live with their birth families.

“While many of us may have been unhappy about spending the best part of the last year cooped up at home, for some young people they can only dream of having the sense of safety, security and comfort that home has provided us with. It’s quite simply something that can seem out of reach to some children and young people.”

Hundreds of new foster families are needed every year in Wales to care for children of all ages, and in particular for sibling groups, older children and young people, children with additional needs, and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

“There are many misconceptions surrounding fostering.” added Councillor Penny Jones.

“For example, some people think you have to be in a relationship or married – or own your own home – and that’s simply not true.

“One of the things about fostering is that it’s not about changing a child, it’s about letting them be themselves and helping them discover who they are so they can flourish. Therefore, we welcome applications from people who can bring a wide range of life and work experiences with them to the role.

“Many people in Monmouthshire will have spare rooms that could become a sanctuary, transforming a child’s life and ensuring they thrive.”

Foster Monmouthshire will be sharing content across their social media channels throughout Foster Care Fortnight to help more people understand and value fostering and the positive difference it can make to young people’s lives. If you think you could make a difference by becoming a foster carer in Monmouthshire visit www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/fostering or 01873 735950

Monmouthshire County Council / Cyngor Sir Fynwy

Election of a Member of the Welsh Parliament for Ethol Aelod o’r Senedd r gyfer

Monmouth / Sir Fynwy

Thursday 6 May 2021 / Dydd Lau 6 Mai 2021

Monmouthshire County Council has today confirmed that the traffic lights on Bridge Street in Usk will be removed by 7am on Monday 10th May, allowing for the return to two-way traffic. The decision has come following a review of the traffic management system and feedback from businesses and residents.

As Wales now enters Alert Level 3 of its COVID plan, with schools and the majority of businesses having reopened, the short-term interventions introduced by the council in 2020 have been re-evaluated. When the measures were introduced last year, the COVID-19 case rates across the county were significantly higher and the vaccine roll out had not taken place. Now, with more vehicles on the roads through Usk once again, the council has taken a view that benefits of the temporary traffic measures are being negated by the issues experienced recently by motorists and businesses.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The easing of lockdown restrictions and the reopening of schools and businesses have resulted in increased traffic volumes in Usk and we have been aware of longer queue times and queue lengths along Bridge Street recently. We are concerned that with the increased traffic levels, the temporary lights are no longer operating effectively and have concluded that now is the right time to remove them. Although pollution levels remain well below trigger levels, we are also concerned that increased queue lengthscould result in a potential impact on air quality, which we want to avoid.”

“The pavements in Usk are narrow, so we will be reliant on residents and visitors to remember to maintain social distance wherever possible and, where this is not possible, to wear a mask.”

“A combination of the temporary traffic lights, improved signage and increased enforcement have helped reduce the number of lorries exceeding the weight limit of 7.5 tonnes passing through town. The council will continue to work with Usk Town Council and Lorry Watch volunteers to monitor the current regulations, which prohibit lorries exceeding 7.5 tonnes in weight unless they require access for deliveries and loading. We will also continue to work with Gwent Police and GoSafe to ensure the 20mph speed limit in Usk town is observed.”

As we move forward, during the summer there will be an opportunity to engage with the council on the future vision for Usk which will include managing traffic flows through the town, but for now the priority needs to be supporting the businesses of the town and creating a good experience for visitors and residents alike. Although being removed from their current location, the flower barrels will stay in Usk and will be relocated to maintain the unique feeling of our ‘Town of Flowers’.”

Children from across the county took part in the OPen Access Play Opportunities

Last month saw the introduction of new Open Access Play Opportunities for children between the ages of 5-11 across the county.  Organised by MonLife, part of Monmouthshire County Council, it brought together teams from sports development, leisure and outdoor adventure to plan a programme with a variety of activities, each risk assessed and following government guidelines in order to keep the children and staff safe. The Open Access Play Opportunity was offered for seven days throughout the Easter holidays, between 10am-11.55am, and was accessible for children from across Monmouthshire.

Across the four MonLife leisure sites in Monmouthshire, children were able to attend and participate in a range of fun activities all delivered by trained staff. These activities included bottle rockets, daily mile, nature scavenger hunts and dance activities. The atmosphere on each site was filled with fun, with children enjoying themselves. The events held had a positive impact on parents, children and staff as this was the first chance to feel some sort of normality.  “‘I get excited every morning to come to the open access play, to see my friends and to play sport” and “Open Access Play has allowed me to meet new people and make new friends whilst playing sport,” we just a couple of the positive comments from the children taking part. The week’s activities were, in some instances, the first opportunity that children had to re-engage with others in a safe environment since Christmas.

The Open Access Play Opportunities sessions provided the parents and carers in the community with a scheme that they could trust and they can resume some normality of work life. In addition it provided staff with the opportunity to return to the workplace and re-engage with staff.  “The Open Access Play is a great provision to offer a morning of sports, different activities in which children can participate in with their friends, all whilst having fun,” said one of the leisure team.

For more information about current activities available through Monmouthshire’s leisure centres visit www.monlife.co.uk

Monmouthshire County Council is urging people to lock up their lawnmowers for ‘No Mow May’. No Mow May was created by Plantlife as a way to encourage more people to allow spring flowers to bloom and provide food for bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators. 

Spring is the time of year that many wildflowers blossom and this first flush of nectar and pollen is essential for the survival of many insects, and the other birds and animals that feed on them.  The No Mow May campaign has engaged many organisations and individuals including the National Trust, businesses, and celebrity gardeners such as Monty Don championing the cause. 

Monmouthshire County Council will be taking part in No Mow May again this year, mowing areas only where there is a need, for example for safety at road junctions, to maintain pathways or to enable sports to be played. Citizen scientists who have taken part in Plantlife’s Every Flower Counts survey of household lawns have shown that reduced mowing can provide enough nectar for 10 times more pollinating insects.  Researchers found 200 different plant species on lawns, some of them rarities such as eyebright and knotted clover.  The most common flowers are daisies, white clover and selfheal, and over half a million individual flowers were counted during the surveys. More flowers are found on lawns that are cut every four weeks, because short stemmed flowers such as daisies, selfheal and dandelions have a chance to bloom. A greater variety of flowers, but not necessarily larger numbers, are found on lawns that are left to grow even longer.

Plantlife’s research shows the huge benefits to pollinators of mowing less frequently. They recommend that some areas are cut monthly to allow short stemmed flowers to bloom, and to leave other areas to grow long which encourages a wider range of plants to flower, and these will attract different pollinators such as hoverflies and a greater variety of bumblebees.

Monmouthshire’s Nature Isn’t Neat programme of reduced mowing fits with Plantlife’s findings, as many more green spaces will be mown less frequently across the County in an effort to support the nation’s struggling pollinators and insects.  There are other important benefits to reduced mowing, for example, longer grass has a better root system, which opens up the soil and makes it more absorbent and better able to deal with the kind of heavy rainfall that a changing climate is bringing.  Longer grass can also absorb more CO2, so can act as a carbon sink.

There is still time for local residents to take part in a survey to find out what local people think about mowing green spaces less often, and the impacts of this on wildlife and on people too. 

https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=eQBNLCzFs0uzytjq8ba31W2mRjTOZU1OjeDVRpC1PhBUNjBCRzdFWkZGSjdaWlZJUEFTS0pSNEVBSi4u

The Nature Isn’t Neat programme has been funded by Welsh Government and National Heritage Lottery Fund and has enabled Monmouthshire County Council to purchase specialist machinery suitable for cutting and collecting longer grass, and provide information to local residents about the importance of these changes for supporting biodiversity.

A cohort of 20 eager and inspired public servants from six local authorities across south Wales are about to embark on a six month innovation and research programme designed to build skills and capacity for innovative future public services across the Cardiff Capital Region. The pilot group of the Infuse programme, appropriately named ‘Cohort Alpha’, begin their journey on Tuesday 4th of May 2021.

The Infuse programme, which has been years in the making, has been supported by the European Social Fund through Welsh Government and is a collaboration between Cardiff University, Y Lab, Nesta, Cardiff Capital Region City Deal Office (CCR) and the ten local authorities that make up the region, including Monmouthshire County Council as the lead partner.

Teams will receive around three months of training and support in new skills, tools and methods, followed by three months of coaching in their own organisations as they go back to put them into practice helping to change the future of public service delivery for years to come; developing new innovation skills and capacity by tackling regional public service challenges.

Infuse partners and participants will explore the imperative for innovation by using a regional and collaborative approach to address one of two Infuse themes: Accelerating Decarbonisation in categories such as transport, energy, food and housing, or Supportive Communities establishing new operating models which address complex but supportive community challenges.  Using these shared challenges, Cohort Alpha will bring together cross-regional teams in each of the three skills areas, Adaption, Data and Procurement to work towards solving a part of this challenge, using new tools and methods. The programme will run until 2023, working with 120 local authority and public sector workers from across the Cardiff Capital Region.

Infuse Programme Manager, Owen Wilce, said:

“Our exciting Infuse programme has been years in the making and to see it all come to fruition is a career high for myself and my colleagues who have worked tirelessly to make this happen. We can’t wait to welcome Cohort Alpha and to start reaching into the expertise of this amazing group of people who have dedicated their lives to public service and to improving the lives of others. The Infuse programme has the ability to transform society and provide an effective and collaborative way of working across local authorities in the future. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Cohort Alpha and wish them all the best as they get started.”

Speaking ahead of the launch, Director of the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal, Kellie Beirne said:

“We’ve had a tough year globally.  No country, community, industry or sector has been untouched by the impact of Covid-19. It’s also been an exceptionally tough year for our public sector officers in Wales. So it’s time to give ourselves the headspace to sit back and think long and hard about how we mobilise for the many challenges ahead. Infuse aims to be a catalyst for this by providing opportunities to refresh both, how we think about public service, and also what it means to be a vocational public servant. Ultimately, the aim is to equip our colleagues with the skills and tools to be able tackle public service challenges head on, and to make a real difference to the communities around us. To all our participants I would say embrace this fabulous opportunity to create impact and legacy. I am looking forward immensely to seeing the positive outcomes that I know will flow from this programme. Good luck to all involved.”

To mark the launch of Cohort Alpha, a podcast fronted by Dr Jane Lynch from Cardiff University will go live from 4th May 2020. Infuse: the podcast takes a deeper look into the societal challenges faced in Wales by talking to leading experts in local government and the public sector. In the first episode, Dr Lynch is joined by Kellie Beirne where they discuss the importance of collaborative working and how the Infuse programme ties into the Cardiff City Deal challenge fund.

For more information about the Infuse programme and links to the podcast please email infuse@monmouthshire.gov.uk or visit: https://ylab.wales/programmes/infuse-innovative-future-services

When is my collection day?

Visit MyMonmouthshire to find out when your waste & recycling will be collected.

Our offices will be Closed on Monday 3rd May

If your call is an emergency please telephone 0300 123 1055.

There will be no collections on Bank Holiday Monday 3rd May. All collections will be one day later than normal that week.
You can check your collection day here: http://maps.monmouthshire.gov.uk/

Fortnightly refuse collection calendar for 2021

You can check your next waste collection days by visiting the Local Info page.

Household waste and recycling centres may be busy around the Bank Holidays. Each site has different opening days please follow the link to check.

On Friday 30th April, 2021, it was confirmed that all the requirements of the EPS regulations have been met and the road closure of the A466 at Wyndcliff will start on Tuesday 4th May 2021 to enable vital safety works to commence on the rockface on the A466.

Tintern will still be accessible via the diversion route below:

Throughout the road closure period a full diversion will be in place allowing traffic to travel between Chepstow and Tintern.  Drivers are asked to follow the diversion signs and not rely on satnav, as many of the local lanes are very narrow with limited opportunities for vehicles to pass. Cyclists will still be able to use the A466 during the closure.

For the latest information visit: monmouthshire.gov.uk/a466

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 28th April 2021 Between 09:25 – 09:55 (approx.)

Wednesday 28th April 2021 Between 21:45 – 22:15 (approx.)

Thursday 29th April 2021 Between 10:05 – 10:35 (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.

‘Pick up your dog’s mess or face a fine’ that’s the warning from Monmouthshire County Council as it looks to educate dog owners about the dangers of not cleaning up after your pet.

The council’s pledge comes following a successful awareness day held on 22nd April 2021 across Abergavenny’s Bailey Park, Usk town and Raglan village, where poo bags were handed out to people walking their dogs who need them. Dog owners were also encouraged to use the many dog waste and litter bins at the entrances to Bailey Park to dispose of bagged dog waste, or alternatively take it home where it can be placed in a household waste bin.

In Usk, the Pooper Snooper app has been adopted to help tackle dog fouling in the town. The app maps all the dog poo and litter bins in the town, so it is easy to find out the location of each bin for people with a new dog or who are visitors to the area.  It also provides a method of reporting dog fouling incidents, which can help identify hot spot areas where patrolling could be increased or a bin provided. The more people that use the app, the greater its usefulness in tackling the problem. 

In Raglan, various hot spot sites identified on social media were visited and a pavement stencil used to remind dog owners to ‘Clean It Up’. All of the dog owners encountered in the village were carrying bags, which helps highlight that the vast majority of dog owners are responsible and support the need to ‘bag it and bin it’.

One of Usk’s responsible dog owners lending support to the campaign, which asks residents to pick up after their pets, and to bin their poo bags not leave them strung from a fence or tree.

Apart from the obvious unpleasant issues of dog mess on shoes, pushchairs, bikes and wheelchairs, dog faeces carry very real health risks. Toxocariasis is an infection transmitted from animals to humans through contact with parasitic roundworm eggs, usually through pet faeces that have not been cleared from the ground. People playing sports or sitting on the ground are more likely to be at risk from toxocariasis, which can cause blindness, damage to organs and, in rare cases, septicaemia. The risk can be reduced if owners clean up their pets’ faeces from the ground, and if their animals are treated regularly for roundworm.  Dog faeces are also damaging to farm livestock, and reduce the value of crops such as silage and hay.

Authorised officers of Monmouthshire County Council can serve a fixed penalty notice of £75 on someone who is witnessed not cleaning up their dog’s faeces. If the fixed penalty notice is not paid, a much heavier fine of up to £1000 can be imposed by a magistrate. In addition, any resident who witnesses dog fouling can report it via the council’s website.

Frances O’Brien, Chief Officer for Enterprise said: “Our teams work exceptionally hard to keep Monmouthshire’s green spaces and public areas to a high standard and it’s important as residents or as visitors to make sure we are cleaning up after our pets. Not only does dog fouling carry the risk of a fine but it also carries the risk of health issues. Please make sure you are disposing of your dog’s mess appropriately so residents and their four-legged friends can continue enjoying all of Monmouthshire’s beautiful open spaces.”

For more information about the Pooper snooper app or to report dog fouling in your area visit: natural-apptitude.co.uk/project/pooper-snooper/  To report dog fouling, visit the council’s website at monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/dogfouling/

Like many 8-year-olds, A has many dreams and wishes, she wants to try new things like horse-riding and gymnastics and do simple things like learning how to swim. Like many young girls, A would love a little puppy to play with and to have someone to do arts and crafts with. Just like any child, A deserves a loving caring home and someone to help her face the challenges that any young person faces while growing up.

In the lead up to Foster Care Fortnight on May 10th 2021, Foster Monmouthshire is calling on kind, caring people to come forward as a foster carer to support A and offer her the safety and comfort that every young girl needs.

Monmouthshire’s Chief Officer for Social Care and Health Julie Boothroyd said: “A has faced a significant amount of instability in her short time in our care. She has been in residential care since Christmas, which has left her often feeling lost and scared.

“A has some challenges, she has sensory issues and sometimes has big emotions which she needs a patient, kind and loving family to help her manage. She is constantly described as polite, someone who loves cuddles and is chatty with a sense of humour. A likes spending time with people,  she loves animals and particularly enjoys arts and crafts, singing and drama. She has a close relationship with her brother who is also living with foster carers that we very much want to support. She is often described by people who spend time with her as kind, bright and insightful. As a young person, A is keen to please and always wants to find ways of being helpful.

“More than anything A needs the love, support and patience that comes with having a stable home where she is the only child, and with caring people around her. She needs someone who won’t give up on her and who can give her the love and attention she needs and deserves.

“We know there is someone out there who can give this little girl the love and support she needs. You will get 24 hours support from a team who will be with you every step of the way and provide you with all the support and training that you need. Fostering does come with its challenges but it can be the most rewarding thing you will ever do. It is an opportunity to change the future. As a MyST therapeutic foster carer you will be given excellent support, training and a salary.”

For anyone wanting to find out more about fostering A or the training and support available to MyST therapeutic foster carers please visit: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/fostering/

Click here to view our Community Renewal Fund Webinar

Monmouthshire County Council is encouraging local business groups, voluntary and community sector organisations and Universities/Higher Education establishments to apply for a new UK Government Fund that offers £220million to local authorities across the UK for 2021-22 only. The UK Community Renewal Fund offers individual local authorities up to £3million to support collaborative, innovative projects that will align with long-term strategic plans for local growth, target people most in need and support community renewal.

Projects will need to be pilot in nature, and the Fund will provide capacity funding to help Monmouthshire prepare for the introduction of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in 2022.  Projects should therefore demonstrate innovation through service delivery and the introduction of new delivery approaches and will need to be completed by March 2022.

The council invites anyone interested in the new Fund to join a livestreamed event on Tuesday 27th April at 4.30pm, when the UK Community Renewal Fund will be explained further and there will be the opportunity to ask questions. To register for the livestreamed event, potential applicants should complete the short form on the council’s website.

It is anticipated that the Fund will have a wide reach and will be of interest to local business groups, voluntary and community sector organisations, Higher Education and training providers wishing to collaborate on pilot projects. The Fund is open to applications on Wednesday 21st April and will close at 17:00hrs on Friday 14th May.

The Fund is designed to explore how to tackle local and unique challenges whilst addressing four UK Investment priorities: Investment in skills; Investment in local business; Investment in communities and place; Supporting people into employment.  

Investment in skills to equip people to capitalise on opportunities and needs in Monmouthshire to meet the needs of the green and digital economy. Applications can include work-based training, retraining, upskilling or reskilling members of the workforce or promoting digital skills.

Investment in local business to increase opportunity for all and create an innovation culture through collaborations between higher education and small businesses.  Applications to support entrepreneurs and businesses to create more job opportunities for current or new employees, to develop their innovation potential and support decarbonising measures.

Investment in communities and place will consider project proposals to deliver net-zero and local energy projects; opportunities for promoting culture-led regeneration and community development; supporting the private sector by increasing footfall; improving efficiency and collaboration by joining up local public services to produce better local outcomes; promoting rural connectivity and enhancing accessibility and social, economic and cultural opportunities for rural communities, including rural and green infrastructure.

Supporting people to engage with local services, which support them on their journey towards employment by addressing local barriers to engagement or raising aspirations to find sustainable employment. Testing interventions to maximise the effectiveness of employment programmes aimed at those furthest from the labour market.

Further details of the fund, to register for the livestreamed event, and how to apply can be found at monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-renewal-fund 

Monmouthshire County Council is pleased to offer residents and community groups an exciting opportunity to get involved and to enjoy the nature and wildlife in their own gardens or local open spaces.

The Resilient Greater Gwent project is being funded by Welsh Government’s Enabling of Natural Resources and Wellbeing Grant, and aims to promote nature to encourage communities to value their landscapes and wildlife and to also get involved for their own health and wellbeing. Residents are able to apply for pollinator packs, which include all the tools needed to create a pollinating paradise in their own green spaces. The project follows the council’s commitment to promoting biodiversity and encouraging nature to thrive.

It comes at a time where pollinators are in decline across Wales, Britain and Europe and have been for many years. In Wales, the main groups of pollinators are bees and wasps, flies (including hoverflies), butterflies, moths and beetles. Collectively, these are responsible for pollinating approximately 75% of temperate flowering plant species and critical to maintaining human life. 

Residents wishing to turn their garden’s into the perfect habitat for pollinating species, can apply for a free ‘Pollinator Pack’. The pack includes:

  • Wildflower seeds to scatter in gardens to grow a beautiful variety of pollinator friendly plants and flowers.
  • An insect house to attract a variety of species.
  • Illustrated wildlife guides to help identify the visitors that are attracted to green spaces.

Monmouthshire residents are also being offered the chance to loan a trail camera to record wildlife in community gardens, open spaces or school grounds. These portable infrared trail cameras use motion sensors to record images and video of animals or birds that might pass by. The LED array even allows video footage and pictures to be captured in complete darkness.

These trail cameras are available to loan free of charge. The cameras will be available to community groups, their members as well as schools. 

To apply for a free pollinator pack or to loan one of our wildlife cameras, please email Helen Fairbank, Behaviour Change for Wellbeing Officer at helenfairbank@monmouthshire.gov.uk

For more information about the Resilient Greater Gwent Project, please see https://www.monlife.co.uk/connect/green-infrastructure/green-infrastructure-projects/

Monmouthshire County Council’s Chairman Sheila Woodhouse has expressed her condolences after the announcement of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip’s passing on Friday 9th April.

Councillor Woodhouse said: “I am deeply saddened by the news of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip’s death. On behalf of Monmouthshire County Council, I send our most sincere condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family at this very difficult time.

“The Duke Of Edinburgh has touched the lives of many throughout his lifetime, not only playing a significant role as a member of the Royal Family but through his passion as an environmentalist and Patron of The Duke of Edinburgh scheme. We honour his dedication to public life and his undeniable commitment to supporting Her Majesty The Queen over many decades. His loss will be deeply felt across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.”

In a display of mourning and respect, all of Monmouthshire County Council’s flags have been lowered to half-mast and books of condolence will be opened at Monmouthshire’s Community Hubs on Monday 12th of April and will remain open until the funeral of His Royal Highness.”

It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

Further announcements will made in due course.

The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.

Friday, 9 April 2021Monmouthshire County CouncilMonmouthshire County Council

It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

Further announcements will made in due course.

The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Monmouthshire County Council is urging residents to remain vigilant after receiving reports of unsolicited emails offering council tax refunds. The message, which purports to come from the HMRC, reportedly tells householders they have an outstanding refund and encourages them to click on a link. Monmouthshire County Council’s Revenues team would like to confirm that it is not official council correspondence and residents should exercise caution before providing any details to a third party. The council recently had to issue similar warnings when residents described receiving phone calls advising them they were entitled to a rebate on their council tax bill.

If you receive any correspondence regarding your council tax and you are concerned may be fraudulent, please contact the council’s Contact Centre on 01633 644644 or via the MyMonmouthshire service on its website.

For advice about scams and how to avoid them, the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline are also a helpful source of information. You can call them on 08082 231 133 or visit citizensadvice.org.uk/contact-consumer-helpline

MonLife Heritage Museums are proud to announce the launch of a brand new collections website at www.monlifecollections.co.uk The new website provides free access to search hundreds of records, allowing users to read material and view images for items within the collections from across Monmouthshire. The Museums team will continually be adding more to the website, so they recommend that visitors to the site keep coming back to see what’s new.

  • Discover historical objects, works of art, photographs and documents cared for by MonLife Heritage.
  • Search for special people, explore notable places, travel through time and discover different themes.
  • Hundreds of Monmouthshire records are already on our collections search.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, MonLife Heritage have been researching new ways to diversify – between January and March 2021. With thanks to a Welsh Government Local Government Cultural Recovery Fund grant, members of the Museums team have been able to dedicate their role to the creation of the collections website. They have worked alongside Digital Heritage Consultants, Orangeleaf Systems Ltd to build a bespoke website.

Lydia Wooles, from the Museums Online project team, said: “We really hit the ground running with the project, as a team we’ve learned a lot in a short timescale. Records have been carefully selected to provide users with a flavour of the wide variety of artefacts and documents that we hold. It’s been such a rewarding experience working on this project.”

All of the records on the website relate to the story of Monmouthshire and include the nationally significant Nelson collection. From archaeological finds, extensive costume collections, to photographs and postcards – there is something for everyone.

Monmouthshire County Council has confirmed that preparations for important safety work on the A466 between St Arvans and Tintern have begun. From Monday 29th March, tree-felling is being undertaken in the area and from Tuesday 6th April Alun Griffiths Contractors will be on-site setting up, ready to begin stabilising the rock face above the road from Saturday 10th April.

It is anticipated that the project, which will involve rock being removed, will require a four week full road closure between St Arvans and Tintern. Cyclists will be able to pass through, but all other traffic will need to follow the signed diversion.

A spokesperson for Monmouthshire County Council said: “It is essential that we undertake these important safety works as efficiently and quickly as possible. We are making every effort to ensure that the works are completed in the shortest time possible.

“We have had to time the works to avoid disturbing bats while they are hibernating. We sincerely appreciate the inconvenience that the road closure will bring to residents and visitors travelling through the area, but we must undertake this essential work to keep road users safe. Drivers are requested to follow the signed diversion as many of the other lanes in the area are very narrow and winding.  Please do not follow your satnav.  We are grateful to the local community for their patience and understanding. We are working with the businesses in Tintern to support them and keeping residents fully informed, to minimise any potential impact on the village and Wye Valley.”

The road closure is expected to start from Tuesday 6th April, followed by site set-up and commencement of the stabilisation of the rock face on the 10th April. However, this is will depend on whether the bats are still hibernating or not. The bat inspection commence Thursday 1st April, after the tree clearance works are complete. There will then be a seven-day review to establish if the main works are allowed to proceed as planned. If any issues come to light, the council has confirmed it will then need to reassess the situation and decide if it will be possible to reopen the road until they are permitted to commence with the works.

Further details of the road closure, including the diversion route, will be available here.

For information on where to stay, and what to see and do in Tintern, visit visitmonmouthshire.com/tintern

Recycling & Waste

Good Friday: Collections as normal

Easter Monday: No collections ​

Collections from Tuesday 6th April will be running one day later than normal. 

For more information:

You can check your collection day here: http://maps.monmouthshire.gov.uk/

Collection calendar: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/app/uploads/2021/01/Refuse-Collection-Calendar-2021-ENG.pdf

Recycling Centres are open as normal over Easter.

You must book a slot in advance before you visit the Recycling Centre: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/household-waste-recycling-centres/

The Contact Centre will be closed from Thursday 01/04/2021 at 5 pm  and will be closed:

  • Good Friday 2/4
  • Easter Monday 5/4
  • Easter Tuesday 6/4

And will reopen on Wednesday 07/04 at 9 am

If your call is an emergency please contact 0300 123 1055.

For additional information visit monmouthshire.gov.uk, or Monmouthshire CC Facebook’s messenger service to ask Monty our Chabot a question.

You can also use My Monmouthshire to log queries or raise service requests.​

If your call is relating to a Monmouthshire Housing Association repair, please call

0345 677 2277

A poster campaign has been launched by Monmouthshire County Council and Gwent Police to highlight measures introduced to promote positive messages about taking your litter home, driving considerately, and keeping noise levels down at a popular trading estate in Chepstow.

To prevent littering, anti-social driving and behaviour, the owners of Larkfield Trade Park, Chepstow, have been working in partnership with the council and police to engage with local residents. This has included running a competition with St Mary’s School in Chepstow to design posters with positive messages, which will be displayed on the site. Key messages include take your litter home, keep noise to a minimum and be kind to your neighbours.

Paul Matthews, Chief Executive for Monmouthshire County Council said: “We have been keen to engage with the local community. Working together with Gwent Police and Larkfield Trade Park, we are hoping that this campaign will make people more aware that any anti-social behaviour has an impact on neighbourhoods. The posters are a key part of this positive message. The children have produced imaginative and creative work and all their efforts are greatly appreciated.”

A spokesperson from Gwent Police said: “The Larkfield Trade Park is close to housing, so any anti-social behaviour would directly impact on residents. We’re pleased to see the community coming together to help us with this. The posters designed by the schoolchildren are fantastic, and will help raise awareness and drive the messages home. ”

Julian Bladen of Bladen Commercial Property Consultants, who manages Larkfield Trade Park, said: “The effort put into the posters by the children of St Mary’s School is commended and it was a difficult decision to choose a winner. It is great to see the children’s awareness of litter and noise, to respect the neighbouring property owners.”

The winning entries have now been selected and the children have received celebratory Easter eggs donated by Julian Bladen, manager of Larkfield Trade Park, as a thank you for their hard work.

Monmouthshire County Council will open its library service to the public from Monday 29th March, but some restrictions will remain in place for at least a fortnight. The library areas in each of the council’s six community hubs will open initially on their current Request and Collect days:

•       Abergavenny – Tuesday and Thursday (10am to 1pm & 2pm to 4pm)

•       Caldicot – Thursday and Friday (9am to 10am & 3pm to 4pm)

•       Chepstow – Monday and Tuesday (10am to 4pm)

•       Gilwern – Monday (10am to 12.30pm)

•       Monmouth – Tuesday (10.30am to 12.30pm & 2.30pm to 6.00pm). Friday (10.30am to 12.30pm & 2pm to 3.30pm) and Saturday (9am to 12.30pm)

•       Usk – Wednesday (9am to 5pm) and Saturday (9.30am to 12.30pm)

Public access computers will not be available during this period and it may be necessary to queue at busy times to maintain social distancing inside the building.

A full reopening is planned from 12th April, however some slight variations on pre-lockdown times will remain in place. For example, Chepstow and Caldicot hubs will remain closed all day on Wednesdays; Monmouth and Abergavenny will continue be closed between 1pm and 2pm. Late night opening will not resume in Abergavenny during the first few weeks of opening. Opening times will remain under review. 

While re-opening the library service gives residents an opportunity to physically browse books, the Request and Collect facility has proved popular and will remain available via the My Council Services app.  Booking slots for public access PCs will also be made available ahead of the 12th April.

A council spokesperson said: “As the number of vaccinations rise and restrictions are eased we’re delighted to be able to welcome people back inside our community hubs to use the library service.  However, this step is not without its challenges, a lot of preparation is needed for us to be ready and so the service will operate on reduced hours for the first two weeks.  In addition, we will still require staff, customers and learners to use face masks and hand-sanitiser as well as observe social distancing.”

For more information visit: monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-and-libraries/

Photo: FreePik.com

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:-

Tuesday 30th March 2021 Between 09:45 – 10:15am (approx.)

Wednesday 31st March 2021 Between 10:30 – 11:00am (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.

Earlier today the council joined in the national minute’s silence. To view the recording, click here:

On Tuesday 23rd March – the National Day of Reflection – Monmouthshire County Council will be among those organisations and individuals pausing to reflect and remember all those who have died over the past year, including those lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trees dedicated to their memory will be planted at the council’s Tintern Old Station picnic site and its County Hall headquarters in Usk.

In addition, council staff have been invited to participate in a short live-streamed ceremony with a minute’s silence at noon on 23rd March.

In Abergavenny, the council will illuminate the town’s Market Hall in yellow light on the evening of 23rd March, joining major buildings throughout Wales – an initiative set up by the Covid-19 Families-Wales group. Members are urging residents across the country to ‘light up Wales to remember’.

Councillor Sheila Woodhouse said: “At this time of national reflection, we think of those who have lost loved ones – family members and friends whose absence has touched us all so deeply. As Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council, I would like to thank you all for the part you have played in keeping your families and communities safe during these difficult days.”

Monmouthshire residents will be able to visit the trees at The Old Station as soon as lockdown restrictions allow. A video of the dedication will be shared via the council’s website and its Facebook and Twitter social media channels after the national minute’s silence at noon on Tuesday 23rd March.

Cllr. Sheila Woodhouse, Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council, at Tintern Old Station

As spring approaches, Monmouthshire’s grounds maintenance service will work to support the environment and provide a boost for wildlife by modifying mowing practices. It follows the council’s commitment to promoting biodiversity and encouraging nature to thrive through the ‘Nature Isn’t Neat’ principles.

This approach to managing open spaces, including trees and grassland, has been developed in response to the alarming decline in biodiversity and the challenges of climate change. The principles also aim to create environments for bees, butterflies and birds to prosper allowing them to do their work in making the natural surroundings better for future generations.

The principles include a reduction in mowing and trimming in certain green spaces and recreational areas. More importantly, it means the council is committed to mowing with a purpose and not mowing areas such as beneath tree canopies until later in the year – allowing meadow areas to grow. Thanks to funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the council’s grounds maintenance teams will also be sowing wild flower seed in some of the meadow areas to increase biodiversity. In larger areas where meadow patches develop, meandering paths will be created to encourage play and exploration. The mowing of sports pitches and the most heavily used open spaces for recreation will be unaffected.

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 in the soil, improving conditions for their roots.

Monmouthshire’s ‘Nature Isn’t Neat’ approach has been praised in recent years with the BBC’s Countryfile programme showcasing Monmouthshire County Council as an examples of biodiversity-friendly projects across the UK. Naturalist, Iolo Williams, gave his support to Monmouthshire’s reduced mowing policy and the positive effect it was already having on biodiversity.

Monmouthshire County Council’s Biodiversity Champion, Councillor Richard John said: “Our Nature Isn’t Neat approach to mowing allows us to 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. We are encouraging residents to embrace this and maybe adopt some of the principles at home too.”

The council has launched a short questionnaire to capture residents’ thoughts on the ‘Nature Isn’t Neat’ approach to managing open spaces. The questionnaire and more information about the principles are available at https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/nin/

Following the recent news of the gradual reopening of towns, with non-essential retail expected to reopen from 12th April, Monmouthshire County Council has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting businesses in the county and its intention to continue to ask Welsh Government to look at ways to help those businesses that have fallen through the gaps in the funding schemes.

At the Business Resilience Forum meeting, held on 17th March, attended by representatives of businesses and business groups across the county, Councillor Bob Greenland, and officers from within the council’s business support team and VisitMonmouthshire, the request was for more support from Welsh Government. Businesses in the meeting expressed frustration and concern that the current criteria for the existing grants exclude too many who desperately need help.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council and Cabinet Member for Enterprise, said: “We are grateful for the money that has come from Westminster and Welsh Government to help businesses – an unprecedented amount – which has helped many businesses. In Monmouthshire, we have passed on £40million in business support since the beginning of the pandemic.

“However the schemes that Welsh Government has brought forward have sadly failed to support thousands of legitimate businesses across Wales who have fallen through the gaps, due to rules they have brought in for these schemes. Both Councillor Peter Fox, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, and I have been pressing Welsh Government over this issue time and time again. Even so, we feel that we have not been listened to”.

“The current offering of grants does not help those who have fallen foul of certain criteria – such as the need to have been actively trading up to 4th December 2020, or, in the case of self-catering accommodation, to have been trading for two years. Many start-ups have been excluded from much needed support, as have many self-employed people. The needs of these businesses – who contribute so much to the county’s economy, reputation and appeal – deserve to and should be met.

“I believe we need a scheme that is administered by the council, because we can see where the gaps in these schemes are, we can see the businesses that are going to the wall because they have fallen through the gaps. I feel we must speak up for those businesses that have been forgotten,” said Cllr. Greenland.

“In addition, we have heard from businesses who need more information and advance notice, in order to prepare for reopening. Two days’ notice is, for many, simply not enough. We would like to see non-essential retail permitted to open at the point when supermarkets can sell non-essential goods. We’re hearing of a need for a consistency of message and for a greater integration of messages between England and Wales. In a Welsh county such a Monmouthshire, that lies on the border with England, the disparity is causing confusion and in many cases, such as the reopening of hospitality, putting Welsh businesses at a disadvantage.”

In the recent meeting, the council confirmed that it would also continue to promote businesses as they prepare to reopen via a new Spring Shop Local campaign. The work VisitMonmouthshire has been undertaking to keep Monmouthshire at the front of people’s minds further afield –  showcasing the wonderful locations, innovative businesses, and quality produce in its recent Monmouthshire Foodscapes campaign – was also discussed.

As hopes are raised for a lifting of the Stay Local restrictions and overnight stays in self-contained visitor accommodation for residents of Wales from 27th March, visitmonmouthshire.com will be promoting safe and responsible tourism and a wide range of outdoor experiences, including walks. A series of press and influencer visits are also being organised for later in the year to raise the profile of Monmouthshire as the Food Capital of Wales and the wide range of high quality food and drink experiences on offer.

Details of current business support, advice and latest guidance can be found on the council’s website: monmouthshire.gov.uk/business-advice, which is updated regularly.

A partnership between the Euro Garages UK retail group and Monmouthshire County Council has resulted in an improved environment following a litter-picking session on a local road close to the A449 service station near Raglan.

Management at Euro Garages UK Monmouth – who run the service station – were particularly concerned at the amount of rubbish dropped on the former Raglan to Monmouth trunk route and contacted the council to deploy traffic management to protect litter pickers working on the busy road.  Working in wet and windy conditions, the team of ten litter pickers and six support staff swiftly collected 16 sacks of waste produce as well as car parts and other large items. The council provided two van drivers, two traffic controllers and seven litter pickers to complement the Euro Garages workforce.

The litter included discarded takeaway cups and lids, packaging and wrappers, plastic and glass bottles, cans, sheets of plastic wrap and single-use plastic gloves.  It was concentrated in an area close to where sheep and lambs graze, posing a risk to farm animals, especially inquisitive young stock.

Councillor Jane Pratt cabinet member with responsibility for waste and recycling said: “We were delighted to cooperate with Euro Garages UK to clear so much rubbish and this is an excellent example of team-working with a local business – something I’d like to explore further.

“The amount of litter I witness on our roadsides is appalling.  It is so easy to put an item in the bin, but it takes an enormous amount of effort to clear it from roadside verges.  It is sad to see spring lambs gambolling in fields with hedges despoiled by litter.  Everyone needs to play their part in keeping Monmouthshire beautiful as well as avoiding harm to farm animals and wildlife caused by discarded waste.”

Sonia Murphy, manager at the Euro Garages UK Monmouth site added: “It is frustrating to see so much litter along this roadside.  We work hard to keep our premises free from litter, we provide plenty of bins for customers and we are about to install more.  We are considering the best way to enforce the law on littering on our sites as we have to close slip roads at quiet times to retrieve litter from alongside the site exits.”

Monmouthshire County Council is making a special plea to find a kind, caring family or carer to provide a home for an ambitious 17-year-old young woman as she begins her journey into adulthood.

J has overcome many challenges in her life and was placed in her grandparents care when she was just three years old. From the age of 12, J went to live with a short-term foster family before moving to a permanent foster family where she stayed until she was 15. She now is in residential care as there are currently no foster homes available for her at this time. While a sudden end to these important relationships has affected J’s self-esteem, it is not holding her back from her wanting to reach her ambitions and build new relationships.

Monmouthshire’s Foster Care Team is calling on people who can steer J through her pathway to independence, help her build healthy relationships, create a structured environment with boundaries and have the time and patience to support her in future ventures.

J has said she hopes living with a new foster family will mean a new start for her. She said: “I’m a Transgender girl and I’m interested in health and fitness. I want to be accepted for who I am, I don’t want to be judged for who I want to be. I would like a fresh start and to experience being part of a family environment as local as possible to my education setting and my current residential home so I can continue to access all of the positive activities I enjoy within the area. I would like to develop relationships within a foster family home where I feel part of the family for the rest of my life, I need someone who I can visit and remain in touch with when I eventually move on to independent living.”

Cabinet Member for Safeguarding, Social Care and Health, Cllr Penny Jones said: “J is an ambitious and adventurous young woman and she deserves what any 17-year-old should have – a safe, loving family environment, to give her the confidence to be the person she desires and the feeling of acceptance. She has so much potential and just needs the right people and environment to help her thrive. I call on anyone who is able to be that person in J’s life to please contact Monmouthshire’s Fostering team and make a difference.”

Anyone wanting to speak to Foster Monmouthshire about supporting J and to find out about the support, training and allowances associated with becoming a MyST therapeutic foster carer can contact 01873 735950.

Monmouthshire County Council has secured a grant from the Welsh Government for a range of projects, which will contribute towards the delivery of its climate emergency action plan and help to reduce carbon emissions.  The grant, worth £626,000, lends support for the Welsh Government’s move to a circular economy in which waste is avoided and items remain viable for as long as possible.  As an important measure in the campaign to combat climate change, the Welsh Government hopes the funding will help develop many new job opportunities in the move towards a low carbon economy in Wales.

The grant will also provide timely support for the county’s town centres as the Welsh Government seeks support for initiatives promoting community cohesion through repair and re-use initiatives.  These provide opportunities for joined-up interventions such as community hubs offering repair cafes – in which volunteers repair household electrical and mechanical devices, computers, bicycles, clothing, and other items to reduce waste, maintain repair skills and strengthen social structures – or zero-waste shops, which avoid all unnecessary packaging.

The funding will secure the following projects in Monmouthshire:

The council will aim to develop a county-wide Library of Things network to establish premises where people can borrow items they need but don’t own, can donate items they own but don’t need, and a place where people meet to share knowledge and skills.  This will be set up in partnership with Benthyg Cymru, an organisation run by the founders of Wales’ first Library of Things, to support communities to set up their own borrowing facilities.  Benthyg Cymru will oversee procurement of items and the maintenance of records.

The Caldicot repair and reuse hub will be located in the centre of the town hosting a range of activities such as a men’s shed, plastic recycling, a library of things and repair and reuse café.

Monmouth’s Bridges Centre already hosts many community activities and its Community Fridge project will develop the premises further with an integrated building for a repair and reuse café and a library of things.

Abergavenny Community Centre will benefit from further food storage space for its commercial kitchen while the area used by its current repair café as well as a scheduled library of things will be refurbished.

Monmouthshire Upcycle in Chepstow will host a library of things, which will also include electric bikes that can be borrowed.

The reuse shops at the council’s Llanfoist and Five Lanes household waste and recycling centres (that sell safe and usable household items rescued from skips or donated) will feature additional storage areas and facilities.  These will be used to process wood, paint, waste electrical items, bicycle parts and other items for recycling in the county’s repair cafes and men’s sheds.  In addition, the grant funding will contribute towards extra staff to operate the shops, training and volunteering opportunities and the purchase of three vans to transport items.

As well as its partnership with Benthyg Cymru, the council will work closely with the Repair Café Wales community interest company to establish new repair cafés across the county, in addition to developing the existing ones in Abergavenny and Monmouth.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for recycling, Councillor Jane Pratt said: “Our partnership with Benthyg Cymru and Repair Café Wales over the next twelve months promises to be an exciting initiative.  It will guide us in the county’s transition to a circular economy where we make the most of our resources and avoid waste to benefit our communities.”

Cerys Jones, co-founder of Repair Café Wales added: “We first became aware of the repair café movement after reading about its inception in the Netherlands a decade ago and decided to set one up in Cardiff.  The events themselves are very simplistic yet the benefits to a local community are huge – waste reduction, upskilling, improved health and wellbeing, reduction in loneliness and isolation – the list goes on!  Since setting up our first repair café in 2017, we have now helped a further 39 communities do the same in their local area.  We’re so pleased that county-wide repair and reuse initiatives like this one in Monmouthshire are being supported to set up projects that strengthen communities across Wales.”

Phoebe Brown, Repair Café Wales Board Director said: “We are really excited to be involved in this project to help build on the two brilliant repair cafés we already have in Monmouthshire. Our growth as an organisation and the increase in support for these projects reflects the increasing public concern over the climate emergency and positively indicates a motivation amongst our society to come together and take practical steps towards a solution.”

Becky Harford, co-founder of Benthyg Cymru said: “The idea for the Library of Things first came about when I had just moved into a new house with a big garden but couldn’t afford to buy a lawnmower.  I didn’t know anyone locally to borrow one and didn’t drive to be able to borrow one from friends further away.  I came across the idea of tool libraries and when I realised there wasn’t one in Cardiff, decided to set one up myself.  The benefits of libraries of things are endless – providing opportunities to share precious resources and create connections with people in your community.”

Ella Smillie, co-founder of Benthyg Cymru added: “This project will showcase Wales’ commitment to the circular economy, and we’re delighted to be working with Monmouthshire County Council to make borrowing better than buying for local residents.”

The council has provided residents with an opportunity to express their views on libraries of things and repair cafes with a short questionnaire and would welcome their opinions: https://bit.ly/3vhBDBY

For further information, contact Monmouthshire’s Recycling Strategy Manager, Carl Touhig – CarlTouhig@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Monmouthshire County Council has today (11th March 2021) set a budget for the forthcoming financial year. Never an easy process. The year ahead will be our most challenging as we work with communities to steer a way forward in the aftermath of a year of great tragedy. The Council will prioritise its spending on issues which will help people live their lives in the way they choose. We will protect services for the most vulnerable, ensure schools are well placed to support their learners as they return to school and ensure that the increasing demand in adult social care and children’s services can be met. The budget recommits the council to an agenda focussed on reducing inequality within and between our communities. As we exit the current stages of the pandemic we will stay vigilant and be ready to respond should circumstances take a turn for the worse.   

Following feedback from residents on initial proposals published on 20th January 2021, gathered over the full consultation period, the council has amended its proposals and those have been confirmed today.

Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said: “I would like to thank every resident who has shared their feedback with us. We have listened to you. The subsequent changes to the budget are based on what you’ve told us matters to you. In particular, concerns that that the proposed 4.95% rise in council tax could impact upon those most financially disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the lockdown periods that have accompanied it. As a result, I can confirm that the coming year’s council tax increase will reduce to 3.89%. Our approach continues to be to change, improve and adapt our services rather than to close them down. This budget shows ambition for the county in the face of the most challenging of times.”

Some of the major investments agreed by council today are:

  • To protect schools by fully funding all pay and pension increases
  • To recognise social care pressures; primarily around our ageing population, adults with disabilities and an increasing number of looked-after children
  • To recognise demand-led pressures with children with additional learning needs
  • To honour all national pay awards and continue its position to set a minimum wage in line with the Living Wage set by the Living Wage Foundation, and that also applies to apprenticeship roles within the council.
  • To increase investment into flood alleviation schemes over next year and the medium term.
  • The creation of a £1m capital funding to support grant applications that require a council contribution, most notably in relation to significant Active Travel bids that have recently submitted to Welsh Government
  • To spend an additional £0.8 million on highways maintenance schemes.
  • To continue work on a new 3-18 school in Abergavenny.
  • To deliver a replacement for Severn View residential home.
  • To push on with feasibility works on new transport infrastructure in and around Chepstow.
  • To continue with plans to regenerate the centre of Caldicot.

Councillor Murphy continued: “A range of service changes and cost reductions have already taken place in the current financial year, including the closure of Mounton House School, albeit with the services being continued elsewhere, the closure of Usk Household Waste and Recycling Centre and an increase in charges for garden waste collection.”

Monmouthshire County Council Leader, Peter Fox said: “The final settlement from Welsh Government is better than we initially feared, but does not fully compensate for the significant service pressures the council is continuing to face. The medium term outlook is uncertain and we look to Welsh Government to continue to provide specific financial support to meet extraordinary costs associated with responding to the COVID pandemic and extending this support towards supporting and building fairer communities and businesses. Local government has a vital role to play in this effort and Monmouthshire County Council will rise to this challenge.

“Once again we are in the position of being the lowest funded council in Wales by a country mile. The current Welsh system of sharing out money is just unfair and discriminates against Monmouthshire residents. We continue to deliver some of the best services in Wales but are having to deliver them on a shoestring. This is not a sustainable way forward for rural, geographically large counties like ours and we will not give up in our call for Wales Government to review how they share out the money. 

“Significant uncertainties remain and we call on Welsh Government to provide clarity on our funding going forward into 2022/23 and beyond. Local government should not be seen as the poor partner in the wider public sector family. It plays a vital role alongside the NHS in Wales, keeping people safe through these most testing of times. We ask nothing more than this to be recognised,” said Cllr. Fox.

For further information regarding this year’s budget visit monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2021-2022

Monmouthshire County Council marked International Women’s Day – Monday 8th March – by highlighting the campaign’s theme “Choose to Challenge”.  A number of the county’s inspirational women broadcast their experiences to staff via the council’s online livestream – the Digital Cwtch – and provided encouragement for everyone to succeed in their fields and question barriers.

Among them were Julie Boothroyd, the council’s Chief Officer for Social Care & Health who described how her career had developed during a lifetime of challenging engrained assumptions and stereotypes.  She opted to study woodwork and technical drawing at the age of 14 rather than pursue domestic science and later, as a young care worker questioned the way people were treated in the sector.  Julie said: “International Women’s Day gives an opportunity to consider women’s contribution to society, how we ensure we continue to contribute and challenge and how we combat inequality.”

Meanwhile, Monmouthshire IT manager Emma Jackson outlined how the council’s digital team is led by women, demonstrating how Monmouthshire bucks the industry trend of a male-dominated digital sector.

Also featured was 21-year-old Maddy Davies of Abergavenny, a keen martial arts competitor who has represented Wales at the Commonwealth Games and now owns a successful kickboxing academy as well as following a law degree while fully employed in a logistics company.  Maddy outlined her resolve to succeed and her determination to defy stereotyping while breaking through gender barriers.

The council also marked the day by recognising the amazing contributions of women across Monmouthshire on its social media channels with its Facebook and Twitter posts.  Among those was the council’s Employment and Skills team who tweeted their support for #ChooseToChallenge.

Digital events were held for young people across the county and by members of My Mates, the council’s friendship project for people with disabilities.  They celebrated International Women’s Day via a Teams meeting as they discussed women who had inspired them and shared real life examples of determination and courage, referring to how the women in their lives used their voices to improve matters.

Councillor Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for equality featured on one of the council’s social media videos.  She said: “I choose to challenge on this International Women’s Day because I want my daughter, other young girls, and women generally to have the same opportunities I have enjoyed.  I ask that everyone chooses to challenge, call out inequality in your own communities and support other people to help ensure a fairer and more equitable society.”

A new housing project in Abergavenny will offer much-needed accommodation for people with mental health needs or learning disabilities, allowing them to remain in their home county.  This follows the work of the county council’s adult social care team – in partnership with the Melin Housing Association and registered charity Pobl – to identify an unmet need for individuals to receive supported housing in their locality.

Previously many individuals have had to seek shelter outside their home county but the provision of five flats in Hereford Road offers support on site during much of the day and sleep-in support overnight.

The accommodation is designed to promote independence and recovery, with the aim that tenants will relocate to their own home when they feel able and ready.

Speaking at the opening of the complex on Monday 8th March, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said: “I’d like to thank Melin Housing and Pobl for working closely with us to deliver this project.  It’s an opportunity to bring people back nearer to their own communities and will provide future accommodation for residents of Monmouthshire so that they can live independently within their own front doors but with support when required.”

Working together to deliver a successful Census 2021

The Office for National Statistics – which runs Census 2021 – is working with Monmouthshire County Council to deliver a successful census and help local services to fully meet future needs.

Understanding the needs of the nation helps everyone from central government to local organisations such as councils and health authorities plan and fund public services across England and Wales.  Census outputs inform where public funding is spent on services like transport, education and health – on cycle routes, schools and dental surgeries for example.

The census, taking place on 21st March 2021, will shed light on the needs of different groups and communities, and the inequalities people experience, ensuring the big decisions facing the country following the coronavirus pandemic and EU exit are based on the best information possible.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for governance and law said: “The information collected from the census helps councils understand the demands for vital public services – like planning school places or the demand for housing – by giving us accurate forecasts of population change in our communities.  Census 2021 also influences how much money we get from central government to help provide vital local services, so it’s really important that everyone in Monmouthshire completes it”.

Households will begin receiving letters with online codes in March explaining how they can complete their online census.  People can also request a paper questionnaire if they’d prefer to complete the census that way.  In areas where lower online completion is expected, around 10% of households will receive a traditional paper form through the post.  There is plenty of help available, with people also able to complete the census over the phone with assistance from trained staff via the ONS free contact centre.  The ONS also aims to provide in-person support to complete the census online through census support centres, which will be located at Monmouthshire’s community hubs.  Appointments for support can be booked via the council’s contact centre.

The main census field operation will begin only after Census Day, contacting those who have not responded.  Field staff will never need to enter people’s houses; they will always be socially distanced, wear PPE and work in line with all government guidance.  They will operate in the same way as a postal or food delivery visit.

Census 2021 will include questions about people’s sex, age, work, health, education, household size and ethnicity.  And, for the first time, there will be a question asking people whether they have served in the armed forces, as well as voluntary questions for those aged 16 and over on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Results will be available in 12 months, although personal records will be locked away for 100 years, kept safe for future generations.

For more information and advice on how to answer the questions, visit census.gov.uk.

Monmouthshire County Council is calling on vulnerable residents who may be struggling financially or experiencing other difficulties to access a collection of services aimed at preventing homelessness. The call comes as the effects of the pandemic and the impact on the economy are felt across Monmouthshire and Wales.

The group of services, offering a wide range of specialised support, is funded by the Welsh Government’s Housing Support Grant. The core purpose is to prevent homelessness and enable people to have the capability, independence, skills and confidence to access and maintain a stable and suitable home. Individuals can access advice about budgeting/managing money, help with applying for benefits and grants, support with social inclusion and developing daily living skills, as well as support with housing problems. The Housing Support Grant was introduced in April 2019 and is an amalgamation of three existing grants; Supporting People Programme, Homelessness Prevention Grant and Rent Smart Wales Enforcement.

The Housing Support Grant funds over 30 different specialist service areas. The services are accessible to any person over the age of 16 who requires housing related support to help them maintain/sustain their home and live independently within the community. The services also include support for people experiencing domestic abuse, people with physical or learning disabilities, mental health issues, substance misuse issues, a criminal offending history, refugees, people living with chronic illnesses and those with support needs. In light of the concern of a rise in domestic abuse cases during lockdown, the team has placed a specific focus on supporting anyone who may be experiencing or who has experienced domestic abuse.

Anyone needing to access support should contact the ‘Gateway’ service which acts as a referral route into all the support services. The ‘Gateway’ will undertake an evaluation of need and try to match people to the most suitable service for them. In addition, referrals can usually be made by contacting staff at the One Stop Shop or Community Hubs in Chepstow, Abergavenny, Monmouth and Caldicot, however due to the current COVID-19 restrictions in place people are urged to contact the Gateway service in the first instance.

Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development, Councillor Sara Jones said: “We have seen just how devastating the pandemic has been to our communities in Monmouthshire. The impact on the economy means many people have lost their jobs or are struggling financially. It is our priority to make sure we prevent homelessness and support anyone facing financial difficulty. We are proud to work with an army of experienced organisations who are able to offer expert help in a range of different circumstances. I would encourage anyone facing hardship of any kind to please get in touch via our Gateway service so we can get the right help for you.”

Contact can be made directly to the Gateway service by calling 01633 644 644.

Business photo created by jcomp – www.freepik.com

Monmouthshire County Council has approved an updated social justice strategy, the third amendment since the original plan was adopted in 2018 and revised the following year.  From its beginnings, the strategy has driven the principle of incorporating social justice at the heart of everything the council does, and over the past three years it has set out a broad programme to help make a real difference to the lives of local people by working in partnership.

A socially just society respects everyone’s rights and dignity equally.  It allows people to participate fully, and ensures nobody’s life chances are restricted for reasons beyond their personal control.

The updated strategy contains three distinct and targeted action plans to deliver improvements in tackling poverty and inequality, food development and a reduction in homelessness.  These plans are in response to rapid changes brought about by the negative aspects of the current Covid 19 pandemic and they will continue the strategy’s aim to promote equitable prosperity in Monmouthshire.

Councillor Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Justice and Community Development said: “The actions in the plan will be rolled out over the next two years and beyond, seeing the council working hand in hand with local communities to support some of our most vulnerable residents and to continue to deliver a fairer society for all.”

For further information on Monmouthshire’s social justice strategy visit: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/partnerships/social-justice/

62 new dual electric vehicle 22kw fast charging units have been installed at thirty-four sites across Gwent, including five in Monmouthshire.

The project has been delivered in partnership between the five Gwent local authorities: Monmouthshire County Council, Caerphilly County Borough Council, Torfaen County Borough Council, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and Newport City Council

A grant of £465,000 was provided for the project from the UK Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), with match funding provided by each local authority. The installation was undertaken by Welsh company Silverstone Green Energy, who will also manage and maintain the charge points until 2025.

Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales both contributed funding towards a feasibility study to support development of the project.

The new charge points in Monmouthshire can be found at:

·       Trinity Terrace car park, Abergavenny

·       Woodstock Way car park, Caldicot

·       Castle Dell car park, Chepstow

·       Glendower Street car park, Monmouth

·       Maryport Street South car park, Usk

Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services, Cllr Jane Pratt said: “Tackling carbon emissions and climate change is one of Monmouthshire County Council’s key priorities. I’m delighted we’ve been able to introduce these new fast charging points across the county, to provide more opportunities for owners of electric vehicles to recharge and to go a small way to tackling the pollution produced by fuel-engine vehicles. Whilst we remind residents that only essential journeys should be undertaken during the current lockdown measures, we hope the new charge points will make travel much more accessible for owners of electric vehicles in the future.”

To search for charge points use Zap Map https://www.zap-map.com/live/ and zoom in to the relevant local authority area

An online advice service aimed at supporting people with autism has been praised by its users. The Virtual Autism Advice Service (VAAS) is run in conjunction with Monmouthshire County Council and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board’s Integrated Autism Service (IAS). The online sessions were created in light of the pandemic restrictions as a way of offering people with autism help, support and advice as an alternative to face-to-face meetings.

The service has been supporting people with coping strategies, information and advice, signposting to other services, information about referrals for diagnosis, information regarding education and support with employment opportunities.

Over 108 sessions have already been accessed since implementation last May, with people joining virtually from across Gwent, including Monmouthshire, Caerphilly, Newport, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent. The sessions run every Tuesday with four sessions each being held across the day, each lasting 45 minutes. The team has also seen an increase in demand for the service with extra sessions being held at short notice to ensure all people are supported.

Feedback gathered from the service users between October and December 2020 shows the impact the virtual sessions have been making. 32 service evaluation forms were returned for this period. The feedback showed:

·       84% rated their overall experience of the VAAS as ‘very good’, 9% rated their overall experience as ‘good’. 7% rated their overall experience as satisfactory.

·       100% of attendees report that they felt listened to. 

·       100% of attendees reported that they were provided with information or assistance that may have been able to help.

·       80% of attendees reported that they felt comfortable with a virtual session.

·       1 person reported that they felt uncomfortable going on camera but still commented that the session was really good.

Despite the data showing a great response to the service, the team have been overwhelmed by the comments left by the people accessing the sessions. Just some of the comments include:

“I could share my difficulties with people who understand autism without having to explain myself. (The) response was empathic and helpful and reduced my anxiety. Good advice in managing anxiety and aspects of autism.”

“Help with benefits and worries, to be listened to and to have someone there its truly been really wonderful.”

“I have recommended this service to an autistic friend. More information about how often I can access the service, i.e are there time limits. This service needs to be more promoted as I didn’t know I could get this support until I contacted the IAS directly.”

“Thank you for making the start of this diagnosis process comfortable and it has helped massively.”

“Without this service I don’t think I would be understood.”

“I am very appreciative of having the opportunity to speak to yourselves, as both my son and I have struggled for so long trying to find appropriate help and support. You seem genuinely interested in helping. Thank you!”

Cabinet Member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said:

“We’ve constantly seen services adapting and changing throughout the pandemic to ensure the needs of our communities are supported. I’m so proud to hear the virtual sessions offered by the Integrated Autism Service are being so well received by those who need the support and advice. It’s a testament to the hard work and determination of our colleagues across the service. Receiving a diagnosis such as autism can be an anxious time and we want to remind people we are on hand to offer support and answer any questions you may have.”

Nick Wood, Executive Director of Primary, Community and Mental Health Services, said:

“We are delighted to have worked in partnership with Monmouthshire County Council to establish this virtual support service. This initiative was so important to us as a Health Board, as we wanted to offer as much support as possible to those with autism, during a time of such significant disruption. Being unable to provide this support in person was challenging, but we are so pleased that this online service has made a real difference to those diagnosed with autism across our Health Board area.”

Anyone wanting further information about the service or advice regarding autism can contact 01633 644143 or asdservice.abb@wales.nhs.uk

ENDS

23rd February 2021

Monmouthshire County Council has confirmed that essential safety works are to undertaken in April to stabilise the rock face above the A466 between St Arvans and Tintern. The work, to protect road users from dangerous rock fall, is planned to commence on 6th April 2021. It is anticipated the project, which will involve rock being removed, will require a four week full road closure. Following this period it is expected there will be a further two-week period during which there will be a single lane closure, with traffic lights controlling passage through this section of the road.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Monmouthshire County Council cabinet member for Infrastructure said: “It is essential that we undertake these important safety works as efficiently and quickly as possible. We are making every effort to ensure that the works are started early April and completed in the shortest time possible. It will however be subject to final approval from Welsh Government and contractors being able to meet the resource required to complete the works safely owing to potential impact of COVID-19 on their workforce.

“We have had to time the works to avoid disturbing bats while they are hibernating. We appreciate the inconvenience that the road closure will bring to residents travelling through the area, but we must undertake this essential work to keep road users safe. There will be a diversion in place, details of which will be widely publicised nearer the time, and we are grateful to the local community for their patience and understanding. We will be continuing to work with local businesses to support them as needed.”

Further details of the road closure, including the diversion route, will be available on the council’s website at monmouthshire.gov.uk prior to the works commencing.

Items given new life at Monmouthshire County Council’s reuse shop continue to benefit communities, even though Level 4 pandemic restrictions have temporarily forced its closure to the public.

The shop at the council’s Llanfoist Household Waste & Recycling Centre usually sells safe and usable household items donated or rescued from skips, including wooden furniture, garden pots, ornaments and bric-a-brac as well as salvaged pieces, bikes, sports and musical equipment.  While lockdown continues, staff have continued to seek suitable homes for reusable items.

Several care premises for example have recently accepted objects in excellent condition like mobility aids, while a local residential centre has received a number of everyday retro items for use in reminiscence sessions.

In addition, thanks to help from Rotary Monmouth, the shop has provided bicycles to the charity Unseen which supports survivors of modern slavery.  The bicycles have featured in the charity’s Freewheel pilot program that teaches bike maintenance and encourages cycling to help survivors recover.

Meanwhile, children’s bicycles have found homes with families in need in the Abergavenny area and items like tents have been donated through the council’s local networks.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for the council’s household waste & recycling centres said: “Normally the shop has a vibrant team of staff and volunteers serving customers but temporary closure during lockdown has provided an opportunity to think more creatively about finding suitable recipients for some of our salvaged items.  The reuse shop is not just about making sales but also making connections in our community.”

For further information email Monmouthshire’s Reuse and Recycling Officer Rebecca Blount – rebeccablount@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Monmouthshire County Council is to consult over plans to encourage nature to thrive around Monmouth’s Rockfield estate.  It follows a grant from the Welsh Government’s Local Places for Nature fund to undertake a study that involves residents in developing nine community nature spaces and designing enhancements for nature at four neighborhood play areas across Overmonnow.

Community nature spaces include areas for growing vegetables, flowers and fruit trees and tree planting as well as re-wilding areas into mini meadows, offering opportunities for residents to enjoy nature and for children to play.  In addition to providing benefits for residents, they also present valuable habitats for pollinators and other forms of wildlife.

The council has appointed specialist environmental consultancy Pegasus Group to carry out a detailed survey of the sites, public consultation, planning and design works.  This study will enable the community nature spaces to become a reality during the 2021/22 financial year, subject to further funding approval from Welsh Government.

The project is likely to involve transforming some of the smaller and less well-used amenity play areas into community nature spaces.  Meanwhile, the council will expand the playground at the central open space next to the Rockfield Community Centre to cater for children of a wider age range and provide more accessible play equipment.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for parks and open spaces said: “Among the lessons that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have taught us is the importance of a variety of good quality and easily accessible open spaces so families and individuals can spend time together outdoors experiencing nature on their doorstep.”

Councillor Richard John, cabinet member with responsibility for bio-diversity added: “This project is another step in the council’s journey to improve local environments and benefit pollinators.”

In addition to engaging with local residents, the council will involve other project stakeholders including the local county council member, Monmouth Town Council, Transition Monmouth, ACE (Action on Climate Emergency), Gwent Wildlife Trust, Rockfield Community Centre and NRW (Natural Resources Wales).

A short questionnaire about the project can be accessed via the following link: www.monnaturespaces.co.uk – also, anyone wishing to comment on or become involved in the project can forward an email to: naturespaces@pegasusgroup.co.uk

Monmouthshire County Council has secured funding from the Welsh Government to provide amenity areas and planting along Chepstow’s High Street as well as to support an initiative for a 20mph zone.  This work, in response to the current pandemic, will supplement measures introduced last summer to ensure that residents and visitors can safely return to the county’s high streets with room for pedestrians to socially distance without stepping into oncoming traffic.

The work will include a raised area on Beaufort Square to encourage lower speeds, resulting in improved pedestrian connectivity between High Street and St Mary Street. This will mirror current behaviour and supports social distancing by allowing pedestrians to cross at convenient locations rather than at the pinch point created by the controlled crossing.  In addition, temporary kerbing and bollards at the Town Arch and its Moor Street junction will allow the removal of the current barriers and signage.

As lockdown eases and the amenity areas – known as parklets – and planters come into flower, these measures will improve the appearance of the High Street, offering an attractive environment for shoppers to safely enjoy a coffee and relax when visiting Chepstow.  The scheme has also taken account of the town’s market with stalls set up between the parklets and planters in addition to other spaces during busy periods.

While these changes – scheduled for March and possibly early April – are not intended to be permanent the work has been designed to match existing materials.  It will offer an opportunity to trial a new layout for improving pedestrian access within the town.

Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Councillor Jane Pratt said: “The Welsh Government grant has come at an opportune time as we anticipate a possible relaxation of lockdown.  The scheme will offer the opportunity to create a safe and pleasant environment for visitors and is an excellent example of cooperation between the council, Chepstow Town Council, the Chamber of Trade and local councillors to help transform the town and support businesses after what has been a very difficult and challenging time.”

Monmouthshire County Council’s grounds and street cleansing workers have collected 460 kilograms of litter in just seven hours on the northbound side of the A40 dual carriageway between Raglan and Monmouth.  Work carried out during scheduled road works in the week beginning 15th February involved four litter pickers and two vehicles.

This section of the A40 runs alongside the River Trothy just before it enters the River Wye, so any roadside litter is potentially just a short journey from the Severn Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean.  The Trothy has a thriving population of otters, and while it is difficult to appreciate the scrubby roadside habitat when festooned with litter, it is home to particularly endangered species like dormice.  Litter has a significant impact on these two iconic species as well as harming wildlife in general.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services said: “As a local litter champion myself, I recognise the damage the wanton dumping of waste causes to wildlife and habitats.  Roadside litter is a blight on our countryside and it isn’t difficult to keep it in your vehicle until you find somewhere to dispose of it properly.  It is challenging and costly to clear litter from roadsides and it’s a resource that is lost forever from the recycling stream.”

She added: “The amount of litter accumulated is astonishing considering this stretch of verge was last litter-picked only just before Christmas, with traffic reduced due to the winter lockdown.  It is especially sad that this is an ongoing issue after so much recent publicity about the impacts of waste on the environment.”

·         The Welsh Government has published a litter and fly-tipping prevention plan and residents are invited to read and comment upon it: https://gov.wales/litter-and-fly-tipping-prevention-plan-wales

Those that have lost loved ones over the last year, whether related to the pandemic or not, have had to deal with the extra stress and complications that the virus and associated restrictions have caused.

It is fully recognised how difficult and distressing this time can be, and that the support and comfort of family and friends is so important. However, we are urging mourners to consider the real risk of further spread at such gatherings and limit those risks wherever possible.

Unfortunately, cases in the area are still very high and the new strain, known to be even more contagious, is still spreading locally.

To ensure the safety of those attending, officiating and working at funerals, Welsh Government has published Guidance on Funerals: COVID 19 which includes the following key points:

  • The current permitted numbers for funeral attendance at places of worship, crematoriums and cemeteries must be adhered to.

Within the five local authority areas of Gwent current restrictions are in place and apply to funerals, memorial services and gatherings for all faith groups at cemeteries or crematoria.

The numbers able to attend funerals or memorial services both indoors and outdoors are limited by the capacity of the venue once physical distancing measures have been taken into account.

Your Funeral Director will be able to advise you of the permitted attendance numbers for the venue of your funeral or memorial service.

  • Attendance must be by invitation only to ensure that the maximum numbers can be adhered to.

Attendance at a funeral as a mourner is limited to those specifically invited by the organiser of the funeral and the carer of anyone attending. Those who are officiating/working at the venue are not included in the number of attendees.

  • Wear appropriate face coverings

Those attending a funeral are required to wear face coverings throughout the duration of the ceremony with the exemption of individuals with a reasonable excuse, such as:

  • they are not able to put on or wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, or because of a disability or impairment; or
  • they are accompanying somebody who relies on lip reading where they need to communicate.

Welsh Government guidance on face coverings

  • Wakes are not currently allowed

Gatherings such as wakes are not allowed while alert level 4 restrictions are in place.

  • Maintain social distancing at all times

Whenever you leave home, you should try to minimise time spent outside of the home, and ensure you stay at least two metres away from anyone you don’t live with or are in a permitted support bubble with.

  • Hands, face, space

In addition to maintaining social distancing, you can limit the risk of spread by maintaining good hygiene and hand washing and wearing a face covering.

  • Visiting a grave

You are permitted to visit a grave, but you should ensure you follow physical distancing when doing so and check the limitations/access times at your specific cemetery.

Local authorities are working closely with the health service, places of worship and funeral directors to ensure you have the best possible experience and support during these difficult and challenging circumstances – please ensure you are also doing everything you can to limit the further spread of this virus locally by considering and adhering to the above guidance.

Monmouthshire County Council has been awarded National Heritage Lottery Fund backing which will enable it to buy machinery, supporting wildlife to flourish in its parks and green spaces.  The project, entitled “Nature Isn’t Neat”, builds on the experience gathered in a similar initiative piloted and supported by environmental groups in Monmouth.

Evidence demonstrates the catastrophic global decline in insects needed to pollinate plants, trees and crops, and public green spaces play an important role in providing pollinators with sources of food as well as nesting and hibernation sites..  Monmouthshire’s green spaces and parks are mown up to 16 times a year but the Nature Isn’t Neat project will involve reduced cutting of some park areas and green spaces to allow flowers to bloom and grass to grow longer, providing homes for insects and small mammals.

The new machines will enable the council to cut grass when it is longer and remove cuttings, which enrich the soil and smother flowering plants if left on the ground.  Mowing of the edges of paths and pavements will continue with paths cut through new patches of meadow, providing access for children to play and to encourage exploration and enjoyment of the flowers.

Research suggests that creating environments supporting a wider range of wildlife benefits people’s health and mental wellbeing while encouraging them to slow down and enjoy watching flowers, insects and other wildlife.  Using this approach, the council aims to improve prospects for wildlife, providing crucial stepping stones for species to move between good habitat areas.  It will also contribute towards making the county a more attractive place to live and work.

While any benefits of these changes in management may not be immediately apparent, the council is keen to hear people’s thoughts about changes, and any effect they have on ways they use local green spaces.  A survey – www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/nin/ – aims to discover what adults and young people think.

The county council is also keen to hear from people living near the sites targeted by this scheme, who might be interested in visiting for 15 minutes each month to monitor flowers and pollinating insects.  No special knowledge is needed as access to training materials and an instruction video will be provided.  The sites are Belgrave Park, Bailey Park and Mardy Park Resource Centre in Abergavenny; Caerwent’s Merton Green greenspaces; Orchid Drive greenspace in Caldicot; Dancing Hill greenspace in Undy; Rogiet’s Station Rd greenspace; Tudor Rd greenspace in Wyesham, Monmouth; and Hardwick recreation area in Chepstow.  For details of how to participate, contact Monmouthshire’s Green Infrastructure and Litter Education and Awareness Officer:susanparkinson@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Monmouthshire County Council’s Biodiversity Champion, Councillor Richard John said: “Nature Isn’t Neat is an important project building on work we’ve carried out for a number of years to support pollinators.  Many people have enjoyed the pollinator flowerbeds that were a riot of colour in the summer and now we’d like to support more of our native flowering plants by changing the management of green spaces on many people’s doorsteps.  We would like to encourage as many people as possible to fill in the survey form to let us know what they think about these changes.  We are here to listen.”

·         The Nature Isn’t Neat project is funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and Welsh Government and is delivered by Monmouthshire County Council’s Countryside Service and Neighbourhood Services Department and the Monmouthshire and Newport Local Nature Partnership.

The latest phase of funding support for businesses was launched by Monmouthshire County Council on Friday 12th February 2021. This follows the announcement at the end of last month by the First Minister of an extension of the current Restrictions Business Fund Non Domestic (NDR) Grant to the end of March 2021. 

Businesses that previously received the Restrictions NDR grant, in either December 2020 or January 2021, are eligible to receive a top-up payment of either £3,000 or £5,000. There is no need to re-apply. The council’s Business Grants Team have been processing payments and they have confirmed that the funds should reach eligible businesses’ bank accounts the week commencing 15th February 2021.

Previously, this scheme was available to retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses with a rateable value of up to £150,000.  However, the extension of the scheme also now provides a new grant of £5,000 for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses with a rateable value of between £150,000 and £500,000. 

Businesses who have yet to apply for the NDR grant can still do so by completing an online form, which can be accessed via a link on the council’s business page at monmouthshire.gov.uk/business-advice.  Businesses can also check if they are eligible by reading the guidance information on the website.

For businesses who are not registered for Business Rates in the county, support is available through the Restrictions Business Fund Discretionary Grant.  This grant is to support small businesses and sole traders that have been directly impacted by the extended restrictions. If a business previously received a grant under the Discretionary Fund in December 2020 or January 2021, they will need to make a new application for this extended scheme, as no automatic payments will be made. Businesses are allowed one application and the fund will run until such time as it is fully committed. To apply, visit the council’s website, as above.

Additional support for freelancers has also been announced. This new round of support, from the Cultural Recovery Fund, is available to freelancers who previously received a grant under the Freelancer Grant scheme. An additional payment of £2,500 will be available. It’s important to note that if the freelancer has since received a grant under the Discretionary Grant scheme then they will be ineligible for this additional payment according to the guidance set out by Welsh Government. Individuals who previously received a grant under the Freelancer Grant Scheme will shortly receive an email from the council’s Business Grant Team asking them to confirm if there have been any changes in their circumstances. These additional payments can only be made on receipt of this information. Unfortunately this grant is not open to new applications, however anyone who missed out on the original funding can apply for the latest Discretionary Grant (details of which are above).

Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council said: “We are pleased to be able to confirm that latest phase of grants available to businesses in Monmouthshire. The past few months have been especially hard for the businesses that were required to close following the introduction of Alert Level 4 in December. They were already struggling, even before these latest restrictions, so we will continue to lobby Welsh Government for support, especially for those businesses that have so far slipped through the net on its funding schemes.

“We have been working hard to roll out the grants and support announced by Welsh Government as quickly as possible. So far, we have processed in the region of £30million of financial support for businesses in the county. It is our hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel very soon, and we will be awaiting future announcements from Welsh Government with interest, in the hope of more support, and of eventual easing of lockdown when it is safe to do so.”

To keep up-to-date with the latest information about support for businesses visit Monmouthshire.gov.uk/business-advice and follow the council’s feeds on Twitter and Facebook @MonmouthshireCC

Monmouthshire County Council have been working apace to prepare for the return of all Foundation Phase age children to schools across the county starting the week commencing 22nd February, with most schools opening from Wednesday 24th February. Provision for face-to-face learning is in place for vulnerable children, and those of critical workers in Key Stage 2 throughout, and for Foundation phase children on 22nd and 23rd February, following half-term. Letters have been sent to all parents and carers of school age children confirming the latest announcement.

This comes as Monmouthshire has seen a steady fall in the number of new Covid-19 cases, which have been in single figures on a daily basis. This is in comparison to a figure in the region of 80 daily cases not so long ago. The all-important ‘R’ number, which describes how fast the virus is spreading is now below 1.0 in Wales, at 0.7, a notable improvement but one which should not be taken for granted as the battle to reduce transmission continues.

Councillor Richard John, cabinet member for Children and Young People said: “Although we are seeing sustained improvements in the situation here in Monmouthshire, we can’t afford to become complacent.  We will be undertaking comprehensive risk assessments and checking that all measures are in place to protect pupils and staff.  This lockdown has been extremely challenging for young children and their families and I recognise how welcome a return to school will be for Foundation Phase pupils.

“I would strongly ask that all parents remember to socially distance when dropping off and picking up children from school.  With the significant progress being made to reduce transmission, we all need to continue to do everything possible to help keep Covid cases low so we can continue to open up schools to further pupils.”

To keep up-to-date with the latest information about schools visit the website at Monmouthshire.gov.uk and click on ‘education’ or follow the council’s feeds on Twitter and Facebook @MonmouthshireCC

Monmouthshire County Council is to host a series of online discussion and information sessions aimed at small community growers, market gardeners, allotment holders and traditional farms in addition to businesses interested in using local produce. Featuring key speakers, the first session will be held at 4pm on Thursday 18th February and it will open discussion on key aspects of food development in the county. The meeting will be held via the Microsoft Teams communication platform.

Monmouthshire enjoys a well-deserved reputation for its food, and events such as the Abergavenny Food Festival, goods of the highest quality and a high standard of restaurants as well as other food outlets throughout the county are evidence of its standing.

Businesses and producers interested in participating in the first session should contact Monmouthshire’s Rural Food Development Officer, Deserie Mansfield – DeserieMansfield@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 07816 066046 by 12noon on Thursday 18th February.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for sustainability, Councillor Jane Pratt said: “Monmouthshire County Council recognises the value that food has on health and well-being as well as our local economy.  We are identifying a range of actions and measures in the community that may provide opportunities to improve the continuity, volume, range and quality of locally grown produce.” 

Monmouthshire County Council has fully committed itself to the provision of its Outdoor Adventure Service and has published plans to redevelop and invest in its Gilwern site.

Cabinet members meeting on Wednesday 3rd February agreed a programme to bring the Gilwern site to a required standard costing £560,000. Further work to improve site security and accommodation to maximise bookings will require an additional £300,000 investment.  The council will explore an option to finance the capital project from the sale of its Hilston Park site and meanwhile, it has commissioned consultants to look into potential investment opportunities.

The coronavirus pandemic severely hit Monmouthshire’s Outdoor Adventure Service with the Gilwern site closed in March 2020 and all bookings for the remainder of the academic year cancelled.  The council will now work to provide a timetable to include COVID-safe protocols enabling a return for residential trips and visits.  Its recovery plan will initially seek to reopen the site and prioritise Monmouthshire’s schools to enjoy traditional residential and day bookings.  The second phase will recommence partnership working with other Monmouthshire services such as those delivered by the Children with Disabilities and Additional Learning Needs teams while phase three will focus on a more commercial approach.  This will involve team building days, staff incentive schemes and wellbeing initiatives for external organisations.   The council will consult with residents about its proposed measures soon.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for MonLife, Councillor Richard John said: “Our ambition to maximise the Gilwern site’s potential with a sustainable service which serves the children and young people of Monmouthshire and remaining fully committed to the provision of outdoor learning and education.  It helps young people with leadership skills, teambuilding and character development, and is particularly beneficial for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds or who are at risk of exclusion from school.”

Monmouthshire County Council has agreed to align the pay of its apprentices with the rates set by the National Living Wage Foundation.  Cabinet members approved changes on 3rd February and these will be implemented from 1st April.

The decision to apply the UK Real Living Wage follows the council’s approval of its Apprentice, Graduate and Intern (AGI) Strategy in July 2019, which sets out how the council would deliver new employment and training opportunities for the next three years.  Among its recommendations was that each apprentice would be subject to a consistent pay structure across the authority. The implementation of this measure means that all apprentices, regardless of age or qualification, will be paid at the same rate aligning with the council’s pay scales and the National Living Wage Foundation rate.

The council is one of the largest employers in Monmouthshire and it is committed to developing and supporting apprenticeships, graduate jobs and internships across its organisation, recognising the significant benefits they bring for both employer and employee.

The AGI enables new and existing employees to fulfil their potential and raise their skills levels to meet organisational needs as well as helping to drive productivity in the local economy and the wider Cardiff Capital Region.  It also equips the council’s services to respond to challenges such as an ageing population, climate change, digitisation and globalisation.

The decision comes in the wake of National Apprenticeship Week 2021 – 8th to 14th February – which aims to shine a light on the amazing work done by apprentices and their employers across the country.  Currently, the council employs 18 apprentices across a range of services with another 118 employees undertaking higher level qualifications.

Councillor Phil Murphy, cabinet member with responsibility for human resources said: “I’m very pleased that the council has approved this goal set out in our Apprentice, Graduate and Intern Strategy and it will ensure we pay our apprentices what we believe is fair for the work they do. We provide a wide array of services and we need people from all sorts of professional backgrounds and interests. We want to invest in their skills and experience as well as unleash their talents to benefit our communities. An apprenticeship can offer the perfect stepping-stone into local government and set staff on a hugely rewarding and fulfilling career path.”

Monmouthshire County Council has successfully secured funding from the Welsh Government’s Active Travel and Green Infrastructure programme to start improvement work on Caldicot’s Church Road.  This scheme will start on Monday 15th February and will focus on assisting pedestrian safety, improving crossing points and enhancing the entrance into the nearby castle and country park.

The proposals will address a number of local issues including the management of traffic and parking during school drop-off and pick-up times, reducing traffic speed, widening the pathways to improve the environment for pedestrians, and developing a more attractive thoroughfare by introducing more trees and planting.  The project will also develop the link between the town centre and Caldicot Castle and Country Park to benefit residents and visitors.

Work carried out by Alan Griffiths Contractors will start on 15th February – the programme will begin at Cross Close, followed by work at the school crossing before attention turns to the castle and countryside park entrance.

Assuming Welsh Government funding is available a second phase of improvement works for Church Road will take place in 2021/22.  Plans and artist impressions for both phases are available by selecting: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/caldicot-regen/church-road/?preview=true

These proposals form part of wider regeneration plans to improve the Caldicot area for businesses, residents and visitors.  Caldicot was chosen in 2018 as the county’s priority for regeneration, forming part of the wider Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) regeneration plan, and work funded by the Welsh Government and Monmouthshire County Council will be undertaken this financial year.  The council is bidding to secure further grant funding to complete the Church Road scheme in 2021/22.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services said: “I very much welcome news that work will start soon to improve Church Road and this scheme will form an important link from the town centre to the castle and countryside park as well as enhance safety.”

Monmouthshire County Council’s leisure service MonLife is launching an exciting new scheme offering support for people aged 60 and over to become more physically active.  MonLife’s 60 Plus Fit4Life membership scheme provides six months’ free access to online classes to include yoga, pilates, tai chi and gentle exercise with virtual coffee catch-ups – and guidance and motivation to help achieve increased fitness are included in the package.

The service is currently available online but as soon as the county’s four leisure centres at Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth re-open, participants will receive one month’s free membership followed by the attractive offer of a reduced £16 monthly fee.  In addition, MonLife will give away a starter pack including resistance bands, dumbbells and an exercise mat to the first 85 people who join.

MonLife will join with other Welsh leisure providers to deliver its 60 Plus Fit4Life initiative, made possible thanks to funding from Sport Wales and the Welsh Government.

Sport Wales CEO Sarah Powell said: “We want people in Wales to have a lifelong enjoyment of sport and by working with partners to help provide additional or supplemented offers that aim to specifically meet the needs of the over 60’s locally we hope that we see even more individuals from this demographic staying or getting active.

“Over the past year we’ve all had to think even more about how we keep ourselves healthy, probably in different ways to what we would have done prior to the coronavirus outbreak.  We know that being physically active is one way to help keep us mentally and physically fit, while providing a brilliant way to connect with others.  So I urge people to take a look through their local authority at the different opportunities that are available to help them do this.”

Councillor Richard John, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for MonLife added: “Our 60 Plus Fit4Life sessions will offer people over the age of 60 the opportunity to become more physically and socially active as we know how important it is to stay well, especially during this difficult time.

“Our committed staff will offer support, advice and guidance every step of the way to help keep up motivation.  We will continue to offer a wide range of digital fitness programmes for people of all ages to keep their minds and bodies active.  We look forward to welcoming the public back to our MonLife leisure facilities when conditions allow.”

To apply for the scheme click on: https://bit.ly/2NLFKou

Monmouthshire County Council is to lend its support to a campaign against canine cruelty.  The campaign calls for a ban on the import of dogs with cropped ears and is led by the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

Ear cropping is a surgical procedure to remove the floppy part of a dog’s ear, often without anaesthesia or pain relief, and is carried out purely for cosmetic reasons to promote an image of ferocity.  Far from offering any benefit to the dogs involved, in fact it severely compromises their welfare. The procedure itself is painful, as it cuts through cartilage and can take weeks to heal, inflicting pain every time the bandages are changed.  The dog also risks catching an infection during the process.

Ear cropping is illegal in the UK but dogs with cropped ears are imported from countries where the procedure is still legal.  It’s also believed that dogs bred in the UK are deliberately taken overseas for the procedure.

The RSPCA has reported a massive 236% increase in the number of reports of ear cropping they’ve received in the last five years.  This rise in numbers may be fuelled by the increase in celebrities and social media influencers displaying their cropped dogs on platforms like Instagram, leading to the glamorisation and normalisation of this barbaric practice.

Monmouthshire’s animal health officers have called for members of the public to report incidents of people carrying out ear cropping or arranging for dogs’ ears to be cropped abroad by calling Crime Stoppers on 0800 555111.  They have also advised vets that they can report of cases to their local authority animal health team. Under the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Code of Conduct they can break their client confidentiality and disclose information to the authorities where it is deemed necessary – including where ‘animal welfare or the public interest is compromised…or where the information is likely to help in the prevention, detection or prosecution of a crime’.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community safety, Councillor Sara Jones said: “Ear-cropping of dogs is an appalling crime carried out for wholly unnecessary reasons.  I urge residents who believe a dog is likely to be at risk to contact Crime Stoppers or seek advice from Monmouthshire’s animal health team.  Let’s make this awful practice a thing of the past – where it belongs.”

Monmouthshire County Council will mark this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day with an online event open to all residents.  It will take place from 4.30pm to 5pm on Wednesday 27th January with a theme of “Be the Light in the Darkness”.

Holocaust Memorial Day is an international day organised each year by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution, and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

The council’s Chepstow and Caldicot Community Hubs have previously hosted similar occasions, but this year restrictions imposed by the current pandemic will prevent attendance by members of the public.

Councillor Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Justice and Community Development said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is a time for us all to reflect and learn from the past to build a better future; it is about promoting equality, respect and understanding and to remember the victims of persecution and murder.  I hope people will pause to pay their respects and log on to our service”.

The event will be streamed live via communication platform Microsoft Teams and residents can follow it by signing up here : join

Towards the end of the ceremony, there will be an opportunity to light a candle and join in a minute’s silence – residents are asked to have a candle ready if they would like to participate.

As residents woke up on a Sunday morning to Monmouthshire’s first significant snowfall of 2021, council workers reported for duty to keep roads open, to deliver services as normally as possible and ensure people remained safe.  Snow falling across the county on the morning of 24th January caused little disruption as the council’s teams dealt with problems efficiently and effectively.

Gritting teams were extremely busy and worked almost continuously with road temperatures below zero for much of the weekend.  They treated all scheduled routes as well as town centres to ensure traffic flow, and gritted or cleared snow from a number of school sites.  Gritting will continue with some snow and freezing rain forecast before milder and wetter weather arrives on Tuesday – though another very cold spell is expected on the weekend.  Highways officers stressed that residents should drive with care, especially as recent floods and heavy rain have caused water to run off fields onto the road network.

Icy conditions into Monday morning presented challenges for the council’s recycling and waste teams in some areas though they aimed to collect from all properties.  Meanwhile, Monmouthshire Meals delivered hot food as usual over the weekend with help from an all-terrain vehicle for difficult to reach areas.  Similarly, all care and support for the elderly and vulnerable was delivered, and where necessary 4×4 vehicles were deployed.

Monmouthshire’s three household waste and recycling centres at Caerwent, Mitchell Troy and Llanfoist remained open as normal on Sunday and were available for residents with pre-booked slots.  However, people who contacted the sites before their journey were advised to remain at home and stay safe rather than take to the roads.

Council Leader Peter Fox said: “I’m very grateful for the reliable and professional manner in which council teams operated over the weekend, especially following their excellent response to the heavy rain brought about by Storm Christoph.”

Residents are advised to stay safe in snow and icy conditions and only drive if necessary.  During adverse conditions the council’s Facebook and Twitter social media channels provide information on road and weather situations.

Teams from across Monmouthshire County Council’s workforce have been working round the clock to support residents affected by Storm Christoph. The council established an Emergency Response Team to monitor flood risks and respond as necessary.

750 sandbags were distributed to 51 residential properties. Flooded roads were closed – namely the A4042 at Llanellen, A4077 Gilwern to Crickhowell road, B4598 at Pantygoetre and the approach to Usk, as well as the area by St Bartholemew’s Church in Llanover and the stretch of road between Llanllowell and Newbridge on Usk.

Care staff remained busy all day supporting people. Everyone requiring assistance from the Care at Home team received help.

The situation continues to be monitored and teams will be working through the night again tonight. Gritters will be out on all routes as temperatures are forecast to drop again.

River levels on the River Usk are falling. A second peak is expected on the River Wye tonight and into tomorrow morning, that might impact Riverside Park, Monmouth. The situation is being monitored and a response will be put in place if necessary.

Council Leader Peter Fox OBE said; “It’s such a worrying time for people who face potential flooding, we are thinking of you all. The recent flooding events have been distressing for so many. Thanks to everyone who’s supporting Monmouthshire’s residents and doing all they can to keep people safe.”

Further information will be available from Natural Resources Wales, Met Office and the council’s Facebook and Twitter social media channels