Monmouthshire County Council is pleased to announce it will lead a multi-million pound public sector skills programme, InFuSe, aimed at building innovation capacity and tackling challenges in society. Following a Cabinet meeting decision on­ Wednesday 2nd December 2020, the council will now begin working in collaboration with the other nine regional Cardiff Capital Region local authorities, the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal Office, Wales’ Public Service Innovation Lab – Y Lab, Cardiff University and Nesta to deliver InFuSe (the Innovative Future Services Public Sector Skills programme)

The £5.6m programme for Local Authority Officers in the Cardiff Capital Region, is designed to help build innovation skills and competencies, whilst attempting to solve real-life societal challenges, embedding a culture of regional working throughout. InFuSe will enable new ideas to be implemented by working through an innovation process of creation, testing, implementation and scaling. This three-year programme will be based on a ‘challenge-led’ approach, and will identify two thematic areas of high importance to the Cardiff Capital Region, for example looking at problems and opportunities linked to Decarbonisation or Community Cohesion/Well-Being.

InFuSe is being backed via the Welsh European Funding Office’s Priority 5 Institutional Capacity European Social Fund, with £3.6m from European Social Funds and £2m in kind/officer time being matched by the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal and Local Authorities.  InFuSe is designed on theory and practice, to introduce officers to new processes and concepts. The programme will also focus on how new skills, tools and different ways of thinking can help solve shared regional challenges by taking a collaborative approach. It’s hoped Officers will develop new tools and methods that can be used to improve future service delivery – creating efficiencies, saving money or improving the impact of service delivery for the people who use and deliver them.  InFuSe has also been designed to complement the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal Challenge Fund and Officers will be encouraged to apply their learning to bid collaboratively, for funding to address regional challenges that will also help solve local issues.

Approximately 120 Officers are expected to join the programme, creating better trained and equipped public servants that can develop their knowledge and practice and take new skills back into their own organisations.

Following the decision, Monmouthshire County Council Leader, Councillor Peter Fox said: “We are delighted Monmouthshire County Council will lead this exciting new initiative, which hopes to build on the skills of some of Wales’ most excellent public servants. It comes at a time where we need the very best people representing us and making innovative and considered decisions as we face the challenges ahead. If this year has taught us anything, it is that we are stronger when we work together and Monmouthshire County Council is thrilled to be working alongside leading organisations to deliver this initiative for the region.”

Monmouthshire County Council is calling on private landlords to help provide one bedroomed accommodation for those in need across the county.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the council’s housing team has accommodated a number of homeless residents in temporary accommodation. Since April 2020, 213 people have been placed in temporary accommodation. These residents now require assistance to move into more settled accommodation.

Landlords who are willing to offer properties to these residents will receive incentives such as advanced rent payments, a named contact to liaise with around tenancy issues and an assurance that any tenancies granted will be closely monitored during the length of the tenancy.

Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development, Councillor Sara Jones said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected people and their physical health, it has also affected their financial situation with many residents becoming unemployed or struggling financially and with the threat of losing their homes hanging over them. Everyone has the right to a warm, safe environment – a place where they can feel settled. That’s why we are calling on private landlords to help people living in temporary accommodation and B&Bs so we can provide them with a place they can call home.”

Councillor Bob Greenland, Cabinet Member for Innovation said: “Private Landlords who can provide secure accommodation, particularly one-bed properties, will make a positive contribution to the lives of many of our residents who are facing a difficult time, and in return can expect a generous package of incentives from the council’s social letting agency. Please don’t hesitate getting in touch, we have a wonderful team on hand waiting for your call.”

For further information, please contact Lindsay Stewart on tel: 01291 635713, Mobile: 07899040624

Email: lindsaystewart@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Look out for the Shop Local elf and take an #elfieselfie

Children from primary schools across Monmouthshire have been hard at work producing Christmas window displays in a ‘Shop Local’ project with Monmouthshire County Council. The initiative has been designed to bring some festive cheer to the high street while reminding everyone to support businesses by buying their Christmas gifts, food and services locally.

Schools that volunteered to take part were challenged to come up with their own creative designs, using recycled material and with the Shop Local message, to decorate shop windows and Community Hubs. Trellech Primary School, Undy Primary School, Pembroke Primary School, The Dell, Dewstow Primary School, Usk CiW Primary, Raglan VC Primary School, Kymin View Primary School, St Mary’s RC Primary School, Cross Ash Primary School and Llandogo Primary School have all got involved and most of the installations are now in place.

Trellech Primary School’s window design in Agincourt Square, Monmouth

“We’re thrilled to see such a fantastic range of decorations,” said Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children & Young People. “The children really have come up trumps with inspiring and heart-warming decorations, scenes and messages. I would like to thank every single teacher and child that has worked so hard making decorations for locations in Abergavenny, Chepstow, Caldicot, Magor, Monmouth, Usk, Raglan and Tintern. They’ve really helped us spread the Shop Local message and also some much-needed Christmas cheer.”

Meanwhile, the Shop Local message is also being spread thanks to a small band of 4ft tall elves. The little Shop Local helpers have been spotted in towns and villages across the county, moving from shop to shop under the cover of darkness. Residents are being encouraged to take an #elfieselfie is they spot him, and share the photos on social media with the #ShopLocal @MonmouthshireCC tag to help support the campaign. So far, they have been seen in Monmouth, Abergavenny, Tintern, Chepstow, Caldicot, Magor and Usk.

Cross Ash Primary School, hard at work making their decorations for the One-Stop Shop and Community Hub in Abergavenny

“The Shop Local campaign is making a real impression with shoppers and raising the importance of supporting Monmouthshire’s businesses at a time when they need us more than ever before,” said Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council. “We’ve seen a number of photos shared online of the Selfie Elfie, taken by residents making the most of everything our high streets have to offer. We’re hoping that this will help spread the word further in the run-up to Christmas. After the year everybody has had, we all need to spread a bit of cheer where we can.”

“I would like to add my thanks to all the schools and the pupils that have embraced the Shop Local Christmas crafting challenge,” Cllr. Greenland added. “The creativity they have brought to the project is testament to the talent and enthusiasm of young people right across Monmouthshire.”

It’s all about festive gingerbread figures at Raglan Primary School
Above: Abbey Mill in Tintern got a visit from the Shop Local Selfie Elfie
…and he was also spotted at HelmetHers in Monmouth, and Aaron Reeks in Caldicot was pictured with him as well. If you spot the elf, take an #elfieselfie and tag @MonmouthshireCC

Where you can find the school Shop Local installations:

Abergavenny: One-Stop Shop & Community Hub, decorated by Cross Ash Primary School.

Caldicot: Various locations are being decorated by Dewstow Primary School.

Chepstow: Marks & Spencer Food Hall, decorated by Pembroke Primary School. St Mary’s Primary School and The Dell Primary School, Chepstow Community Hub.

Magor: Various locations being decorated by Undy CiW Primary School.

Monmouth: The Go Mobile shop in Agincourt Square has a nativity scene, Santa and snowflake messages of thanks by Trellech Primary School. The Bidmead Cook shop on Monnow Street, Kymin View Primary School.

Raglan: Various locations being decorated by Raglan VC Primary School.

Usk: Archer & Co Window, has been turned into Santa’s Post Room by Usk CiW Primary School.

Tintern: Llandogo Primary School are creating decorations for the village’s businesses.

To find out more about the Shop Local campaign visit www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/shop-local

Usk Primary School turned a shop window in Usk into Santa’s post room, complete with letters to Santa.

From Monday 30th November, two Monmouthshire schools are taking part in a new scheme designed to help keep children safe. Goytre Fawr Primary School in Penperlleni, Pontypool, and Cantref Primary School & Nursery in Abergavenny are planning to implement an 18-month experimental pedestrian and cycle zone known as ‘School Street’, in order to help pupils and families maintain social distance and remain safe outside of the school gates during morning and afternoon drop off and collection times.

For Goytre Fawr Primary School, this will affect the entire length of School Lane, while Cantref Primary School will see the ‘School Street’ Order on the whole of Harold Road. These two schools have agreed to become the council’s first pilot areas, and it is anticipated that similar arrangements could be implemented at other schools in the future, if the scheme proves successful.

The ‘School Street’ plan for Harold Road at Cantref Primary School

“I am pleased that both Goytre Fawr and Cantref primary schools are supporting the ‘School Street’ scheme. It’s an important move forward in keeping children safe when being dropped off and collected from school, and it’s anticipated it will also help families social distance more easily,” said Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People. “If this scheme is going to be a success, we will need everyone’s support and compliance to enable it to work.”

Details of the proposals have been sent to residents in the streets affected. As part of this scheme, all residents and teachers will be allocated permits allowing them an exemption to drive along the streets during the closure period. Additional permits may also be requested by residents. This will also include disabled access for any persons displaying a valid blue badge. The Order will be operational during school term times only, from Monday to Friday and will take effect from Monday 30th November 2020. The hours of operation will differ depending on the school; however, Goytre Fawr will be operational between 8:50am – 9:20am and 3:10pm – 3:40pm, whilst Cantref will be between 8:30am – 9:00am and 3:00pm – 3:40pm.

The ‘School Street’ plan for School Lane at Goytre Fawr Primary School

The Order will be supported initially by temporary signage and cones but will be enhanced by permanent signage in the future should the scheme be successful.

“The council is committed to promoting Active Travel across the county, not only to improve road safety for children attending the primary schools but also to encourage the use of more sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling and scooting,” said Councillor Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Infrastructure. “The ‘School Street’ scheme is to be initially installed on an experimental basis to enable its impact to be assessed before any permanent scheme is taken forward. The experimental Order would be in force for a maximum period of 18 months and will be monitored during that time. Any comments or objections received during the experiment will be fully considered by the Traffic team, who will consider whether any amendments are required before deciding whether the order should be made permanent or revoked. This scheme has received support from families and from the schools concerned, so we are hopeful that it will prove successful and be adopted by other schools across the county in due course.”

MonLife is calling on residents to vote for Caldicot Castle and Country Park for a coveted Green Flag Award. 

MonLife, which is part of Monmouthshire County Council and delivers leisure, youth and outdoor education, green infrastructure and countryside access, play, learning, destination management, arts, museums and attractions, is calling on people to vote before it is too late.

The historic site has been nominated for the 2020 Green Flag UK People Choice Award but the site is no stranger to being awarded the prestigious accolade and has held the status since 2013.

Caldicot Castle is set within 55 acres of idyllic country park. Founded by the Normans, developed in royal hands as a stronghold in the Middle Ages and restored as a Victorian family home, the castle has a romantic and colourful history.

The landmark and its surroundings join a long list of locations in Monmouthshire that have won a Green Flag Award, including Tintern Old Station and Castle Meadows in Abergavenny. The scheme recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world.

Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for MonLife said: “It’s wonderful to see such a beautiful site up for this year’s People’s Choice Award, and it’s a site loved by so many people in Monmouthshire. Not only is it surrounded by fantastic country space but it carries with it history and untold tales hidden in the castle walls. It certainly is a space to be enjoyed by the whole family and I would be absolutely delighted if we could secure a Green Flag Award once more.”

Residents are running out of time to have their say as voting ends on Friday 27th November. To vote, click here: https://www.greenflagaward.org/park-summary/?park=2143

Monmouthshire County Council’s Youth Service are asking young people between the ages of 11 and 25 to get involved in its annual ‘Make Your Mark’ consultation, which runs until Monday 30th November. Not only is Monmouthshire’s biggest youth consultation, it is also the biggest in the UK. Last year over 3,000 people were involved and it is hoped that even more will take part this year even though, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the usual face-to-face meetings have been replaced with an online service.

The results of the ‘Make Your Mark’ ballot will form the work of the youth council and will be used to influence decisions made within the council over the next year.

Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Young People, said: “I would encourage all parents, guardians and teachers to help support young people in having their vote. It’s an important opportunity to express what’s important to young people and what they want to see changed.”

‘Make Your Mark’ and the ‘Make Your Mark Monmouthshire’ are two consultations that are run consecutively every year. Make your Mark is the UK’s biggest youth ballot, run by the UK Youth parliament and delivered in schools by Monmouthshire County Council’s Youth Service.

Monmouthshire Make Your Mark focuses on local priorities. The consultation offers young people the chance to have a voice and make a difference in matters that affect them. Engage 2 Change Youth Council represents the views of their peers. E2C advocates young people’s opinions locally, regionally and nationally. The consultation runs until 30th November to vote and to find out more visit: https://linktr.ee/MonYouthService

In January 2021, Monmouthshire Make Your Mark will be hosting an online event to better understand why young people chose particular responses, to take part in an open discussion with key decision makers on how the top three priorities can be handled, why they are important to young people across the county and, most importantly, how change can be made.

To find out more about Monmouthshire Youth Services and Make Your Mark visit www.monlife.co.uk/connect/youth-service/make-your-mark/

People across Monmouthshire have been praised after raising thousands of pounds for BBC Children In Need. Nearly £6,000 has been raised by schools and council staff following weeks of fundraising events and activities across the county.

Schools in Monmouthshire have pulled out all the stops this year by hosting a range of charitable events from own clothes days to partaking in the ‘Act Your Age’ challenge. Teachers and pupils from the Usk Church in Wales Primary School raised £765 after taking part in sponsored activities, non-uniform day, fashion shows and even getting the chance to throw sponges at teachers. Undy Primary raised £400 by taking part in the Joe Wicks workout challenge. They also had a duck race and guessed the name of a cuddly toy. Llanfoist Fawr Primary pupils dressed up as their favourite sports men and women and helped raise £114. Sports themes were a popular choice, with Llanvihangel Crucorney Primary School, Our Lady and Saint Michael’s RC Primary and Pembroke Primary all taking on sporting challenges and raising a collective £478. Goytre Fawr Primary raised £309.50 by holding a non-uniform day.

Meanwhile, council employees and their families have collectively raised over £3600 by taking part in their own version of the BBC Countryfile Ramble. Over the last five weeks, dozens of colleagues have been getting out into the beautiful countryside for a walk and have clocked up over a whopping 2700kms. The aim of the ramble challenge has been two-fold, not only to raise money for Children In Need but also to encourage staff to take a break from their screens, get some fresh air and focus on their wellbeing.

Monmouthshire’s leisure providers, MonLife, have been getting active for their fundraising with a ‘Chase Pudsey Bear, My Wellness’ Challenge. The activity saw one of the fitness instructors transformed into Pudsey Bear, with the aim of people trying to beat Pudsey’s achievements in the gym. The team raised over £100.

Council Chairman, Sheila Woodhouse said: “Well done to everyone who has contributed to this year’s Children In Need. It’s been a fantastic effort in what’s been a difficult few months. People have continued to give and get involved which has brought us all some much needed positivity as we round up 2020. It’s been wonderful seeing how everyone has been out and about doing something good – which will have a wonderful impact on everyone’s wellbeing.”

Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and MonLife, Councillor Richard John said: “The kindness and efforts of our pupils in Monmouthshire never cease to amaze me. What an outstanding contribution and all the money raised will make a big difference to those young people who may find themselves in difficult circumstances. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank colleagues in MonLife who have continued to roll up their sleeves and think outside the box this year. Not only have you ensured people are able to continue keeping fit and active but you’ve also raised a fantastic amount of money for Children In Need. Da iawn to you all.”

The annual BBC campaign, which raises money to support children and young people, came to a close on Friday 13th of November – with the final total of donations reaching over £37 million UK-wide. The event comes during a challenging year but despite some of the barriers faced due to the firebreak lockdown and social distancing, people have still continued to dig deep and raise an overwhelming amount of money for a special cause.

This year has seen overwhelming kindness and compassion shared across the communities of Monmouthshire. As the festive season draws near, the good will of people is being called upon once again for the 2020 Christmas Wishes appeal.

Monmouthshire County Council’s Children’s Services team is inviting the local community to make any financial donation they feel they can, in support of the most vulnerable children and young people the team is currently working with. This annual campaign will help bring some festive cheer to over 250 children in need, looked after children and care leavers who have no family support.

Last year, Monmouthshire councillors, community hubs, local companies and even children and clubs got behind the appeal and purchased some fantastic presents, which were then delivered by social workers throughout the county in the run up to Christmas. The appreciation was overwhelming and it was truly amazing how everyone pulled together to support those most in need. Sadly, this year the pandemic has meant that the usual collection, storage and allocation of toys, toiletries and other presents is not possible whilst still ensuring all COVID-19 measures are met. Instead Monmouthshire’s Children’s Services is launching a Christmas Wishes online appeal and every penny donated will be used for gift cards, vouchers and hampers.

Councillor Penny Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health said: “This year has been difficult for families across Monmouthshire and while we continue to face the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the festive season is a time to think about vulnerable children and young people. This year the Christmas Wishes appeal is as important as ever and it is a wonderful opportunity to make sure these young people feel just as special as everyone else. I know times are difficult but I ask if you can spare even a small amount, please do – you really will make a big difference.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the appeal can do so by visiting www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/christmas-wishes/ or ring 014633 644644 option 5 for help.

Monmouthshire’s towns and villages are to get a festive makeover as a new campaign launches aimed at supporting businesses in the lead up to Christmas.

Monmouthshire County Council’s ‘Shop Local, Shop Monmouthshire’ Christmas campaign aims to bring some festive cheer to our high streets while promoting the county’s unique businesses, their products and services.

Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Councillor Bob Greenland said: “Businesses have been hit hard by the financial impact of the pandemic this year and I want to ask everyone to remember to Shop Local and help keep our high streets thriving.

“We can all help. From ordering our Christmas turkey at a local butcher’s or farm shop, to picking up fresh vegetables from an independent greengrocer or market trader, everything needed for a fantastic Christmas can be bought right here in Monmouthshire. And when it comes to gifts, I know that each of our towns and villages offer a great deal of inspiration and choices. So I would ask everyone to join in and get behind local businesses when they need us most.

To help encourage shoppers, the council recently announced free weekend parking in its car parks throughout December. Keeping shoppers safe is a priority, and temporary measures including widened walkways will remain in towns and villages as long as the COVID-19 regulations are in place, to allow residents to be able to maintain social distancing while picking up their Christmas essentials. Shoppers out and about will spot colourful ‘Shop Local, Shop Monmouthshire’ decorations and posters promoting some of the range of services businesses offer, including gift vouchers, being ‘dog friendly’, offering Click & Collect, and even home delivery.

Monmouthshire County Council has published a report showing the progress made against its Corporate Plan during 2019/20, and its response to the Coronavirus pandemic over the past seven months.

This report describes progress against the five strategic goals the council has set, and shows what the council has been doing during the coronavirus pandemic to keep people safe, help stop the spread of the virus and reach out to those who need help the most.

Progress includes:

•             A focus on early intervention and prevention to improve outcomes for vulnerable children

•             Proactively contacting local businesses to provide support and payment of funding to help them as they deal with the impact of the pandemic and to support jobs

•             The declaration of a Climate Emergency and development of a strategy and action plan to respond

•             Development of a network of community support that brings a range of agencies together with a shared purpose of supporting people’s wellbeing, this proved vital as we worked with volunteers to support vulnerable people through the pandemic

•             Rapid acceleration of our digital capabilities to enable the organisation to function remotely during the pandemic

Following publication of the annual report, Councillor Paul Jordan, Cabinet Member for Governance said: “The report provides residents with information on how the council has performed against its goals in 2019/20, but it goes beyond this to assess how it has provided support to the community during such a challenging time in recent months. During the pandemic we have diverted our resources to provide a range of support to residents and business including providing hub schools for the children of key workers during lockdown, made phone calls to 3000 shielding households in our county, paid millions of pounds in grants to support local jobs and businesses, and helped co-ordinate the community volunteering response.

“The situation we are in remains uncertain, we will continue to review our plans and evaluate progress so residents understand our aims and what we are doing to deliver them.”

The full plan, called ‘Corporate Business Plan Annual Report, 2019/20’, is available to view on www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/improvement

Monmouthshire shoppers are being encouraged to support their local businesses with free weekend parking being offered in the approach to Christmas, throughout December.

The council has once again announced it will provide free weekend parking in all council-owned car parks from Saturday 5th December until, and including, Boxing Day. Head down to your local high street to take advantage of the fantastic array of local businesses selling everything from handmade gifts to locally sourced produce all in time for the big day. The offer of free parking in the three towns (Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth) is hoped will encourage everyone to Shop Local.

Councillor Jane Pratt, cabinet member with responsibility for car parks, said: “We’re pleased to once again offer free weekend parking to our residents, especially in light of the challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the perfect opportunity to safely visit your local retailers and I have no doubt you’ll be surprised with all the fantastic bargains and unique gift ideas you can find right on your doorstep. This is also a great opportunity to support your friends and neighbours who run businesses across the county.”

Monmouthshire County Council has confirmed that the decision has been made to not introduce a one-way system to Usk’s town centre. Temporary traffic lights will instead remain as part of temporary measures to enable social distancing while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Signage is being installed to remind road users of the 20mph speed limit through Usk and the need to slow down, a key part of the measures that have already improved safety for pedestrians who are out and about in town.

The current traffic lights will be replaced with ‘smart’ lights that can measure the length of traffic queues and adapt their sequencing accordingly to minimise delays. Cameras will also be installed to catch motorists who jump red lights. This will not only be an important safety measure, but should also deter motorists who fail to stop at the red lights. Jumping of red lights endangers pedestrians and other road users and also inconveniences everyone by causing the lights to go into a safety reset mode, turning red in both directions until they are sure the space between the lights is clear. The new CCTV cameras will allow offenders to be prosecuted.

Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Councillor Bob Greenland said: “I am pleased to say that we have been working with Usk Town Council to agree the best possible future plan for the town while we are required to enable social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The one-way system that was considered has now been ruled out and we will move forward with a more effective traffic light system.

“Concerns have been raised about HGVs that have been passing through town despite the 7.5t weight limit. To address this, we will be continuing to monitor the situation and are pleased to confirm that there has been a notable decrease in lorries going through the town,” Councillor Greenland added.

The combination of the widened walkways combined with a lower speed limit has already improved the safety for pedestrians in the town. These temporary measures will remain while the Welsh Government continue to require social distancing as an essential part of the prevention of the spread of COVID-19.

Residents across the county who receive the Monmouthshire Meals deliveries have said a collective thank you to the team that runs this vital service on Meals on Wheels Week (2nd-6th November). The service, which has been running for more than 16 years, has responded to an increase in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its contribution has gone much further than just meals.

“Monmouthshire Meals has been – and continues to be – a vital part of the efforts to keep our community connected and supported during this pandemic,” said Councillor Sara Jones, cabinet member with responsibility for social justice and community development. “The team was committed to achieving ‘business as usual’, but they’ve actually done so much more. In addition to delivering meals, they’ve provided an extra teatime service, taken evening calls, help feed homeless people, delivered PPE to residential homes and care agencies, and delivered care packages to school as they were preparing to re-open. They have also provided a friendly face and someone to talk to, which is important beyond measure.”

To meet the rise in demand, the Monmouthshire Meals team has been assisted by colleagues from other council service areas, such as civil enforcement, and extra vehicles have been hired to deliver an increasing number of meals.

Councillor Penny Jones, cabinet member for social care, said: “I am incredibly grateful to every single person who helps deliver our Monmouthshire Meals service. During this pandemic, Monmouthshire Meals has innovated and adapted to ensure those in need continue to receive the essential, life-quality-enhancing social lifeline that is so much more than just a meal. The number of vulnerable people living in the community, confined to their own homes and reliant on others, has increased but the response from Monmouthshire Meals has been phenomenal. I’d like to add my sincere thanks to those already given so widely from the service’s customers, to our Meals on Wheel Heroes.”

Pauline Batty of Monmouthshire Meals said: “We currently help 211 customers, and deliver approximately 195 meals a day, seven days a week. The majority of meals are hot lunches, but the service also offers frozen meals and packed meals for teatime. I am very proud of the team. They don’t just deliver food, they will make a cup of tea, plate up the food, and whenever possible they’ll spend time talking to the customers, and feedback any concerns to the appropriate person. It’s not by chance that our team motto is ‘more than a meal, more than a minute’. On behalf of the whole team, I’d like to say thank you to all our customers, seeing the smiles on their faces is the best reward we could ever ask for.”

To access the Monmouthshire Meals service email meals@monmouthshire.gov.uk or call the team on 01873 882910. For more information, visit monmouthshire.gov.uk/monmouthshire-meals/

The #MealonWheelsHeroes thank you video from Monmouthshire Meals’ customer can be viewed at https://youtu.be/E5-JgL9jBoc

As a winter approaches that’s likely to be dominated by concerns about coronavirus Monmouthshire County Council has appealed to members of the public to remember to dispose of used masks and gloves carefully, and not to litter them.  Single use medical grade masks and blue hygiene gloves are being seen increasingly frequently on roadsides, in parks, supermarket car parks and even out in the middle of the countryside.  Before the advent of COVID-19 these items would be seen primarily in medical settings such as hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and dental practices, where staff are trained to be aware of the need to dispose of PPE properly to prevent contamination and spreading infection and disease.

Between the end of February and mid-April 2020 it’s estimated that more than one billion items of PPE were given out in the UK. Even if only a small proportion of this total end up being littered it would still cause a big environmental problem, because PPE masks and gloves are non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. They are also a threat to the health of council cleansing staff or volunteers who pick them up in the course of their activities to keep Monmouthshire tidy.  The World Health Organisation warns that appropriate disposal of PPE is essential to avoid an increase in transmission of COVID-19.

“There is no excuse for littering face masks or gloves. It’s so important that people take care of one another and dispose of PPE responsibly to help prevent the spread of coronavirus,” said Councillor Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Waste and Recycling.

It’s not necessary for most members of the public to wear medical grade single use face masks, but for those that do, it is advised to carry a bag to put your disposable mask and gloves in so that they are ready to put with household ‘black bag’ waste when you get home. For most people, re-usable, washable fabric face masks or coverings are a much better and cheaper option, plus you get to express your personality, whether that’s floral chic or serious black.  These are widely available, but if you’re handy with a sewing machine it’s quick and easy to make your own – there are plenty of YouTube tutorials available to help you.  While latex gloves are incredibly important in a clinical setting, the World Health Organisation says that regular hand washing is actually the best and most hygienic approach for people who are not working in a medical setting.  If you cannot wash your hands regularly, carry a bottle of alcohol based hand sanitiser with you.

Monmouthshire Residents and the wider public  are being invited to share their views on the future of Chepstow’s transport connections, with a study looking at a number of transport options in the local area and wider region.

The current Stage 2 of the Chepstow Transport Study welcomes residents to give their feedback on a shortlist of options, with the aim of helping to select a preferred way forward. The consultation runs from 9:00am on Monday 2nd November 2020 until 17:00pm on Sunday 13th December 2020 and will be held online due to the current situation regarding COVID-19. The virtual consultation aims to offer residents a similar experience to that of a face-to-face event and people will be able to ask questions via webchat or telephone.

The Chepstow Transport Study is being run by Monmouthshire County Council in conjunction with strategic partners including the Welsh Government, the Welsh Office and the Department of Transport, Highways England, Forest of Dean District Council, Gloucestershire County Council and South Gloucestershire Council.

Monmouthshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, Councillor Jane Pratt said: “I’m delighted we are able to move into the second stage of the Chepstow Transport Study. The public’s input on this important piece of work is absolutely vital to help move forward with the best transport option for Chepstow, Monmouthshire and our neighbouring authorities. I encourage residents to take part in the consultation online to make sure you have your say.” 

To participate, residents can visit https://virtualengage.arup.com/chepstow-transport-study any time from 9:00am on Monday 2nd November 2020to access information about the study and have their say. A hard copy of the consultation booklet and feedback survey can be mailed out with a freepost address for returns to anyone who is unable to access the online event. Please call 0117 240 1529 to request.

As Monmouthshire enters the national two-week firebreak lockdown, Monmouthshire County Council has encouraged residents and businesses to familiarise themselves with all the available support and advice.

“We know that the next two weeks are going to be incredibly hard for many people and for businesses across the county,” said Councillor Peter Fox, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council. “If anyone is concerned they will need additional support or are concerned about any vulnerable members of their family or community we would ask them to let us know as soon as possible by phoning our Contact Centre on 01633 644644 or emailing contact@monmouthshire.gov.uk – help and support is available. Monmouthshire residents have been tremendous this year, I would like to thank everyone for following guidelines to try and keep themselves and the county safe, I would kindly ask everyone to continue to do all they can again when the restrictive measures begin.”

A number of other council services and sites will be closed during the lockdown. These include; recycling centres (normal kerbside collections will continue), Community Hubs, museums, indoor attractions and leisure centres, as well as youth centres. Access to food banks, which would normally be through the Community Hubs, can be organised via the Contact Centre service while the hubs are closed. Food banks are normally open one or two mornings a week, so it is advised to get in touch sooner rather than later if residents need to use this facility.

Outdoor play areas will remain open, and community care, homelessness services, school transport and school meals will continue.

All nurseries and childcare settings are permitted to remain open as per their normal arrangements, while all primary schools in the county will re-open as normal after the half term break, returning on 2nd November 2020.

The council’s pupil referral service will also re-open after the half term break on the 2nd November. Monmouthshire’s four secondary schools will open to children only in Year 7 and 8 for the week that follows the half term break (week commencing 2nd November). This is necessary to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Welsh Government’s firebreak announcement. Students in years 9,10,11,12 and 13 will need to remain at home where they will receive a package of blended learning from their schools. Schools will arrange to support learners who need the support of school and those expected to undertake examinations during the firebreak period. The four secondary schools will be liaising with parents and guardians directly over these arrangements.

For businesses that have had to close due to the firebreak, the Welsh Government has announced the third phase of its Economic Resilience Funding. For information about the financial support available for businesses visit monmouthshire.gov.uk/business-advice

“We are doing everything we can to keep residents and businesses informed of the support and advice available during the lockdown,” continued Councillor Fox. “This firebreak is going to be challenging in so many ways, but we can all play our part. Stay home, stay safe and let’s help reduce transmission and ease the strain on the NHS.

“Our strength to get through this period lies within the incredible community spirit of Monmouthshire residents. The previous lockdown saw an amazing number of volunteers coming forward ready to help vulnerable residents with tasks such as food shopping, prescription collection, or simply being a friendly face and someone to talk to,” said Councillor Fox.

To find out more about becoming a volunteer or to find out about additional community support visit ourmonmouthshire.org

The council’s website has a dedicated area where the latest information is available – monmouthshire.gov.uk/services/planning-for-emergencies/coronavirus/ Useful sections include school updates, buildings closures, support for shielded/vulnerable people, business advice, money advice, bereavement support, transport and travel, community and social services, and much more. There are also links to the latest advice and announcements from Welsh Government and Public Health Wales. There is also a Frequently Asked Questions section and information about Track and Trace and how to book a coronavirus test.

Preparations for a return to two-way traffic on Monnow Street in Monmouth are underway despite the impending firebreak lockdown. Monmouthshire County Council has confirmed that although delayed, the line repainting in Agincourt Square will take place as soon as the weather improves. This will be swiftly followed by a return to two-way traffic.

The temporary scheme, which will still enable social distancing as part of the measures to tackle COVID-19, will see short stay parking, along with blue badge spaces and loading bays introduced, in addition to wide footways. The existing cycle lane will be removed to make room for the two-way traffic as before.

“We appreciate the feedback received from residents and businesses and have adapted the measures introduced to help shoppers and visitors feel safe and able to social distance in town. These measures are still temporary and any future long-term plans for Monnow Street will involve public consultation,” said Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council.

“Monmouthshire’s businesses have fought hard to overcome the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this latest lockdown will prove very difficult. But, we are here to support them and we will be announcing details of the latest firebreak business support grants shortly,” said Councillor Greenland.  “In addition, we will be launching our Christmas Shop Local Shop Monmouthshire campaign next month to promote local shops and businesses.

“Work will continue on Monnow Street over the next fortnight and it is hoped that everything will be in place ready to welcome back shoppers when the firebreak ends on Monday 9th November. Until then, we continue to ask residents to stay safe, and stay home as much as possible.”

Monmouthshire County Council is awaiting confirmation from Welsh Government regarding the economic support that has been announced for businesses affected by the firebreak lockdown. As soon as the full details are confirmed the eligibility criteria and application process will be posted on the council’s website at monmouthshire.gov.uk/business-advice

Deputy Leader of the Council, Bob Greenland said: “We welcome the news that the Economic Resilience Fund is being enhanced to almost £300m, which includes an extra £150m to support to businesses affected by the firebreak. Businesses who were at real risk of permanent closure during the national lockdown in spring are understandably worried about how they will get through this latest firebreak period. We are readying all our resources to help businesses access the Welsh Government funding that they are entitled to. It cannot come too soon.

“The latest announcement by the Welsh Government also included an additional £20m to the £80m fund already announced to help businesses develop in the longer term, of which £20m has been ring-fenced for tourism and hospitality – sectors that are being hit hard by cancelled half-term bookings, a time when many families look to take a holiday,” explained Councillor Greenland.

So far the details that have been confirmed are that the third phase of ERF (Economic Resilience Fund) will be open for applications from Monday 26th October and will remain open for four weeks. The Economic Resilience Fund also includes a Lockdown Business Fund which will be delivered by Monmouthshire County Council to eligible businesses of:

  • Every business occupying a property with a rateable value of £12,001 or less will be eligible for a £1,000 payment.
  • Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses forced to close during the firebreak lockdown period occupying a property with a rateable value between £12,001 and £51,000 will be eligible for a payment of up to £5,000.
  • A discretionary £2,000 top-up grant will be made available on an application basis for those businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 or less who are forced to close by the firebreak lockdown.
  • A further discretionary £1,000 grant will be made available to businesses on the same basis where they are materially affected by local lockdown measures for 21 days or more prior to the start of the firebreak lockdown period.
  • Businesses need to be registered for Business Rates and have a business rate number.

Businesses will also be able to access the support available through the existing Job Retention Scheme or the new expanded Job Support Scheme.

“We anticipate confirmation of the details of the latest funding very soon and we looking to turn around applications as fast as possible so that Monmouthshire’s businesses receive their grants as swiftly as possible,” said Councillor Greenland. “Businesses across the county have already felt the impact of neighbouring lockdowns, and this next fortnight will hit them hard. In addition to applying for the latest round of the Economic Resilience Fund, I would ask businesses to use the eligibility checker to ensure they every bit of support they are entitled to at this difficult time.”

To find out more and to access the Eligibility Checker visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/coronavirus-advice/

Volunteers are being called upon once again to help deliver support and assistance as people in Monmouthshire get ready for the upcoming ‘firebreak’ lockdown. This year the community support offered by volunteers has been needed more than ever. There have been 60 volunteer-led COVID-19 groups in Monmouthshire supporting people who, in many cases, have no other alternatives and are in need of help. 

Following the first national lockdown, volunteers sat at the centre of one of the largest community responses seen in the county in decades, with around 700 people giving up their time to deliver groceries, pick up prescriptions and be a friendly face to those living alone. Throughout that period Monmouthshire’s Community and Partnership Development Team have been able to offer support and work with the volunteer groups when needed, to enable them provide a crucial lifeline to vulnerable or isolated members of the community. 

The Welsh Government’s announcement on Monday 19th October 2020 signifies the start of a firebreak to cover the period 23rd October until 9th November. The renewed need for people to access shopping and prescription services amongst other support, will again be at the forefront of residents’ minds. For many elderly people, the vulnerable and those who may have previously shielded, this will be a challenging period when it comes to their usual daily errands. 

For those individuals or families who have no other means of support, Monmouthshire County Council can provide a link between those in need and the local COVID-19 volunteer groups. 

Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development, Councillor Sara Jones said: ‘The volunteer groups that have supported our communities during the COVID pandemic this year have been the lifeline to many of our isolated or vulnerable members of the community. It could be time to reignite some of this support and again make ourselves available to those most in need. I would like to thank you for all your time, effort and commitment to our communities and know just how valued and appreciated this has been’.

Residents who wish to become involved as a volunteer with a local action group or anyone needing the support the Community and Partnership Development Team should contact partnerships@monmouthshire.gov.uk or  call 01633 644696

Employers are being encouraged to make the most of a government scheme aimed creating work opportunities for young people, offering training and guidance across a wide range in sectors and in both public and private sector.

The first round of the Kickstart Scheme, which provides employers with the funding needed to recruit and train young people, closes on the 30th of October. The six-month placements are open to young people aged between 16-24 who are claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. Employers will receive funding for 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. There will also be extra funding to support young people to build their experience and help them move into sustained employment after they have completed their Kickstart role.

The £2 billion UK Government initiative aims to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country. It comes as businesses and residents continue to experience the challenges brought on by the pandemic. In Monmouthshire, there were at least 881 unemployed 18-24 year olds in June 2020 and 1022 currently unemployed 16-24 year olds.

Monmouthshire County Council’s Employment and Skills Team are assisting with the administration of the scheme and are coordinating employer applications. It is anticipated the first placements could commence as early as November, with opportunities being created as far as December 2021.

Cabinet Member with responsibility for young people, Councillor Richard John said: “We are going through one of the most difficult periods in a generation. It can be daunting for young people starting their journeys into the world of work, not least at this challenging time. This Kickstart scheme gives our young residents the opportunity to get their foot in the door and unlock their potential. I would encourage any employer thinking of offering a work opportunity to apply today.”

Cabinet Member for Innovation and Enterprise, Councillor Bob Greenland added: “For many businesses in the county they’ve had to make some difficult decisions over the past months. The longevity of our businesses is extremely important and this initiative gives employers security to be able to train and develop young people, which hopefully will aid their businesses going forwarded. If you could offer a work opportunity please get in touch.” 

For more information and full criteria, employers can visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/kickstart-scheme

Applications can be found here: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=eQBNLCzFs0uzytjq8ba31RuWMuwIRvVBvhPOnjqGr_9UQUdNNzJXVFUwSUJKU0s3TU9OVVdDWk03Sy4u

Some town centre businesses in Monmouthshire are already set to benefit from a grant to aid recovery following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, however Phase One is set to close on the 24th October so if you’re thinking about applying, now is the time to do it.

The COVID-19 Town Centre Outdoor Adaptation Grant offers businesses the chance to secure up to £8,000 towards improvements that aid social distancing as well as the environment and amenity of the county’s town centres. The council has already invited businesses and other organisations to apply, with the first grants having been awarded. So far, more than 90 town centre businesses have expressed an interest in the scheme, and there’s still time for others to apply.

Throughout the summer, many shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants have found that using outdoor areas has helped reassure residents to shop and enjoy lunch or a coffee while still being able to social distance. Measures introduced in many of Monmouthshire’s towns over the summer months have helped to support this. These have included wider footways to accommodate queues and facilitate social distancing and the creation of new pavement café areas to allow businesses to expand outside their premises.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council said: “Now that Autumn is here, many of the county’s businesses are preparing for winter months that are likely to see a continuation of social distancing and other measures to combat Covid-19. This opportunity to receive funds to help cover the cost of items such as outdoor lighting, tables and seating should therefore not be overlooked. The scheme also includes awnings and canopies, which can help keep shoppers dry, as well as heating to make sitting outside a more appealing option.

“I urge as many businesses as possible go online and register their interest in this scheme as soon as possible. The more that benefit, the better it will be if our high streets are to retain their vibrancy and remain busy with shoppers throughout the winter. While social distancing is still recommended, many smaller shops and cafés may find utilising outside space key to their survival. As a council, we are committed to doing everything in our power to support Monmouthshire’s fantastic businesses. I’m pleased to say we’ve been busy processing applications and have started to issue grants but we are keen to do more. We will continue to secure as much support for businesses as we can, the message for today is apply as soon as you can for what is available currently.”

Funding is available for businesses located in the central shopping areas of Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow, Monmouth and Usk. Applications are mainly expected from hospitality businesses, but other, non-essential, retail premises with innovative ideas are also encouraged to apply.

The scheme offers funding of up to 80% of the total cost of eligible improvements, up to a maximum of £8,000 with businesses required to meet the remaining 20%. Higher levels of funding may be considered in exceptional circumstances, such as landmark buildings with significant outdoor space or where projects promote longevity and quality, offering a positive impact on public realm areas.

All items funded by the scheme should be of a sufficient quality to ensure they provide a lasting and attractive benefit to the publicly accessible spaces occupied. Where applicable, applicants will need to have, or to apply for, a café space license that enables outdoor trading.

The first step in the scheme is to register an Expression of Interest. This can be done via the council’s website, where additional information and guidance can be found. Visit Monmouthshire.gov.uk/town-grants/

Monmouthshire schools, council colleagues and community groups have donned red to show their support for Show Racism The Red Card’s sixth annual ‘Wear Red Day’ on Friday 16th October.

The current pandemic has not stopped people from showing their solidarity for the important cause, with colleagues sharing their selfies of their red attire or turning their online work profiles to an image of the Wear Red day logo. Schools have also supported the campaign, with pupils across the county swapping their uniforms for their own red clothing. They were joined by the friendship initiative My Mates who enjoyed an online discussion about the event.

The national day of action encourages schools, businesses and individuals to wear red and donate £1 to help facilitate the delivery of anti-racism education for young people & adults throughout England, Scotland & Wales.

Every penny raised during Wear Red Day enables the campaign to work with more young people and adults across the UK to challenge racism in society. This can help to ensure people report instances of hate crime, victims get the support they need and those committing it are met with justice.

Cllr Sara Jones Cabinet Member for Social Justice said: “I’m so proud of the overwhelming support shown by Monmouthshire colleagues, schools and community initiatives on what it such an important day recognising the inequalities and discrimination faced by many in 2020. We are a community built on embracing diversity. Racism absolutely has no place in this county and everyone here should feel safe and welcome no matter the colour of the skin, their culture, their sexuality, age or religion.”

Wear Red Day coincides with the rounding up of Hate Crime Week which has highlighted the injustices and discrimination faced by members of the community. Monmouthshire County Council has been sharing messages of what hate crime is and how people who experience hate crime can report it. As part of the coverage, colleagues had the opportunity to hear from the council’s Community Cohesion Officer, Shaz Miah, who is from the BAME community. He shared his experience of the challenges he and his family have faced during lockdown and how he overcame those challenges which included making his own Mosque at his home.

Speaking of his experience, Shaz said: “We spent Ramadan as best we can during the lockdown. We transformed a room in our house into a mini mosque so that we can all pray together in congregation. Building the Mosque was great fun. I involved the whole family in the construction process. Having built the mini Mosque we felt more spiritually connected and had so much fun at the same time. If we find ourselves in a similar scenario again then I hope this mini Mosque idea will have inspired people to do the same because it’s fun and children feel part of the whole process.”

He added: “The people of Monmouthshire are truly amazing, the level of support offered by communities across this vast area is huge. For me personally the support I received from my colleagues at MCC during this difficult time has been incredible. I am confident that we will beat this virus and move on with our lives”

To report racism or hate crime, contact the police on 101 or 999, report online via www.report-it.org.uk or in confidence to Victim Support https://www.reporthate.victimsupport.org.uk

For more information please visit:  https://www.theredcard.org/

Monmouthshire’s leisure provider MonLife is gearing up for its annual Monmouthshire Games, with plenty on offer to keep children and young people active and entertained over half term. The week-long event kicks off from Monday 26th October 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. 

This year’s Monmouthshire Games follow the successful delivery of the ‘Summer Activity Hubs’, which were developed with the help of services from sports development, the youth service and leisure. The hubs proved very popular with young people and were delivered to meet all the government guidelines to ensure children and staff were kept safe.

Since 2016, the 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.

Each site has 20 spaces available per day and parents are being encouraged to book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Cabinet Member for Mon Life, Cllr Richard John said: “The health and wellbeing of our children has never been more important and I’m pleased we are able to deliver our ever popular Monmouthshire Games despite the challenging circumstances. The week hopes to give our young people the chance to get active while having fun – something that’s much needed as we head into the colder months. I look forward to hearing what all our young people got up to over half term.”

To book a place please visit and fill out an enquiry form: https://www.monlife.co.uk/monactive/childrens-activities/the-monmouthshire-games/

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

  • Friday 16th October – Between 20.15 – 20.45 (approx.)
  • Saturday 17th October – Between 08.45 – 09.15 (approx.)

Between 21.00 – 21.30 (approx.)

  • Sunday 18th October Between 09.25 – 09.55 (approx.)

Between 21.45 – 22.15 (approx.)

  • Monday 19th October Between 10.05 – 10.35 (approx.)

Between 22.25 – 22.55 (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.

Where to start, on what’s been a pretty whacky few days. How about we go to UK level and work our way down to the ‘Shire.

Each of the home nations are pursuing very different approaches, so it’s very important that we help our citizens understand what applies here. The Prime Minister’s ‘Tiers’ announced on Monday DO NOT apply to Monmouthshire. We are following the ongoing conversation keenly between the First Minister and Prime Minister, about people from high infection areas in England being able to travel to low infection areas in Wales.

We remain on an elevator upwards as a nation. When Public Health Wales release their daily dashboard at 2pm this afternoon (14/10) it will show that Wales has registered 3,846 cases in the last seven days, against 3,094 for the previous seven days. It will show an all Wales rate per 100,000 of the population of 122 over the last seven days, an increase from 98.1 for the previous seven days and a positivity rate (the % of people who have been tested that were positive) of 8.8%; an increase of 1.9% on the previous seven days.

In Gwent, we have seen 479 cases in the last seven days, a rate per 100,000 of 80.6 and a positivity rate of 6.8%. All three measures are up on the previous seven days, but tracking below the all Wales averages which is good.

In Monmouthshire, we have seen 41 cases in the last seven days, a rate per 100,000 of 43.3 and a positivity rate of 4.6%. Again all three measures are up on the previous seven days, but we sit significantly below the all Wales averages. We remain one of a small handful of areas that is not subject to a local lockdown. We have no active clusters of cases and no widespread community transmission. There is no evidence here of pubs or the wider hospitality industry being sources of infection. Our reality is much more about transmission within families (parent to child, partner to partner, child to parent), people picking up the infection while working outside the county, students who are actually away registering Monmouthshire as a home address (so artificially inflating our numbers), health care workers picking it up in work and Monmouthshire residents who are in hospital becoming infected in the hospital setting.

How do I know the detail of the story? Because our colleagues who make up our local Test, Track and protect Team are all over it – they are amazing! It is undeniable that we will continue to see more cases, because everywhere around us has higher rates than us. We have a very different geography than Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire because we sit at the centre of South East Wales / South West England and we have millions of people passing through and living their lives within a 20-30 mile radius.

We also know that in Monmouthshire the population group with the highest number of COVID+ cases is in the 50-59 age group. This is different to other parts of Gwent, where there is a younger demographic. We know that age is one of the markers for having a harder time with COVID, so certainly one to watch. Whatever age you are it can only help if your fitness levels are good and your diet is balanced. Never forget that there is so much you can do to help yourself with modest, but consistent lifestyle changes.

  • What am I expecting in the next week?
  • The figures will continue to go in the wrong direction.
  • I am expecting hospitalisations to increase

I think it’s likely that we will see Wales Government reconsider some of the lockdown arrangements. There doesn’t seem to be very much compelling evidence that the current arrangements are getting to grips with new cases and we know that there tends to be a two week lag between increased cases and increased hospital admissions and in the worst cases another 10-14 days until some people die. My instinct is that something else needs to happen…

Please continue to be role models, Keep Wales safe:

  • always observe social distancing
  • wash your hands regularly
  • if you meet another household, outside your extended household, stay outdoors
  • work from home if you can

Stay at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.

If you have symptoms get a test.

For the tenth year in a row, Monmouthshire County Council’s Emergency Planning Service has received a PawPrint award by the RSPCA Cymru. The Gold Award was given to the Contingency Planning team for its work protecting the welfare of companion animals within contingency plans – both in the planning process and in training and exercising. It also recognises the advice the authority provides for pet owners on emergency preparedness.

Since entering the awards in 2010, Monmouthshire County Council has received an accolade every year but it is not resting on its laurels, the welfare of animals is an ongoing priority.

Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “This is a fantastic achievement, and the result of hard work by our Emergency Planning Team. Despite all the challenges that events in 2020 have presented, their consideration of animal welfare has remained in sharp focus. This PawPrint Gold Award is fitting recognition of this.”

The RSPCA awards scheme was launched in 2008 and recognises good practice in animal welfare by local authorities and housing providers across Wales and England. The PawPrints Award covers  four areas of work that impact on animal welfare – contingency planning; stray dog services; housing and animal welfare principles. Awards are divided into five categories, awarded to bronze, silver or gold standard. They recognise the achievements of public service organisations for their stray dog services, contingency planning, housing policy, animal activity licensing and kennelled dog welfare.

The awards are supported by the Welsh Government, the Welsh Local Government Association, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

A new online resource has been launched to help residents. Monmouthshire County Council has partnered with organisations including Citizens Advice, Mind Monmouthshire, Gateway Credit Union, Monmouthshire’s four foodbanks and housing associations Melin, Pobl and Monmouthshire Housing Association to offer a helpful guide on its website for those who are facing money worries.

‘Help with your Money’, which can be accessed at monmouthshire.gov.uk/money-advice, offers an overview of the organisations who are ready to give advice and support, as well suggesting what additional assistance may be available. From information about housing (whether you have a mortgage or are renting), to managing your utility bills, or seeking emotional support when things are getting too much to handle, there are a wealth of options out there.

The past seven months have seen many people deeply affected by the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with jobs being lost, employees being furloughed and businesses struggling to recover from the loss of revenue during and beyond lockdown. Even before these challenges, it was acknowledged that most people could be three pay cheques away from financial troubles – mortgages, rents, bills for essential services can reach crisis point very quickly when your income stops. But there is help available and the sooner it’s sought the better. Struggling with concerns about increasing debt or losing your home can lead to mental health issues, so before things get out of hand it’s worth exploring what support is out there, even if you never need to access it.

Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development, Councillor Sara Jones said: “I know that confronting debt, and the possible consequences of being in financial difficulty, is not always easy. Coming forward and asking for help is not an admission of failure, it is a positive move forward. Any one of us could find ourselves in this situation all too easily but, I must stress, that help is out there. Nobody should feel alone in this situation, there are people on hand to assist.

“If your income is at risk of stopping or becoming significantly reduced, even if you have the slightest of concern, please take the time to look at what support is available. Don’t wait until matters have reached crisis point, when you are feeling at your most stressed and worried, seeking advice now does not mean you have to take it, but it does mean that you are prepared, just in case.”

‘Help with Your Money’ is about much more than money, it covers training and employability assistance, contacts for Monmouthshire’s housing associations, where to learn more about food banks, budgeting for Christmas, and COVID helping groups, set up to bring people together who have been socially isolated as a result of the pandemic.

Visit the website at Monmouthshire.gov.uk/money-advice to explore the support available from the many partner organisations involved or visit one of the Community Hubs for face-to-face support and advice. Hubs are located in Monmouth, Abergavenny, Caldicot, Usk, Chepstow and Gilwern. For more information visit https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-libraries/ or call the council’s Contact Centre on 01633 644644.

There are a number of non-maintained settings that are approved to provide early education and receive FPN funding. (You can see the full list here.) This means that they follow the Foundation Phase curriculum and are inspected by Estyn to ensure that the education they offer is of an acceptable level.

Catchment areas for school nurseries do not apply.

Parents may choose either a school nursery or non-maintained approved setting in Monmouthshire.

Funding is available from the beginning of the term following the child’s third birthday (term dates are defined as 1st January, 1st April and 1st September regardless of when school holidays fall).

The funding is currently set at £7.00 per session (2 hours), for five sessions a week, as long as these sessions are on different days. The funding is comparable with the funding school nurseries receive per part time pupil. Your child is permitted to attend each setting for the two hours a day free of charge but if the session is longer than two hours and you wish your child to stay for the full session available, you will be required to pay a top-up fee.

Providers will be required to complete a claim form detailing the children registered at the setting and confirming their date of birth. Providers will be required to verify children’s date of birth by examination of the child’s birth certificate.

Providers will be funded once a term and the Local Authority will aim to pay providers within four weeks of receiving their claim. Invoices must be received within three weeks of the start of term. Parents should not be asked to sign parental application forms prior to six weeks before the start of term. The forms (invoices) submitted by providers will be subject to checks by the Local Authority to verify the total claims against pupil details.

There will be no adjustments to funding once the provider has received it; therefore, if a child leaves the setting during the term, the provider can keep the grant to maintain staffing levels for the rest of that term.

If a child is attending a school nursery and an approved non-maintained setting, funding cannot be claimed for the non-maintained setting as the funding for that child is with the school nursery. Funding can, however, be shared between more than one approved non-maintained settings for up to five sessions a week, as long as the sessions are on different days.

Cross border funding agreements have been negotiated with Blaenau Gwent, Newport, Torfaen and Powys Local Authorities. Cross border funding agreements are also in place for certain areas of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.

Monmouthshire County Council do not provide any financial support for childcare places, which includes parents who receive benefits of any kind.  There may be some support available through other avenues, such as tax free childcare and the 30 hour free childcare offer for eligible working parents.

If you require further information on FPN funding please contact the Early Years Team on 01633 644527 / childcare@monmouthshire.gov.uk.

Monmouthshire County Council is proud to announce that more of the county’s attractions and open spaces have won prestigious Green Flag Awards this year. The awards, given out by leading environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy give recognition to the locations that offer excellent facilities while demonstrating an ongoing commitment to delivering great quality green space. This year sees the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal included for the first time, while three of the county’s locations are celebrating repeated success: Tintern Old Station (award winners since 2009), Caldicot Castle Country Park (since 2013) and Castle Meadows Abergavenny (since 2014).

Goytre Wharf on the award-winning Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal is a well-deserved first time recipient of the award. It runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park, meandering from 35 miles from Brecon to the Pontymoile Basin in South Wales. This quiet waterway, with very few locks is popular with boating beginners and offers incredible mountain views and some of the darkest night skies in Britain.

Caldicot Castle

Monmouthshire’s parks are also very popular with residents and visitors and have attracted a number of awards in recent years. Tintern’s Old Station is a popular attraction, situated in a scenic wooded area next to the River Wye it’s described as a hidden gem. Caldicot’s magnificent medieval castle is set in fifty-five acres of beautiful country park offering an ideal setting for picnics and walks against the background of the castle walls, with picnic tables and barbeques.

Castle Meadows, Abergavenny

Abergavenny’s tranquil Castle Meadows on the banks of the river Usk provide a peaceful setting just a short stroll from the centre of the town and was the location for the very successful 2016 Monmouthshire and District National Eisteddfod.

Eight other locations across the county have received special recognition with a Community Award: Bailey Park in Abergavenny, Crick Woodland, Crick Meadow, Crucorney , Goytre Community Garden, Laurie Jones Community Orchard in Abergavenny, The Cornfield in Portskewett, and Mardy Park in Abergavenny.

County Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Countryside said: “I am so pleased that the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal has received a Green Flag Award this year. It’s a stunning part of our industrial heritage and one of the county’s many beauty spots.”

“It’s also heart-warming to see the hard work and commitment of the many volunteers and community groups that look after these wonderful green spaces receiving the recognition that they deserve. On behalf of my colleagues and myself, I would like to express our deepest thanks for the valuable work that they’ve done,” added Councillor John.

County Councillor Paul Jordan, Cabinet member with responsibility for Attractions said: “It’s been a difficult year for so many due to the pandemic and our open spaces have been arguably more important for residents than ever. It’s wonderful that our attractions have yet again been awarded the Green Flag Award. The Old Station, Caldicot Castle with its country park and are among the venues that people love to visit. I am particularly pleased that the awards recognise the outstanding dedication and role of the volunteers at each site.”

Tintern Old Station

224 parks and green spaces across the country have received the prestigious Green Flag Award and Green Flag Community Award – from country parks and formal gardens, to allotments, woodlands and churchyards.

The Green Flag Award programme is delivered in Wales by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, with support from Welsh Government. Independent green space experts volunteered their time in early autumn to judge applicant sites against eight strict criteria, including biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental management, and community involvement.

Lucy Prisk, Green Flag Coordinator at Keep Wales Tidy said: “The pandemic has shown just how important high-quality parks and green spaces are to our communities. For many of us, they have been a haven on our doorstep, benefitting our health and well-being.

“The 224 flags flying this year are a testament to the hard work of staff and volunteers who have maintained excellent standards under the most challenging circumstances. I’d like to congratulate and thank them all for their outstanding commitment.”

A full list of award winners can be found on the Keep Wales Tidy website www.keepwalestidy.cymru

For more information on the many attractions and places to visit in Monmouthshire take a look at: Visit Monmouthshire https://www.visitmonmouthshire.com/

Monmouthshire’s Reuse shop has just celebrated its first anniversary at Llanfoist household waste recycling centre. The Reuse shop has a loyal following with customers who turn out every week, whatever the weather, in search of the latest bargains. But what some may not know is that for every pre-loved purchase, funds increase for tree planting in Monmouthshire, a vital part of the council’s campaign to tackle climate change. The aim is to plant 10,000 trees across the county within the next three years.

Councillor Jane Pratt and Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council Sheila Woodhouse with the team of staff and volunteers at the Reuse shop as they celebrate its first anniversary

County Councillors Sheila Woodhouse and Jane Pratt officially opened the shop back in October 2019. To mark the occasion, they planted tree seedlings in salvaged pots.

On the first anniversary of the shop’s opening Sheila Woodhouse, Chair of Monmouthshire County Council, said: “The little Oak and Beech trees have started to grow and as they mature they will be planted out in the community. They’re a real symbol of hope in these challenging times. More than ever before, due to the pandemic, we have all come to realise just how important nature is to our health and wellbeing. It’s wonderful to think that customers of the Reuse shop are directly contributing to the war on climate change.”

Councillor Jane Pratt planting a tree at the Reuse shop site

Councillor Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, added: “We are facing both a climate emergency and an ecological emergency, as much of our native plants and wildlife are in decline. In our own gardens and in our public spaces, planting trees can provide food and shelter for pollinating insects, mammals and birds. Alternatively, we’re asking residents to suggest communal areas in our towns and villages that could be ideal to plant a single tree, or perhaps more. Residents can get in touch by emailing susanparkinson@monmouthshire.gov.uk.”

“We are also encouraging schools to join our tree planting campaign. By collecting seeds from local trees this autumn they can start their own tree nurseries in their school grounds. We are on hand to give advice how to manage this so that today’s school children can help grow the veteran trees of the future.”

Lots of pre-loved bargains to choose from at the Reuse shop. The revenue created goes towards tree planting across Monmouthshire

If residents would like to stop by the Reuse shop and discover what’s on offer, they can feel confident that every measure is in place to keep it safe. Staff at the shop have been working hard in recent months to ensure social distancing and COVID secure conditions for customers. This has been supported by the efforts of incredible volunteers who  have been recruited locally through Volunteering for Wellbeing. The shop, which sells everything from bric-a-brac to antiques and collectables, is currently open each Wednesday from 10am – 3pm.

Councillors Sheila Woodhouse (right) and Jane Pratt (left)

On behalf of Monmouthshire County Council and their strategic partners including Welsh Government, the Department of Transport, Highways England, Forest of Dean District Council, Gloucestershire County Council and South Gloucestershire Council, we are pleased to announce the launch of a 6 week virtual public consultation event on the 2nd of November 2020, to invite feedback on the Chepstow Transport Study (Weltag/Webtag Stage 2). This is a cross-border transport study, focussing on Chepstow and its transport connections beyond the immediate region, with consideration for the broader surrounding systems and longer-term resilience issues. The purpose of the current stage 2 of study is to examine a shortlist of options, helping to select a preferred option(s) to take forward.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and in line with government advice, we are unable to hold this as a face to face consultation and have therefore commissioned a virtual consultation experience, which will mimic as far as possible the experience of a face to face event.

To participate, please visit https://virtualengage.arup.com/chepstow-transport-study any time from 9:00am on Monday 2nd November 2020 until 17:00pm on Sunday 13th December 2020 to access information about the study and have your say. You can submit any questions and a live webchat function will also be operating at the following times to connect you with a project team member.

Thursday 5th NovemberSaturday 14th NovemberThursday 19th NovemberSaturday 28th NovemberThursday 3rd DecemberTuesday 8th December
5pm – 7pm10am – noon5pm – 7pm10am – noon5pm – 7pm5pm – 7pm

If you are unable to access the online event, a hard copy of the consultation booklet and feedback survey can be mailed out with a freepost address for returns. Please call 0117 240 1529 to request.

We look forward to hearing from you.

The Arup Project Team

Young people from across Monmouthshire have joined the council in raising thousands of pounds for mental health support services during this year’s #HelloYellow campaign.

The annual national fundraiser on Friday 9th October, which came 24 hours before Mental Health Day, was organised by YoungMinds – a charity with a mission to ensure all young people get the best possible mental health support so that they have the resilience to overcome life’s challenges.

Students from Monmouth Comprehensive showing their support for the campaign

According to YoungMinds’ research, on average three children in every classroom have a mental health problem and would benefit from additional support and the COVID-19 pandemic and national lockdown has had further effects on children and young people’s mental health. It’s hoped that through the work of organisations such as YoungMinds, a real difference can be made and show young people that they are not alone.

Across the country, offices, schools and community groups rallied together on Friday, raising vital funds to assist the charity’s work. At Monmouth Comprehensive £1,327 was raised, Usk Church in Wales Primary School raised £250 and at The Dell Primary School the total was £345.76.

‘If you can be anything, be kind’
– a lovely message from a student at Raglan V C Primary School

Apart from fundraising, the schools encouraged their students to wear yellow to show their support. These included Undy Primary School, Overmonnow Primary School in Monmouth, The Dell and Pembroke primary schools in Chepstow, Cross Ash Primary School, Kymin View, Ysgol y Ffin in Caldicot and Raglan VC Primary were just a few of the schools that encouraged their pupils to wear yellow and fundraise for the mental health charity.

At Monmouthshire County Council, their ‘virtual’ weekly staff meeting saw colleagues donning the sunny colour, while Foster Monmouthshire shared a poem (above) to help highlight the campaign.

Students at Pembroke Primary School in Chepstow giving the thumbs up to #HelloYellow

Councillor Sara Jones, Cabinet Member with responsibility for young people, commented: “The work of YoungMinds is incredibly important. The effect of the pandemic on young people should not be underestimated. Their lives and routines have been changed so much over the last seven months, they need all the support available to help them get through this challenging time. I am so pleased to see schools and colleagues within Monmouthshire County Council supporting this campaign, and hope it helps highlight this important issue and raises more funding for YoungMinds’ invaluable work.”

From Monday 26th October, Monmouthshire businesses will be able to apply for funding from the third phase of the Economic Resilience Fund (ERF). An additional £140million is being made available to businesses across the whole of Wales. Businesses who have already benefitted from ERF Phase 1 or 2 or the Non Domestic Rates Grant may still apply for this latest round.

Within this scheme £20m will be set aside for tourism and hospitality businesses who are undoubtedly facing challenging times as they enter the winter months. The scheme will support firms with projects that can help them transition to the economy of tomorrow. Projects that help sustain and create new job opportunities for under 25 year olds, people with disabilities and people from BAME communities are particularly welcome.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, said: “This latest round of funding will make a real difference to businesses. It’s vital that as many Monmouthshire businesses as possible start the ball rolling by getting online and completing the Eligibility Checker, so that when the application system goes live on October 26th they can apply. Applications will close after four weeks, so time is of the essence.

“The Economic Resilience Fund has already helped 401 businesses in Monmouthshire, to the tune of £5.33 million. This support from Welsh Government has been essential for businesses across the county as they have worked to address the economic impact of COVID-19. It is my hope that this latest funding round will help protect jobs and enable businesses to withstand the challenges they are facing.”

“Meanwhile, the council continues in its work to request a wider eligibility for the additional £60m fund, due to be allocated to support businesses in areas that are subject to local lockdown,” continued Cllr. Greenland. “The impact on Monmouthshire of lockdowns in neighbouring authorities is already being felt and at present businesses in the county are not able to apply. We will continue to pursue this and encourage businesses to consider all the available funding options at this time, including the Economic Resilience Fund.”

The Economic Resilience Fund can be used for projects which improve and develop businesses. These include supporting the costs of staff and operation to work on the future development of the business, investing in the digital capability of businesses, in new processes or systems, equipment, improvements to facilities or training for staff.

The business development grants will be open to businesses of all sizes.

  • Micro businesses (employing between 1 and 9 people) will be able to apply for up to £10,000 on the condition they match this with their own investment of at least 10%; For Tourism and Hospitality micro businesses there will be discretion for grant awards of up to 100%
  • SMEs (employing between 10 and 249 people) will be able to apply for up to £150,000. Small businesses (up to 50 employees) will be required to match this with their own investment of at least 10% and medium businesses (between 50 and 249 employees) with at least 20% of their own funding; For Tourism and Hospitality SME’s there will be discretion for grant awards of up to 100%
  • Large businesses (employing 250+ people) will be able to apply for up to £200,000 on the condition they match this with their own investment of at least 50%.

The business must have an annual turnover of at least £50,000 and must meet one of the following criteria: It may be a company registered with Companies house or the charities commission, or is VAT registered, or is in a sector exempt from VAT with turnover above £85k.  The funding is to cover the period from October 2020 to 31st March 2021

If there are any accessibility issues that might prevent a business from completing an online application form they are advised to call the helpline on 03000 6 03000.

The Eligibility Checker can be found at: https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/erfphase3

Communities in Monmouthshire are being called on to join the council in standing against hate crime and racism at the start of Hate Crime Awareness Week 2020. (10th October -17th of October 2020)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the campaign, which raises awareness of the impacts of hate crime and offers support to victims of prejudice, hostility and racial abuse. Across the week Monmouthshire County Council will be highlighting the impact hate crime can have on members of the community. Colleagues are also being encouraged to don an item of red clothing for Show Racism The Red Card’s annual Wear Red Day (16th of October). Due to the pandemic and the need for home working, council colleagues are also being asked to change their online work profiles to the ‘Wear Red Day’ square to digitally demonstrate their solidarity with the campaign.

It comes as Monmouthshire County Council has secured funding for the delivery of bespoke workshops for pupils around hate crime awareness. The sessions, which will be delivered by Show Racism The Red Card, seek to tackle hate crime by challenging any biases, conscious or unconscious, that people may have and to look at how these may develop into action. Under the new curriculum, the sessions would contribute to raising ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world and to healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society. It’s hoped the sessions will be rolled out across schools before December 2020.

Cabinet Member for Community Development and Social Justice, Councillor Sara Jones said: “Raising awareness of these types of discrimination couldn’t be more important as we look to address the hostility, inequality and racism that still exists in the world in 2020. Monmouthshire is proud to be an inclusive county, which celebrates individuals no matter their race, gender, religion, sexuality or background, and hate crime of any sort has no place here. I am proud our organisation supports such an important campaign and we will continue to work to ensure everyone is able to thrive in this community, without the fear of being ostracised for who they are or how they look. I ask everyone be kind to one another and to join us in standing against hate crime and racism.”

Hate crime can have long-lasting emotional effects on people and in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of hate crimes reported to police. To report a hate crime, contact the police on 101 or 999, report online via www.report-it.org.uk or in confidence to Victim Support https://www.reporthate.victimsupport.org.uk This can help to ensure people report instances of hate crime, victims get the support they need and those committing it are met with justice.

Monmouthshire’s businesses are facing an increasingly challenging time. Monmouthshire County Council is concerned that they would not currently be eligible for grants from the £60m fund announced this week, designed to help businesses under local lockdown. The council is appealing to Welsh Government to expand the reach of the fund when it is launched to support businesses in Monmouthshire that are facing reduced customer numbers as people from neighbouring counties can no longer visit.

At this time the plan is for grants to only be available for those businesses in a county that has been in local lockdown for three weeks or more and who have experienced a drop of 40% in turnover. This would leave Monmouthshire businesses without the ability to access this important source of financial support.

While Monmouthshire is currently not in local lockdown, its businesses have already started to feel the impact of the lack of footfall from residents living in neighbouring local authorities, including Torfaen, Newport and Blaenau Gwent, who would normally travel to Monmouthshire to shop or to eat out. In addition, there are reports of tourism businesses already dealing with cancellations. This is hitting businesses at a time when they were working hard to recover following the lockdown earlier this year.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, commented: “We are concerned that while this latest raft of support will undoubtedly offer a vital lifeline to businesses in lockdown areas, there is nothing for those in Monmouthshire whose livelihoods rely on trade with customers and businesses in neighbouring counties and that are being similarly affected.

“While we are not in local lockdown, we are already hearing that owners of holiday accommodation in the county are receiving requests for cancellations and refunds. People are wanting their money back, rather than accepting a new booking or credit note, which has an immediate effect on these businesses’ revenue. Meanwhile, we are anticipating that some of our towns, if not already, then soon, will be experiencing a reduced footfall due to the travel restrictions our neighbouring local authorities have in place. In light of this, we will be making representations to Welsh Government to consider widening the reach of this fund to reflect this.”

“These changes could make all the difference to businesses facing this latest set of challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cllr. Greenland. “We know that details are currently being finalised with regards to this fund and hope that Welsh Government will take this as an opportunity to appreciate the challenges that areas not in lockdown are facing.”

Kim Waters, Chair of Monmouthshire’s Destination Partnership and CEO of Abergavenny Food Festival said: “Monmouthshire’s Destination Partnership fully supports the council’s request to extend the eligible area of Welsh Government’s £60m funding beyond local authority areas currently in lockdown and across the whole of the functioning South East Wales economic area. Accommodation and hospitality business members of the Partnership already report an increase in cancellations and requests for refunds alongside a decrease in new business since the local lockdowns came into place, and desperately need access to this additional support to survive.”

Councillor Bob Greenland added: “Monmouthshire’s businesses need all the support possible at this difficult time. In light of this, I would encourage all Monmouthshire residents to continue to shop locally and thank them for their support.”

Updated 8/10/20: The funding for the first phase of this grant is now fully committed. A second phase will be launched soon, and details publicised as soon as applications reopen.

A new funding scheme is being launched for Monmouthshire residents who work as freelance professionals in creative industries, such as the Arts, heritage, culture and media, who have found their income severely affected by the cancellation of contracts due to the pandemic.  The scheme is part of a wider £53m Cultural Recovery Fund recently announced by Welsh Government.  Monmouthshire County Council will be administering the ‘Freelancer Grant’, on behalf of Welsh Government, and applications for this new scheme will open from 5th October.

The one-off payments of £2,500 are available to those meeting the eligibility criteria, which includes being able to provide evidence of loss of income and subsequent financial challenges over the period spanning April 2020 and March 2021. Applicants must not already have been in receipt of any other Welsh Government grants or funding.

However, those who have received previous support from either the Government Job Retention Scheme and Self-employment Income Support Scheme and are experiencing financial challenges will still be eligible for this fund.

Also, freelancers may be eligible if employed part-time in another role, if this work is to supplement the income from their primary creative profession. Priority will be given to those most in need of support due to loss of earnings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Cabinet Member for Theatre and MonLife, commented: “For freelance professional working in creative roles, such as photographers, television or film crew, theatre employees, actors and designers, the restrictions brought in as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic saw future contracts cancelled and their income disappear almost overnight. I am pleased that we are finally able to announce this scheme, which I hope will offer a lifeline to those who have not been eligible for other Welsh Government grants so far. The financial impact of the pandemic on the Arts and those who work within them is sadly all too evident. I hope that this funding will help as many people in those industries as possible. ”

The funding will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, providing eligibility criteria has been met.  The Freelancer Grant will run over two short phases.  Phase 1, opening on 5th October, will run for around one to two weeks, or until the quota of applications are received.  Phase 2 will follow shortly after, once the initial applications are reviewed and the level of demand assessed against the available funding.  All applications will close once the council’s grant allocation has been fully committed.

The first step in the application process is to complete the Culture Recovery Fund Eligibility Checker on the Business Wales website https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/culture.  If eligible you will be directed to an online application form on Monmouthshire County Council’s website. For those without the facilities to apply online, paper forms can also be requested from the council.

With 11 areas of Wales having been placed into ‘local lockdowns’ very recently, including Monmouthshire’s four Gwent neighbours, there were many residents in Monmouthshire understandably asking what has changed and how was it going to affect their day-to-day lives. We asked Monmouthshire County Council’s Chief Executive Paul Matthews to provide some context to the local situation.

Paul Matthews, Chief Executive of Monmouthshire County Council

“The past couple of weeks have seen a troubling turn of events in Wales. We’ve seen 2,200 new cases of Covid-19 in Wales, with 435 of these in the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area in the last seven days. Blaenau Gwent currently has the highest rate of cases per 100,000 in the country. with Torfaen seeing a continuing increase. Caerphilly and Newport, where heightened restrictions were introduced earlier, are showing signs of reduced cases and we are hopeful that this will continue. In the previous seven-day period, there were 1,374 new cases across Wales and 1,050 the week before that. This continual increase means we must be on our guard.

“The current situation in Monmouthshire is more optimistic. We have seen 11 new cases in the last seven days, while our rate per 100,000 of the population stands at 11.6. The percentage of our citizens taking a COVID test with a positive result stands at just 1.2%. These numbers have been stable over the last fortnight, although higher than the weeks before, and this is a tribute to all of our residents. 11 cases is a small percentage of the 435 new cases in the Gwent area.

“The effort each Monmouthshire citizen is putting in by sticking to the rules is making a remarkable difference. Remembering the two-metre rule for social distancing, wearing a mask when in shops and other indoor public spaces, and maintaining good hand hygiene are all measures that are helping. Where the rules are not being followed we continue to be firm – offering advice or introducing sterner interventions where necessary. There is no room for selfishness.

“We are doing ok, but we can’t be complacent. With our neighbouring authorities under tighter restrictions, we have a lot to protect. We look every day at what’s happening to the east of us in Herefordshire, in Gloucestershire and in Bristol, as well as looking into Wales. We know many of our residents work out of county – we have to care about what’s going on not only where you live, but also where you work which is why we are doing all we can to help and support other areas in Gwent. We may need their support in the future, because things can change so quickly.

“Should cases start to rise, we have to be ready to act. Right now we are tracking the situation closely. The remainder of South East Wales is under more severe restrictions than we are. They can’t travel as freely, they can’t be away from home overnight and they cannot visit members of extended families indoors. These are freedoms worth fighting to maintain as we head into the winter.

“Our interventions are working and we’ve probably had a good dose of luck so far. They haven’t all been popular with everyone, but the evidence suggests that they are keeping citizens safe. If people continue to act in accordance with the rules, if family and friends act according to the rules, this will help enormously. We encourage everyone to download the Track & Trace COVID-19 app as this will enable those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 to self-isolate more quickly, and that in turn will help reduce transmission here in Monmouthshire. You only need to put the first part of your postcode in and it can make a real difference in our battle against the spread of this virus.

“Time spent outdoors is good time and even though we can travel more freely than our neighbours, think hard on whether every journey is really necessary. Monmouthshire’s residents should feel rightly proud of what has been achieved so far – keep doing what you’ve been doing; don’t let down your guard.”

Town centre businesses in Monmouthshire are set to benefit from a new grant to aid recovery following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 Town Centre Outdoor Adaptation Grant offers businesses the chance to secure up to £8,000 towards improvements that aid social distancing as well as the environment and amenity of the county’s town centres.  The council has already invited businesses and other organisations to apply, with the first grants to be awarded shortly. So far, more than 80 town centre businesses have expressed an interest in the scheme, and there’s still time for others to register, although it is highlighted that the funding available is limited and applications will be considered as received.

Throughout the summer, many shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants have found that using outdoor areas has helped reassure residents to shop and enjoy lunch or a coffee while still being able to social distance.  Measures introduced in many of Monmouthshire’s towns over the summer months have helped to support this.  These have included wider footways to accommodate queues and facilitate social distancing and the creation of new pavement café areas to allow businesses to expand outside their premises.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council said: “As the county’s businesses prepare for winter months that are likely to see a continuation of social distancing and other measures to combat Covid-19, the opportunity to receive funds to help cover the cost of items such as outdoor lighting, tables and seating should not be overlooked.  The scheme also includes awnings and canopies, which can help keep shoppers dry, as well as heating to make sitting outside a more appealing option.

“I very much hope that as many businesses as possible go online and register their interest in this scheme. The more that benefit, the better it will be if our high streets are to retain their vibrancy and remain busy with shoppers throughout the winter. While social distancing is still recommended, many smaller shops and cafés may find utilising outside space key to their survival. As a council, we are committed to doing everything in our power to support Monmouthshire’s fantastic businesses. I’m pleased to say we’ve been busy processing applications and will soon provide grants.”

Funding is available for businesses located in the central shopping areas of Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow, Monmouth and Usk. Applications are mainly expected from hospitality businesses, but other, non-essential, retail premises with innovative ideas are also encouraged to apply.

The scheme offers funding of up to 80% of the total cost of eligible improvements, up to a maximum of £8,000 with businesses required to meet the remaining 20%. Higher levels of funding may be considered in exceptional circumstances, such as landmark buildings with significant outdoor space or where projects promote longevity and quality, offering a positive impact on public realm areas.

All items funded by the scheme should be of a sufficient quality to ensure they provide a lasting and attractive benefit to the publicly accessible spaces occupied. Where applicable, applicants will need to have, or to apply for, a café space license that enables outdoor trading.

The first step in the scheme is to register an Expression of Interest. This can be done via the council’s website, where additional information and guidance can be found. Visit Monmouthshire.gov.uk/town-grants/

Following the most recent announcement from Welsh Government, additional lockdown restrictions have been put into place in several areas across South Wales. The importance of physical activity has never been more important and with this in mind leisure providers have joined together across Gwent to help keep customers active.

Customers who have a membership with a leisure provider in counties across Gwent, which they will be unable to access due to local lockdown restrictions, will instead through this innovative partnership be able to attend their local gyms or leisure centre whilst the local lockdown remains in place.

This new initiative, called Active Gwent, includes Aneurin Leisure (Blaenau Gwent), Caerphilly County Borough Council Sport & Leisure Services, MonLife (Monmouth), Newport Live and Torfaen Leisure Trust.

This means that customers who live in Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Torfaen, Monmouthshire or Newport who are currently members of leisure providers outside of their local area which they are now unable to access, can be given an Active Gwent membership to attend leisure services in their own county as part of this new partnership.

This will be available initially until 31st October, 2020, and kept under review following Welsh Government updates. Customers continue to pay their existing membership fees and will remain members of their usual leisure provider. When local lockdowns are lifted, they will be able to return to their usual facilities. Members who are eligible for this will be contacted by their local leisure provider with more details on how to gain access.

The Active Gwent initiative has been introduced to help support communities in Gwent remain physically active whilst restrictions remain in place. All of the leisure providers taking part remain committed to the safety of staff and customers with additional guidelines in place including enhanced cleaning regimes and social distancing.

Steve Ward, Chief Executive at Newport Live said “We are thrilled to be joining with other leisure organisations across Gwent to strengthen the Active Gwent partnership. It is important to be able to help people with keeping active and to support their health and wellbeing, even more so during these challenging times. This new initiative means that despite local lockdowns, customers will still have seamless access to take part in sports and activities in their local area.”

Phill Sykes, Director of Operations at Aneurin Leisure Trust added “Our mission is to improve community life.  We’re delighted to work in partnership with Active Gwent to provide members outside of the borough with the opportunity to continue their fitness activity whilst the local restrictions are in place, through this reciprocal agreement.”

Angharad Collins, CEO Torfaen Leisure Trust said: “We are delighted that in the face of adversity in our sector that we have been able to collaborate with other colleagues in Gwent for this ground-breaking project.  Our ultimate aim is to ensure that the citizens of Gwent can continue to be physically active in our COVID safe environments.  I strongly encourage residents to get in touch with your existing provider to take advantage of this unique opportunity.”

Cllr Richard John, Cabinet Member for MonLife said: “This fantastic news means that people can continue to keep fit and well at a local leisure centre as winter approaches, regardless of their home address in Gwent. This is a great example of how we are working in partnership across Gwent to support people and I would like to thank everyone who has made this happen.”

Cllr Ross Whiting, the Caerphilly County Borough Council Cabinet Member for Learning and Achievement commented: “The collaboration between leisure trusts and councils from across Gwent is a fantastic initiative that will allow residents of Caerphilly and the wider Gwent area to keep active in a time when customers need physical activity the most.

“I am delighted that leisure providers from across Gwent have come together to find a solution that is in the best interest of the people that matter – our residents. Thank you to all officers who have made this possible and to our customers who have been patiently waiting to return to their favourite facilities once again.”

More details about participating leisure providers can be found at the websites below.
Blaenau Gwent – Aneurin Leisure – aneurinleisure.org.uk
Caerphilly – Caerphilly County Borough Council Sport & Leisure Services www.caerphilly.gov.uk/Things-To-Do/Sports-and-Leisure/Leisure-centres
Monmouthshire – MonLife – www.monlife.co.uk
Newport – Newport Live – www.newportlive.co.uk
Torfaen – Torfaen Leisure Trust – torfaenleisuretrust.co.uk

The latest information on local lockdowns from Welsh Government can be found here: https://gov.wales/local-lockdown

The Development Bank of Wales, Business Wales and Monmouthshire County Council are hosting a free virtual drop-in clinic next month. The online event held on 14th October aims to help local businesses find out about finance opportunities and wider business support available during these challenging times.

There are 20-minute appointment slots available between 10am and 3pm. These can be booked by contacting Development Bank of Wales Investment Executive Claire Vokes. She said: “By working in partnership with Monmouthshire County Council and Business Wales, we have all the expertise in one place to discuss your business and any support you may need. We’re keen to talk to as many local businesses as possible, so please do get in touch and book a slot for our virtual clinic.”

The Development Bank of Wales offers flexible finance from £1,000 up to £5 million. Established businesses looking for loans between £1,000 up to £25,000 can receive a finance decision within two days. Interest rates are tailored to each deal, there are no early repayment penalties. Terms up to 10 years are available.

Miranda Bishop, a Growth Business Adviser at Business Wales, said: “Business Wales offers advice and support to people who want to start their own business or need guidance to grow and expand. During these challenging times, we are on hand to help businesses re-start or find ways to diversify and build resilience for the future.

“We are delighted to collaborate with the Development Bank of Wales and Monmouthshire County Council, to deliver these business clinics and reach out to as many business owners in the area as possible, so I would encourage everyone who wants to find out what financial and non-financial support is available to them, to book a slot.”

Councilor Bob Greenland, Cabinet Member for Enterprise at Monmouthshire County Council, added: “This year has been incredibly challenging for so many businesses, and planning for future growth is important.  These workshops are a great opportunity for local businesses to seek advice and support, and we highly recommend booking in for a one-to-one session.”

To book a 20-minute slot email: claire.vokes@developmentbank.wales

Wales may be a small country, but when it comes to recycling, we punch way above our weight. We’re already the third best recyclers in the world, and now Monmouthshire County Council is backing the Wales-wide movement to make us first. The ‘Be Mighty, Recycle’ national campaign launches on Monday 21st September, to coincide with the 17th annual Recycle Week, and runs until Sunday 11th October.

Over the past decade, recycling in Monmouthshire has soared. We’re now recycling 64% of our waste, up from just 48% in 2010. But if we’re to help Wales reach the coveted top slot we need to do even more, as Councillor Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services, explains: “Recycling is now the norm in Monmouthshire and most of us recycle every week. We’re recycling our fruit and vegetable peelings, eggshells, tea bags and plate scrapings in our food caddies; recycling from every room in the home and recycling those tricky items such as empty aerosols.

“We should be proud of our recycling efforts, but we must keep up our good work. Let’s continue recycling everything we can from all around the home and help get Wales to number one.”

To learn more about the mighty movement visit www.walesrecycles.org.uk, look out for the ads on TV, on buses and billboards and social media across Wales or join the conversation using the hashtag #mightyrecyclers

Mighty tips to get Wales to number one

  • Recycling food waste is one of the easiest ways to give our recycling rate a big boost. Put any food waste – however small the amount – in your food waste caddy to ensure it gets collected every week
  • Recycling doesn’t stop at the kitchen door – remember to recycle from other rooms too. Bathroom waste such as empty shampoo, conditioner, hand soap and shower gel bottles can be recycled too”

Many people know that water bottles, cans, and paper and card can be recycled, but don’t forget that you can also recycle unusual items such as empty aerosols. If you’re not sure what you can and can’t recycle visit https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/app/uploads/2020/03/What-goes-where-2020-Eng.pdf  and https://www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with

  •  
  • Squash bottles, pots, tubs and trays to save space in your recycling bag, bin, box or caddy. Give them a quick rinse before recycling them – there’s no need to use running water, a quick swill in the washing up bowl will do

If Wales is going to get to number one, we all have to play our part. That means spreading the mighty movement word if you’re on social media by sharing your recycling pics and tips using the #mightyrecyclers hashtag

Monmouthshire County Council has received a Gold award in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme. The new accolade represents the council’s continued promise that those who serve or have served, and their families, are treated fairly.  

The new status follows a successful bid to move from a Silver Award to a Gold Award. 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.   

The award comes just months after the council reaffirmed its 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), 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 have also been working 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 has been produced in order to provide the Armed Forces Community with a resource which combines all relevant information in one place.

Monmouthshire has an active Armed Forces Forum which meets twice a year and is comprised of statutory services, third-sector organisations, charities and other relevant partners to look at matters impacting the Armed Forces community. The Armed Forces Covenant Fund has £10M a year to fund projects that support the Armed Forces community, which Monmouthshire County Council are happy to work in partnership to deliver.  The themes for the projects include:

  • Removing barriers to family life
  • Extra support after service for those that need help
  • Measures to integrate military and civilian communities and allow the Armed Forces Community to participate as citizens
  • Non-core healthcare services for veterans

Councillor Laura Jones, Monmouthshire County Council’s Armed Forces Champion said: “I’m absolutely delighted we’ve achieved a Gold Award for The Defence Employer Recognition Scheme. Our continued dedication to supporting our Armed Forces Community and making sure they are treated fairly remains a key priority for us. These individuals put their lives on the line to ensure we are able to live in a safe and fair society, and it’s our duty to ensure we honour them in the same way.”

More information about the work and projects to support armed forces colleagues in Monmouthshire can be found at: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/armed-forces/E

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

Friday 18th September                        Between 21.25 – 21.55 (approx.)

Saturday 19th September                   Between 09.50 – 10.20 (approx.)

Between 22.05 – 22.35 (approx.)

Sunday 20th September                      Between 10.30 – 11.00 (approx.)

Between 22.45 – 23.15 (approx.)

The closure points will be as follows:

North End closure: Trelleck Road junction.

South End closure: Royal George junction.

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

A number of new electric vehicle fast charging points across the county are nearing completion and will shortly be ready for use. While the majority of the new charging points have been installed, the locations still require signage and testing before they will be available to residents.

It was originally anticipated that the project would be completed in April but due to the COVID-19 pandemic work was put on hold. The electric vehicle charging points are located in the public car parks at Trinity Terrace in Abergavenny, Woodstock Way in Caldicot, Castle Dell in Chepstow, Glendower Street in Monmouth and Maryport Street South in Usk.

These points have been introduced under a Gwent-wide project using funding provided by participating local authorities and OLEV (Office for Low Emission Vehicles). The charging points have been installed and will be managed by Silverstone Green Energy under the Dragon Charging scheme with payment by way of a RFID card or through the mobile phone app.

In recent weeks, Monmouthshire County Council has received a number of queries from residents as to when the points will be operational and available for use. The council would like to thank electric vehicle owners for their patience, and it’s hoped the facilities will be ready to use by the end of October 2020. As and when they are brought online they will appear on Zap Map and further publicity released.

Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services, Councillor Jane Pratt said: “We are very much looking forward to these new electric fast charging points coming into use in our county. It demonstrates our continued efforts in supporting greener modes of transport and contributes to tackling the climate emergency. I encourage owners of electric vehicles to make the most of the facilities when they are up and running.”

The Zap Map can be found at: https://www.zap-map.com/


Councillor Paul Jordan, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Community Hubs, Sheila Woodhouse, Chair of Monmouthshire Council and Cheryl Haskell, Community Hubs Manager outside the Town Hall.

Residents of Abergavenny will now be able to visit the new Community Hub located at the Town Hall. The new hub opened its doors on Monday 14th September for essential face-to-face council services.  Initially the facility will be opening with a reduced service and where possible residents are asked to self-serve still.

Opening hours will be Mondays to Thursdays 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm, and Fridays 9am-1pm and 2pm-4:30pm.

A ‘Request and collect’ library service will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 10am-4pm. There is an online books form available at https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-libraries/request-and-collect-library-service/ Requests and bookings can be made by calling 01633 644 644. Books currently on loan can be returned on Fridays between 10am-1pm.

Speaking about the opening of the Abergavenny Community Hub, Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Community Hubs, Councillor Paul Jordan commented: “We are delighted to be able to open this service in Abergavenny. Our Community Hubs play such a vital role in the community, not least for those without internet access, and we know people will look forward to being able to come in for their essential face-to-face enquiries, their recycling bags and to use the ‘Request and Collect’ library service.”

In addition to the usual council services, the Gwent Police service enquiries desk will also be located at the hub.

“The new Community Hub is now in the best location possible, right above Abergavenny’s thriving indoor market,” said Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Resources. “I believe that this will be a real asset to the town and to its people. It’s fabulous to be able to welcome residents to discuss council services with our team while out and about on their regular shopping trips into town. With all the brand new books in the library they’ll be able to pick up a brilliant read at the same time thanks to the Request & Collect service.”

Councillor Sheila Woodhouse, Chair of Monmouthshire Council, commented: “The opening of the hub is a real milestone, a culmination of many, many months of hard work by everyone involved. It’s been a big project and we hope that visitors to the hub will be pleased with what has been achieved with the project. The setting of the Community Hub, within the Grade II listed Town Hall put the facility in the heart of the community, in every sense.

For more information about the services that are currently available please see https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-libraries

Monmouthshire County Council has launched a consultation to hear views from residents on how garden waste should be collected going forward. It comes as the council looks to explore the best options for delivering the service for the council and residents.

Kerbside garden waste has been collected by the council for the past seven years, with the scheme being subsidised by the council in order to keep costs low for residents. This year the scheme has been subsidised by £330,000. This means that for every permit currently charged at £18 per year, it costs the council just over £36 to provide the service, leaving an £18 funding gap per permit.

In the current financial climate, it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue this level of subsidy. The council wants to continue providing the service as it recognises how valued it is by customers so a number of alternative options are now being explored and residents are being asked to share their views. People are being asked to fill in a brief survey looking at the options of potentially increased permit fees as well as the possibility of introducing larger green waste wheelie bins which would be collected on a fortnightly basis.

Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services, Councillor Jane Pratt said: “Our garden waste collection service is a valued service but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to continue subsidising it in the current climate. We are looking at different options on how to deliver this service to ensure we get the best sustainable options for the council and our residents. Please take the time to fill in our survey so your views can be heard.”

Anyone wishing to have their say can do so by filling in the survey found here: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=eQBNLCzFs0uzytjq8ba31Qs94Av2gd5PpArae_B-yNNUOUtEUFo2SVRYTFZKNVc2NEVZVlJVM1VZUS4u

The consultation closes on the 25th of September 2020.


This month Monmouthshire County Council is launching a campaign to raise awareness of littering and to encourage everyone to take their litter home. It is timed to coincide with Keep Wales Tidy’s Autumn Clean Cymru, which runs from 11th September until the 27th, and appeals for communities to come forward and volunteer for a seasonal litter picking exercise.

Sadly, Monmouthshire has many known ‘grotspots’ where littering is particularly common. While many of these are grass verges and laybys near main roads, such as the A449, the A40 and the A465, some are at popular locations for picnics and country walks, such as Usk Island and near Vauxhall Fields in Monmouth, and their nearby car parks.

Councillor Jane Pratt, cabinet member with responsibility for Climate Emergency, has recently taken part in a campaign video, filmed at Usk Island, which can be seen on social media and via this link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au3di7noi0Q Its message is #Don’tMessWithMonmouthshire and asks everyone to put their rubbish in the bin or to take litter home, where it can be recycled. As part of the campaign, stickers have been applied to bins to remind people to dispose of their litter responsibly and to value the environment more highly.

As the campaign launched, Councillor Pratt said: “Littering is a problem that just won’t go away and it is going to take all of us, as a community, to tackle it once and for all. The council spends in the region of £150,000 a year on collecting litter from the county’s ‘A’ roads alone. That’s money that could be spent on looking after vulnerable elderly and young people, or measures to protect our environment and wildlife.

“We’ve increased the emptying of bins in open spaces, but when the weather’s good and visitors flock to enjoy the outdoors these bins can fill up. We’re asking everyone, if the bins are full to please take their litter home. Many won’t realise that we do not have the facilities to recycle litter waste, so it’s especially important for cans, bottles and boxes to go into the home recycling bags and containers.

“The message is simple – whatever you take to a beauty spot, please take home again afterwards and help preserve the beauty of Monmouthshire for residents and for visitors.

“We are also incredibly grateful to the volunteer Litter Champions who regularly go out litter picking across the county. said Councillor Pratt. “They play a vital role in helping us tackle this most anti-social of problems. We are always grateful for volunteers and would encourage anyone interested to get involved.”

Littering is damaging to the environment and anyone caught will face a fine of up to £2,500. Litter can be washed into waterways and eventually out to sea where it is virtually impossible to remove. The RSPCA deals with an average of 14 calls a day about wildlife that has become trapped or injured by discarded waste. The cost of dealing with litter across the UK is in the region of £850million a year.

For more information about Keep Wales Tidy’s Autumn Clean Cymru visit www.keepwalestidy.cymru

To become a Litter Champion, please register your interest via the MyMonmouthshire app at www.monmouthshire.gov.uk

Following the lockdown in Caerphilly, for Monmouthshire residents who were shielding prior to 16th of August and therefore remain on the Shielding Patient List, there is no change to the advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales.

The Welsh Government are not reintroducing shielding at this time. They will continue to monitor this position carefully and will write directly to people on the list in Monmouthshire if this changes.

In the meantime those who were previously shielding should consider the advice they have already been given on how to keep safe;

  • Keep contacts outside the household to a minimum and avoid all situations either inside or outside where you are not able to maintain a physical distance of 2m from those outside your household
  • Utilise priority shopping slots for supermarkets or shop at quieter times of day
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water regularly and use hand sanitiser where hand washing facilities are not available
  • Avoid touching surfaces that have been touched by others.

For more information visit WG Guidance on shielding and protecting people  and for frequently asked questions visit

https://gov.wales/people-extremely-vulnerable-covid-19-who-have-been-shielding-faqs

From 6pm tonight, the Caerphilly County Borough Council area will become an enhanced local health protection area and several new Lockdown restrictions come into force.

We’re aware that compliance with the basic rules has relaxed across Gwent and what started as an increase in cases in younger people is now spreading to older people. Please take responsibility for your actions and continue to follow the rules.

·         Wash hands – and keep washing them regularly

·         Cover face –  over your nose and mouth where social distancing is difficult

·         Make space – stay at least two metres from anyone not in your household

·         Stay home – and get tested if you or anyone in your home has symptoms

It really is this simple.

If you’ve got any symptoms of coronavirus, you must get a test and your whole household must self-isolate immediately.

·         New continuous cough

·         High temperature

·         Loss of taste and/or smell

Book a test here https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test

If you are asked to self-isolate, you should do so to prevent further spread of the virus. Please remember to self-isolate while awaiting the results of a test.

For information which will answer a lot of questions, please visit https://gov.wales/caerphilly-county-coronavirus-lockdown

https://gov.wales/caerphilly-county-coronavirus-lockdown-frequently-asked-questions

Monmouthshire County Council has announced that Mitchel Troy recycling centre will be reopening from Tuesday 15th September. Detailed plans have been put into place to ensure that the personnel and resources were available to reopen the centre safely, complying with Welsh Government’s COVID-19 regulations and guidance.

The approach taken by the residents of Monmouthshire to the management of waste and recycling throughout the COVID period has been outstanding. Overall levels of waste have fallen and recycling rates, particularly at the two household recycling centres that have remained open – Llanfoist and Five Lanes – has increased by nearly 10% on the same period a year ago.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, said: “We now feel able to re-open Mitchel Troy recycling centre near, Monmouth, and will do so from Tuesday 15th September. The booking system that has worked so well throughout the COVID period will be employed at Mitchel Troy. Residents will have to book to enter the site which will be running on a much smaller capacity so we can ensure residents and staff are safe at all times. Bookings can be made online from the end of this week for slots next week.”

Peter Fox, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council

Peter Fox, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, said: “I’m pleased to see this positive step. Our climate change, sustainability and carbon reduction policy commitments remain strong and I am happy that we can now open up a third centre to improve journey times for residents. I would stress however that recycling is the priority and we will be managing both the numbers using the site and what is coming into the site very closely”

Details on how to book can be found at www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/household-waste-recycling-centres/ Residents who are not online are advised to phone 01633 644644 to make a booking once Mitchel Troy recycling centre reopens from September 15th.

“Please remember that if you or anyone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19, please do not visit the centres. Do observe social distancing when you visit, and take your own gloves or hand sanitiser with you,” said Councillor Pratt. “It’s also asked that you pre-sort your recycling before you leave home to help reduce time on site, and remember your permit or proof of address.”

Councillor Jane Pratt,
Cabinet Member for Infrastructure

Larger items of recycling can also be collected from your kerbside by Homemakers on 01873 857618. For further details regarding what items can be collected and charges   visit https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/bulky-waste-and-large-item-collections/ 

A young woman has shared her experience of being fostered as Monmouthshire County Council launches a new campaign aimed at finding more kind carers to support young people in need of a stable and loving home.

20-year-old Carys Davies entered foster care at the age of 11 and spent four years living in care. During her placements, she was able to build relationships with the foster carers, their own children and other foster children which she still cherishes to this day. She is now hoping her story will encourage people to consider a role as a foster carer which is not only rewarding for the carers but can help change the lives of people just like her too.

Here’s her story:

“My name is Carys, I’m currently 20-years-old and I first went into foster care when I was 11. I had four foster placement between the ages 11-14. I then went into a residential placement until I left care at 18. I had foster placements as short as a few days and some that nearly lasted two years. I’ve been with carers of all different ages and different family arrangements.

In my opinion, being ‘older’ going into foster care can be more difficult for the child and the foster carer/s as when I went into care at the age of 11, I already had a sense of identity, views and opinions. I also had an understanding of my family and the circumstances that led me to come into care. I really appreciated it when foster carers understood this and allowed me to talk about my family and past, and would also show an interest and cared about me. I was made to feel fully included in their family, especially if they had other children (whether they were biological or other foster children.) Small things like being included in different activities, from food shopping, days out and even holidays abroad all meant a lot to me. I understand it is difficult trying to get the balance of being a part of their family whilst accepting that they have their own family. I also appreciated it when foster carers explained fostering to their children and helped them accept me into their home as it made it more comfortable and easy for us to get on.

I know fostering can be difficult at times. I know at times I would be angry, upset and frustrated, which was often voiced to my foster carers. It was never anything personal to them so it meant a lot when we could work through these difficult times and they understood that we do get upset and angry about being in care and being away from our families. It always helped when they empathised with me and understood how I felt.

Being a foster carer is more than a job, they need to be open and loving to a child, offer them a safe home and environment. Though it comes with its challenges at times, it is very rewarding. I’m still in contact with past foster carers now, they still show an interest in me and what I’m doing. I will always be grateful to those who fostered me and been a major part of my life.”

Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said: “Thank you to Carys for sharing her experience of being fostered. Her story goes to show just how much of an impact foster carers can have on the lives of children and young people who face difficult circumstances. I call on anyone who might be considering a change or who want to help young people to please get in touch with us. It’s a great opportunity to really make a difference.”

As part of the campaign, Monmouthshire County Council is highlighting the benefits to becoming a foster carer with the local authority. New foster carers will receive indepth training, support and a financial allowance. They will also join a community of other foster carers in the county.

For more information and how to apply to become a foster carer, please see www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/fostering

Community Hubs are gearing up to reopen their doors to the public from Monday 7th September in Caldicot, Chepstow, Monmouth and Usk. Measures have been put into place to ensure everyone’s safety and the council’s teams are looking forward to welcoming people back for face-to-face council service enquiries. Residents will also be able to collect their recycling bags and boxes from the hubs again. 

Initially the opening days will be as follows: Monmouth Community Hub will be open on Wednesdays and Thursdays; Chepstow Community Hub on Thursdays and Fridays; Usk Community Hub will open its doors on Mondays and Wednesdays; Every Tuesday Caldicot Community Hub will be open.

Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Community Hubs, Councillor Paul Jordan said: “We’re very pleased to be able to announce the reopening of these hubs. They play such an important role in the community, especially for residents who are not online and prefer face-to-face contact for council services. The teams at the hubs have been working hard to ensure that everything has been put into place to make visits to the centres as safe as possible.

Councillor Paul Jordan, cabinet member with responsibility for Community Hubs.

“Abergavenny Community Hub will also be opening soon. The redevelopment of the Town Hall is nearing completion and once opened it will be the perfect location for the town’s community hub. Residents will be able to stop by for council services and for a ‘request and collect’ library service. It will be at the heart of the community in every sense.”

The council is also trialling reopening public access computers at the hubs in Chepstow, Monmouth and Usk.  Initially, this will be a reduced service with bookable slots available on Saturday mornings. In addition, residents will be able to use the libraries’ ‘request and collect’ service to get books, until the they able to offer browsing facilities once again.

For more information about the services, opening times and how to book please visit https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-libraries

Monmouthshire County Council’s Youth Enterprise is pleased to announce its relaunch as it looks to support more people to unlock their skills and career potential, and to help people facing homelessness. The team will be relaunching as the Employment & Skills team and will expand its offers in supporting people of all ages through a range of projects to cover youth homelessness, careers advice, apprenticeships, job searching, training and upskilling.

The projects run by the Employment & Skills team include Inspire2Work and Communities for Work+, which are designed to overcome barriers to employment, with a bespoke one-to-one mentoring service from reviewing/creating a CV, support with job searching, financing training/upskilling, to funding for travel expenses and work equipment.

Meanwhile, for anyone aged 16 and over and already in work, the Skills@Work project offers access to a free range of accredited qualifications, one-to-one guidance and employment advice. For those aged between 11 and 25, Compass works to prevent homelessness and assist with homing transition, supports personal and emotional wellbeing, and offers career advice, whilst young people at risk of disengaging from education can be supported by Inspire2Achieve.

Councillor Sara Jones, cabinet member for community development.

Councillor Sara Jones, cabinet member for community development said: “This relaunch comes at a time when our team at Employment & Skills has the ability to help more people than ever before not just young people but now adults of all ages. They’re proactive in creating opportunities for apprentices, interns and graduates, and in facilitating access to higher level training schemes for young people already in work, whether that’s as an employee or in a self-employed context.

“The work also focusses on improving access, equality, and equity of opportunity for under-represented groups including looked after children and care leavers, all of which is of immense value and importance,” said Councillor Jones.

The Employment & Skills team also leads on the Apprentice, Graduate and Intern (AGI) Scheme. This scheme is designed to work with local businesses in Monmouthshire and within to Council, to create more opportunities for apprenticeships, graduate posts and internships across the county.

For more information about the support available visit https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/employment-skills/ or email Employmentskills@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Pupils will make the return to school from tomorrow, Thursday 3rd September 2020. Ahead of their return, Council Leader Peter Fox has shared his well-wishes with pupils and outlined the council’s back to school plans.

“Monmouthshire’s school staff are busy preparing to welcome learners back to school safely. Pupils are gradually returning to school from Thursday 3rd September and all pupils will be back by the 14th September.  This is a really important part of us getting back to more normal routines.  I am conscious that for many of our children this will be their first, extended time in school since the 20th March and this is a big change – some will be very excited but for some this will be an unsettling time. School staff are doing all they can to ensure that all schools are warm, welcoming environments where children and young people can enjoy seeing their friends again.  Please follow @MonmouthshireCC on Facebook and Twitter where any updates about back to school information will be shared.  

We have had to make some decisions in the last week regarding when our secondary age pupils should wear face coverings.  In order to ensure that everyone is as safe as they can be and, because we are unable to ensure that students are two metres apart on a bus, we have decided that all secondary aged pupils will have to wear a face covering on school transport (unless they have been told they cannot wear a face covering).  Secondary schools will advise pupils on whether there are any circumstances when they should wear a mask in the communal areas of the school.  As the term goes on, we will review all of the measures we have in place to make sure that our children are safe and able to learn.  

With the school run recommencing, we know that more cars will be on Monmouthshire’s roads again. I would like to remind parents that leaving your car running has a huge impact on the environment causing harmful fumes to be pumped into the air. We are launching a new campaign to raise awareness of the pollution caused by cars left idling when waiting or when dropping off outside schools. Our simple message is turn off your vehicle and let’s enjoy our county fume-free!

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our learners good luck as they start a new school term. Although the classrooms might look a little different and some things might have changed, the opportunity to learn, thrive and build friendships remains the same so make the most of it. “

‘Please do not idle,’ that’s the strict message from Monmouthshire County Council as it kicks off a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of the pollution caused by cars left idling.

As families prepare for the return to school this month, Monmouthshire County Council is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the pollution caused by cars left idling when waiting or when dropping off outside schools. The campaign includes a video highlighting the threat caused by car exhaust fumes. In the film, local schoolboy William gives some useful information and busts some common myths about idling engines.

A car is defined as ‘idling’ when its engine is left running while it is parked or stationary for over 30 seconds. Every minute, an idling car produces enough exhaust emissions to fill 150 balloons with harmful chemicals, including cyanide. It is also an offense under the Road Traffic Act to idle your vehicle unnecessarily.

The best solution to tackling pollution from vehicles is to walk or cycle, but in Monmouthshire’s rural communities and for those with mobility issues it’s not always possible. Motorists can still make a difference by switching off their vehicle when stationary.

Councillor Jane Pratt, cabinet member for Climate Emergency said: “It’s so important that we all work together to improve the quality of the air we breathe. There are things each of us can do to help. As part of our response to the Climate Emergency, we’re taking action to make it easier to walk and cycle in Monmouthshire and to enjoy the benefits of active travel. We know that sometimes you might need to drive but you can still do your bit by switching off your engine when you are stationary, for example outside a school or shop, or whilst waiting in car parks, leisure centres or lay-bys. By turning off your engine you will improve the quality of air inside and outside the car, and reduce pollution.”

Idling vehicles in school zones can be especially hard on young lungs. Vehicle exhaust in the air contains many pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter, that are linked to asthma and other lung diseases, allergies, heart disease, cancer and other health problems.   As many as one in five asthma cases in children in the UK is linked to traffic fumes and other pollution, totalling 40,000 cases a year*.

The council is also working with local schools, providing a toolkit for teachers and launching a competition to design an anti-idling poster. The child who designs the best, most effective poster will be able to see their design printed and used across the county.

“This campaign shows how one small everyday change can make a difference,” said Councillor Pratt, “Our schools are the right place to start because children are particularly at risk of harm. Whether you’re driving to school, hospital or going to the shops, please turn off your engine and do your bit to make Monmouthshire a cleaner place.”

The anti-idling campaign also sets out to bust some common excuses used to leave cars’ engines running:

1. “Thе еngіnе should bе warmed uр bеfоrе drіvіng.”

Truе, thе еngіnе must be wаrmеd up, but іdlіng is not an effective wау to do this, еvеn in соld wеаthеr. Thе bеѕt wау to warm up a vеhісlе is by drіvіng it. Wіth tоdау’ѕ mоdеrn еngіnеѕ, and the аdvеnt of electric engines, drivers nееd no more than about 30 seconds of іdlіng bеfоrе driving аwау, even on thе соldеѕt winter dауѕ.

2. “Idlіng is gооd for the еngіnе.”

No, it’s not. Excessive іdlіng can асtuаllу damage engine соmроnentѕ, іnсludіng суlіndеrѕ, ѕраrk plugs, and еxhаuѕt ѕуѕtеmѕ. An idling еngіnе іѕ not ореrаtіng at its реаk tеmреrаturе, which mеаnѕ that fuel dоesn’t undergo соmрlеtе соmbuѕtіоn, which can damage parts оf thе еngіnе.

3. “Turning оff аnd rеѕtаrtіng a vеhісlе іѕ hard оn the еngіnе.”

Aсtuаllу, frеԛuеnt rеѕtаrtіng hаѕ little іmрасt оn еngіnе соmроnеntѕ lіkе the battery аnd thе ѕtаrtеr mоtоr. 

For more information about the campaign visit www.monmouthshire.gov.uk or following the council’s page on Facebook and @MonmouthshireCC on Twitter.

You can see William’s video here:
https://youtu.be/KlbGQFCtrpQ

Our offices will be Closed on Monday 31st August.
If your call is an emergency please telephone 0300 123 1055.    

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

Above, left to right: Local resident Mary Kennedy, who nominated the tree, with Councillor Jane Pratt, cabinet member for Climate Emergency.

From Tuesday 25th August, the Woodland Trust will be launching its Tree of the Year campaign and this year the short-list includes Monmouth’s magnificent Catalpa tree, situated in the centre of St James Square.

Now the call is out for Monmouthshire residents to vote on the Woodland Trust’s website and help make this much-loved local landmark ‘Tree of the Year’.

Local resident Mary Kennedy, who put the tree forward for the award, said: “I nominated the Catalpa, because have always admired it. It’s very impressive in size and stature, and looks majestic. The tree is beautiful whatever the season and it has withstood the test of time.

“It’s also a fitting backdrop to the war memorial commemorating the brave soldiers. We come together for Remembrance Day services by the Catalpa so now it seems only fitting that the community should come together and vote to celebrate its unique place in our town.”

The Catalpa bignonioides, more commonly known as the Indian bean tree, is said to have been planted c.1900 and is thought to be one of the largest and best specimens in the UK. Beside it stands Monmouth’s war memorial, amongst a garden filled with pollinator-friendly wild flowers and grasses.

Councillor Jane Pratt, cabinet member with responsibility for Climate Emergency said: “I am so pleased to see Monmouth’s Catalpa tree on the short-list for this year’s awards. While it’s not the oldest of trees, as an example of its species, its prominent position and its ecological value makes it very special. I hope that everyone in Monmouth and across the county will get behind the nomination and vote online. The winning tree in each nation will receive not only recognition, but also a £1,000 care award to help the tree live a long and healthy life, for generations to come.

“We know that apart from the beauty they bring to any setting, trees are vital for the ecosystem, for wildlife and for people, contributing to clean air, flood prevention and wellbeing. That’s why as part of the council’s Climate Emergency work, we are committed to planting ten thousand trees across the county in the next three years. These will be a mix of native species and ornamental varieties where the settling is appropriate. In addition to this, our grounds maintenance teams are tasked with preserving as many of our trees as possible, while facing challenges such as new and emerging tree diseases.

“Old trees are incredibly important, historically and environmentally. Approximately 15 years ago Monmouth’s Catalpa tree was at risk of falling down, but thankfully work by our team of tree specialists helped stabilise it and now it’s thriving. It would be lovely to think that it will still be there in another century’s time.”

Previous winners of the ‘Tree of the Year’ award include an ancient oak tree that is said to have served as a medieval courthouse, a young copper beech tree in the playground of a Scottish primary school and a Welsh parkland sweet chestnut you can stand inside. 

For information on how to vote visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/treeoftheyear

Residents are encouraged to vote from Tuesday 25th August, until 24th September 2020.

Monmouthshire County Council is inviting people living or working within the county to join two free, interactive webinars to explore the opportunities available through the online community network OurMonmouthshire.org

The aim of the webinars is to demonstrate the interesting and simple ways people can support others in their community without a long term commitment.

Our Monmouthshire was launched in April 2020 with the aim of providing a central point for volunteers and communities to share offers of help. The network came to the fore during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic where volunteers rallied together to offer support to residents through the delivery of food parcels and helping pick up prescriptions. The online network already has a database of over 525 people.

One of the key features of Our Monmouthshire is the community ‘Timebank,’ which is a way for people to exchange skills or knowledge with each other gaining time credits in a safe way. The webinars would be useful to any community project which could do with some support or specific skill-set or you would like to share an offer with your community.  We have individuals, community groups, organisations and businesses signed up to the timebank with offers and asks.

Some examples of offers to the community:

•            Create a promotional poster

•            Painting a community building

•            Teaching others how to use complete an online food shop.

•            Mow someone’s lawn

•            Become a telephone Befriender

Councillor Sara Jones Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development said: “Our Monmouthshire is an innovative community platform which aims to bring people together based on place and a common purpose.  We know that when people, community groups and businesses feel connected to their community there are wide ranging benefits.  We believe Our Monmouthshire can help to strengthen community networks.”

People interesting in joining the webinars can access the booking system as listed below:

How Timebanking Works Tuesday, 8th September at 6pm. Booking a free place can be made here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/114105253886

How Community Listings can work on Wednesday 9th September at 1pm. Booking a free place can be made here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/114123570672

Across Monmouthshire students are receiving their GCSE results.  In a week of intense public and political scrutiny of Wales’ examination system and processes today we refocus on the outcomes that our learners have achieved.  This is a critical point for many of our learners that will see them take their next steps towards further study or the workplace.

Cllr. Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and MonLife said: “The week before examination results are published is always tense, but this year’s circumstances have been exceptional.  2020 has been a challenging time for many of our young people as they have been impacted by the consequences of the global pandemic.  I wish to congratulate everyone receiving GCSE results and hope they represent another step towards a rewarding career.  I want to thank all of our school staff who have supported these learners throughout their education together with their families whose support and guidance helped them to achieve.  I wish the class of 2020 the best of luck in their next steps.”

Will McLean, Chief Officer, Children and Young People added: “I want to congratulate all of our learners on what they have achieved today.   I also want to thank all of our schools for their work in supporting their learners through their learning journey but also the support they have given students during the past months of lockdown.  GCSEs mark the end of statutory education but they will mark the beginning of students’ paths to careers and I wish every student the best of luck on that path.”

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

Friday 21st August Between

10.05 – 10.35 (approx.)

Between 22.25 – 22.55 (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.

Time is running out for residents affected by flooding to access a grant of up to £1000. The deadline for the Discretionary Assistance Fund is the 28th of August 2020 and the council is calling on affected property owners to get in touch before it is too late.

Monmouthshire County Council has already helped 150 residents access the grant to help them rebuild their lives after the unprecedented flooding in February 2020. Over 81% of eligible property owners have now received the grant, which can be used to replace white goods or items lost to flood water. The Welsh Government support package, which is administered by local authorities, is granted to people who find themselves in difficult situations or for those who have experienced flood/fire damage to their homes. The fund can be used to pay for essential costs, such as food, gas, electricity or clothing after an emergency.

Following the severe flooding in November 2019 and February 2020, Monmouthshire County Council established the Recovery Co-ordinating Group (RCG) ‘Attis’ in conjunction with Gwent authorities and agencies in order to provide a joined up approach to offering support. The recovery group has helped residents and businesses to access a range of different funding streams and has worked to rebuild damaged infrastructure – continuing to operate throughout the pandemic to ensure residents are not forgotten.

Council Leader Peter Fox said: “I am pleased to hear we’ve been able to support 150 residents access the DAF fund which hopefully has helped them following a difficult time. Although the last few months have been difficult we want those residents affected by flooding events to know that we have not forgotten about you. We don’t want anyone who is eligible for this funding to miss out so please contact us so we can help you get the support you are entitled to.”

Eligible residents have until the 28th of August to apply for the DAF fund. Applications can be submitted by contacting the council via My Monmouthshire portal or app. Further information can also be found on the council’s website: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/february-flooding/

Today Monmouthshire’s Year 12 and Year 13 learners are celebrating their examination results, which will put them on the path to exciting futures at universities, colleges and in careers.

In these unsettled times, all four of Monmouthshire’s secondary schools have achieved a strong set of results that will enable students to progress to their next stage of life. Staff are confident that students will gain entry to their preferred higher education courses.


Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and MonLife

Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and MonLife said: “The awarding of A-levels and AS-Levels this year is part of an unprecedented set of challenges facing our education system in Wales. Given the challenges that our young people have faced over the past few months, I hope that they and their families are really proud of what they have achieved. In these extraordinary times, I hope learners have secured the results they deserve and need to secure the next step in their education or chosen career.  These results are the culmination of a huge amount of work on the part of all our students but also their teachers and families, who have done much to support them. I wish our school leavers every success as they embark on their next steps.”

Will McLean, Chief Officer for Children and Young People added: “2020 will always be remembered as the ‘COVID Year’. What should never be questioned is the effort and commitment that our learners have put into their post-16 courses to arrive at this point. I am grateful for all of the support that our schools will have made available to these students, their families and support networks who will have prepared them for today. I want to congratulate everyone on their achievements today and wish them well for their future endeavours.”


Will McLean, Chief Officer for Children and Young People.

The call is out for kind, welcoming people to help promote Monmouthshire’s towns and villages to visitors and encourage residents to return to their high streets and shop local. Monmouthshire County Council is working initially with Tintern Community Council and Abergavenny to find Volunteer Ambassadors to provide a warm, local welcome and to signpost visitors to the wide range of things to see and do in Monmouthshire encouraging them to explore their beautiful environment and venture further across the county. More areas are expected to follow in due course.

Volunteers have been at the heart of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and their work in supporting communities has been overwhelming. Now as Monmouthshire County Council moves to the next phase of supporting businesses on their road to recovery, volunteers are being called upon once more.

As well as promoting local businesses, the aim of the Volunteer Ambassadors will be to give reassurance to people who may be nervous about interacting with other members of the public in a busy area or who may have been missing social contact. This also includes helping to promote a distinctive sense of place and responsible behaviour, including advising on COVID-19 related restrictions and to promote local pride in the area.

Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development, Councillor Sara Jones said: “There’s no denying how much of an impact volunteers have made over the last few months and that’s why we’re calling on volunteers to do what they do best and help others. I would encourage anyone who enjoys meeting new people, offering a helping hand and being out in beautiful locations to consider one of the Volunteer Ambassador roles and get in touch.”

Anyone wishing to be considered for the roles would need to meet certain criteria and be available from mid-August to mid-September. Ambassadors will be on a rota with at least one other Ambassador for two-hour slots. In return, volunteers will get support and training, travel expenses reimbursed, the chance to develop new skills and have opportunities to participate in volunteer recognition schemes.

For more information, the full role description, criteria and applications visit:

https://gwent.volunteering-wales.net/vk/volunteers/my_opportunities_info_ur.htm?PID=10158118&searchqs=

https://gwent.volunteering-wales.net/vk/volunteers/my_opportunities_info_ur.htm?PID=10158064&searchqs=

Town Centre business owners are being invited to express their interest for a new grant to aid their recovery following the impact of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Town Centre Outdoor Adaptation Grant offers businesses the chance to secure up to £8,000 towards improvements that contribute not only to the businesses themselves, but also to the environment and amenity of Monmouthshire’s town centres.

Funded through the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns Programme, the grant will enable businesses to invest in external improvements and equipment such as outdoor seating, tables, awnings, barriers, planters, parklets, outdoor electric supply, lighting and heating.

It is intended that investment in measures such as these will enable businesses to trade outside not only throughout the remaining summer months but also into the winter season.

While it is expected that this grant scheme will appeal mainly to hospitality businesses, other town centre businesses who wish to create or improve outdoor trading space whilst enabling customers to safely maintain social distance, are invited to submit their proposals for consideration.

Applicants will need to meet the eligibility criteria for the scheme which can be found at www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/town-grants

In order to submit an application, business will need to demonstrate that their proposals are of a suitable high standard, comply with the statutory requirements and are ‘Covid secure’. Also that they possess a licence to trade in the space identified and have public liability insurance for such purposes.

The first step in the application process is to complete a brief expression of interest form which will be responded to within five working days.


Photo: Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council

Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, said: “We would like to hear from businesses who would interested in applying for the grant. Although the grant has strict criteria, we are open to fresh ideas.

“Measures that are introduced as a result of a successful grant application should benefit both the business, but also help improve the look of our high streets, creating a welcoming trading and café culture environment. These are not short-term measures, it’s hoped that through investment in good quality attractive seating, planters, awnings, etc., the benefits of this scheme will be long lasting and will help enhance our town centres further.

“We are not back to business as usual, COVID-19 is still very much present. I hope that through supporting Monmouthshire’s businesses and helping them create attractive outdoor spaces in which to trade, we can help create a safe and improved environment for residents and visitors.”

For more information and guidance visit www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/town-grants/. All funding is subject to availability.

It came as a surprise to the Council this morning to see the Minister for Education Kirsty Williams announce a pay award for the teaching profession in Wales averaging some 3.1% to come into place from September. Whilst not against the spirit of the award the announcement leaves some very important questions unanswered.

Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Education said: “We hugely value the role of teachers. We are clear that high quality teaching is one of the greatest gifts that can be offered to a child. I am pleased the Welsh Government want to recognise this by way of a pay award but I am deeply concerned that they have not announced at the same time that they intend to fully fund it. This will place an additional financial pressure on every council in Wales. I believe the Minister should be clear that Welsh Government will fully fund this award.”

Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources added: “It is somewhat ironic that this announcement is made on the day we share a Cabinet report setting out the significant financial challenges that we need to address. It is simply not helpful to add further pressures. I think the Minister and her officials need to show leadership here and will the ‘means’ and not just the ‘ends’. If education is our National Mission then lets act accordingly. I fear that as things stand we are passing a problem straight to governing bodies and headteachers who will have to make cuts in their school budgets, possibly redundancies, to take forward an unfunded pay award.”

Leader of the Council Peter Fox added: “Throughout the COVID-19 period, we have seen public service in Wales come together like never before and now we find ourselves in a position where different pay awards are being offered to doctors, nurses, teachers, civil servants and other professional groups. This just isn’t good enough from my perspective. This is a year to recognise every public servant in exactly the same way. Everyone has played their part and we have needed every single one of them, so how about we show our appreciation to the whole public service with a pay award that has parity and is fully funded across all of our public services. The award needs to be affordable and cognisant of the recession we are in and the number of people that are currently losing their jobs. This would be real leadership from Welsh Government and it would be good to see.”

The need for reliable broadband coverage in rural Monmouthshire communities has been brought into increased focus during the pandemic, as more residents have been working online from home and catching up with family “virtually” than ever before.

This week Monmouthshire County Council were pleased to acknowledge the significant progress made in supporting future plans for broadband deployment in Monmouthshire which will help get digitally deprived communities online.

Last September, Cabinet approved the Digital Infrastructure Action Plan setting out how the council wished to capitalise on the provision of a high speed, first class digital infrastructure, in order to deliver economic growth for county and the country. Less than 12 months later, the need for a robust digital infrastructure has become even more pronounced with the unprecedented increase in home working, acceleration of people doing online shopping and wider digital social interactions with families and friends.

All this has led to an increased need for good quality digital infrastructure and connectivity.  In light of this, the council has recently approved a £2million commercial loan to Broadway Partners to build a Gigabit overlay network to 5G carrier grade standard, to enable delivery of a core network which will provide wireless and full fibre broadband connections into rural communities with poor connectivity.

However, this investment is not the only one. A local company, Spectrum Internet, also has significant plans for a full-fibre infrastructure in Monmouthshire’s main towns. This will form part of an initial £200million investment in South Wales supported by one of the largest telecommunications infrastructure investment companies in the UK.  In addition, following a recent announcement by Welsh Government for additional funding for FTTP (Full Fibre to the Premise) by Openreach, the number of connected premises set to benefit in Monmouthshire is likely to increase from 1581 to 2163. 

At the same meeting the Cabinet also agreed to be a partner in CoCoRE, a 5G Testbed pathfinder project which will explore new ways that 5G can offer a speedier connection, to improve the lives of people in rural areas, boosting business growth and maximising the productivity benefits of new technologies.

When presenting the Cabinet reports this week, Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development, Councillor Sara Jones, stated ‘The digital agenda is a priority for me as a Councillor and hugely important.  The Council need to continue to invest and support those impacted by poor digital connectivity’- while Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources and a standing Member of the Investment Committee, stated:

“The decision by the Council’s Investment Committee to award a commercial loan to Broadway was very attractive to the Council, not just because of the financial returns at a time when budgets are tight, but because of the increased digital connectivity it will offer to our hard to reach, rural communities who have struggled to get a broadband connection for a long time.”


Photo: Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources

T

http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/
http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/cy/

as well as our social media accounts/ yn ogystal â’n cyfrifon cyfryngau cymdeithasol:

Monmouthshire County Council is launching a three-month consultation and is inviting residents to have their say. The Active Travel consultation is a requirement by Welsh Government under the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. The consultation outlines draft proposals to encourage more cycling and walking.  

Draft Maps (called Integrated Network Maps) have been developed which show suggested routes for improvement for settlements in Monmouthshire. These are available to view online from August 1st until October 31st, 2020.

The Mon Life service within the Council has worked hard over the past six 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 station. Active Travel is not about 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.

“This is an exciting opportunity to enhance our towns and villages long-term, but we need residents, businesses and partners to engage with the consultation process and let us know what they think in order to move forward,” said Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Active Travel. “The past six months have seen a great deal of work applying for funding and analysing the network and I hope that they inspire and resonate with residents. They offer a real chance to build a better future for Monmouthshire, its residents and its environment.”

Photo: Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Active Travel

“We value the opinions of every section of the community, in fact it is essential not only to move forward with the best plans possible, but to be considered for further funding in the future. We’ll also be working with all primary and secondary schools from September to give children and young people the opportunity to feedback,” said Councillor John.

The Active Travel consultation will showcase digital maps and suggest clear priorities to improve the infrastructure for the future. This is an opportunity for children, young people, adults and businesses to feedback on the draft priorities, suggested routes, identify facilities needed. Due to the restrictions in place as a result of COVID-19, digital consultation is a key part of the process. There will be webinars in addition to socially distanced face-to-face events.

Following the consultation period all responses will be analysed and suggested routes assessed. This will enable Monmouthshire County Council to develop a more cohesive network within the county’s towns and villages to encourage more walking and cycling in the future.

Details about the webinars, the interactive maps and residents’ surveys can be found on the council’s website:  www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/active-travel-consultation

Monmouthshire County Council is inviting local businesses that would like to serve food and drink in outside spaces to get in touch. In a move to further support the revitalisation of high streets, the council is behind plans to create a ‘Café Culture’ environment. For cafés, pubs and restaurants with limited outdoor space, this will give the opportunity to place tables and chairs outside where there is space to do so safely.

The first step will be for interested businesses to apply for CAFE SPACE permission via the MyMonmouthshire App, which can be found on www.monmouthshire.gov.uk. The online application form will ask for additional supporting information such as a sketch of the area required and evidence of public liability insurance.

Restaurants, cafés and pubs will need to consider the following points when applying:

  • Is there sufficient pavement width outside the property to accommodate tables and chairs whilst still maintaining 1.5m clear space for pedestrians?
  • How will social distancing be managed?
  • Are there other outside spaces that can be considered as seating areas?
  • Will the proposed location of tables and chairs affect existing access along the highway for pedestrians, cyclists and traffic?
  • Does your proposal require closing off part or the whole of the road to through traffic, and if so what impact will this have?

Monmouthshire County Council Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services, Councillor Jane Pratt said: “Given the latest Covid-19 regulations, it is likely many more establishments will be considering utilising outdoor spaces than ever before.

“I would urge owners of cafés, coffee shops, public houses and restaurants to take this opportunity to think about how the Café Culture approach could work for their premises and to make an application from July 13, when the hospitality sector is allowed to reopen. Every effort will be made to process these swiftly, however there may be a delay should demand be high.

“I have every hope this will not only help more businesses recover from the devastating financial impact of the pandemic, but it will also make our high streets even more attractive for returning shoppers.”

Children’s reading can dip during the long summer holidays if they don’t have regular access to books and encouragement to read for pleasure. This can be a problem for schools to put right in the new term. This year the Summer Reading Challenge in Monmouthshire is going digital to ensure children of all ages can access stories during the current circumstances.

Monmouthshire Community Hubs is promoting the Summer Reading Challenge through social media channels and is supporting children taking part through Borrowbox -Monmouthshire’s free eBooks and eAudiobook service, and through the Request and Collect service.

The Summer Reading Challenge 2020 is called ‘The Silly Squad’ and is a celebration of funny books, happiness and laughter.  This summer, children will meet the Silly Squad: a loveable bunch of animals who run a fantastic fun house but beware, a mysterious baddy is waiting to spoil the fun!

Children taking part online will find out more about the fantastic characters and will unlock digital rewards, activities and video content as rewards for their reading. There will also be a host of social media channels for fun activities and more information.

The Summer Reading Challenge takes place over the summer holidays in libraries throughout England, Scotland and Wales. Developed by the charity The Reading Agency, along with the UK public library network, it is now the UK’s biggest annual reading promotion for primary school aged children.

1279 children in Monmouthshire took part in the 2019 Summer Reading Challenge entitled Space Race. According to the National Literacy Trust Report 2012, only 1 in 4 boys read outside class every day, however, in Monmouthshire 46% of participants in Space Race, the Summer Reading Challenge 2019, were boys. To register for the Silly Squad Summer Reading Challenge visit  https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/ or https://cymru.summerreadingchallenge.org.uk

The Replacement Local Development Plan (RLDP) Preferred Strategy consultation and second call for candidate sites will close on 20th July 2020 to enable the Council to review the Plan’s evidence base, strategy and policies in light of the impact of the pandemic. Revised timescales will be published in September 2020. For further information please visit Planning Policy


Monmouthshire County Council will launch the second phase of its Request & Collect library service on Monday 27th July when it will be available on certain days at Caldicot, Gilwern and Usk as well as at Chepstow and Monmouth community hubs.  Initially introduced at Chepstow and Monmouth in mid-June, Request & Collect allows customers to browse the library service on-line catalogue.  They can then book via the form on the website – https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/request-and-collect-library-service/ – or by calling 01633 644644 to choose their preferred books and reserve a time to collect them.

In addition to introducing Request & Collect at the three additional sites, the council is also extending the service for an extra day each week at both Chepstow and Monmouth.

Work at the refurbished Town Hall in Cross Street means that the service will be unavailable in Abergavenny though the council looks forward to opening its new facility in the future.  Meanwhile, the town’s residents can visit and use any of the council’s community hubs to return and collect new books.

Speaking about the development of the service, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community hubs, Councillor Paul Jordan said: “After the successful introduction of our Request & Collect library service we now look to expand our service to make it accessible to more people across the county.”

Details of days and times the service is available at each community hub are on the website: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/request-and-collect-library-service/ – the booking form goes live for the three additional sites at noon on Tuesday 21st July and the new form listing extra days for Chepstow and Monmouth will be available at noon on Wednesday 22nd July.

Monmouthshire County Council is working in partnership with the local town council to solve one of Chepstow’s stickiest problems – the scourge of chewing gum carelessly deposited on roads and pavements.  The prevalence of chewing gum is second only to cigarette butts on the UK’s littered streets but is much more difficult to remove from the environment.  As well as creating an eyesore, and inconvenience for those coming into contact with used gum, it is vitally important that people dispose of it hygienically, particularly as the Covid-19 virus continues to pose a threat.

While a stick of chewing gum costs about seven pence, the removal of each piece from streets and pavements is nearer ten pence.  Just before the pandemic lockdown, Chepstow Town Council requested the county council to assist in removing gum by steam-cleaning, but a recent survey has revealed an incredible 3,438 pieces squashed into pavement cracks, cobbles and tarmac surfaces in certain areas of the town.

Chepstow Town Council has installed signs in Bank Square, St Mary Street, Welsh Street and the bus station reminding shoppers, as well as café and pub goers, to place used gum in a bin.  Leading confectioner Mars Wrigley, the makers of the UK’s most popular brands of gum, has provided the signage that has impacted favourably elsewhere to change behaviour.

As well as signs, the town council is investing in Gumdrop bins – the world’s first receptacles designed not only specifically for the disposal of waste chewing gum, but also made with waste chewing gum.  Gum collected in the distinctive pink ball-shaped bins is recycled into wellingtons, mobile phone covers and a variety of other useful products by environmental reprocessing company Gumdrop.  Several of these bins in neighbouring Caldicot have already reduced the amount of gum thoughtlessly cast to the ground.

The two councils will carry out another survey in a few months to assess the difference bins and signage have made.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services said: “I’m delighted to work together with Chepstow Town Council to seek an improvement to our local streets and pavements.  Disposing of chewing gum by dropping it on the ground is anti-social behaviour as well as a danger to health.  Let’s all make a concerted effort to place our used gum where it belongs –  in a bin.”

  • For further information contact Sue Parkinson, Education and Awareness Officer of Monmouthshire County Council’s Street Services team – SusanParkinson@monmouthshire.gov.uk

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a humanitarian tragedy touching all corners of the world. Monmouthshire has not been spared with 73 deaths in the county attributed to the virus and nearly 400 known cases in all for our residents. This loss of life is a terrible thing; as a County Council we extend our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones.

Peter Fox, Leader of the Council, said: “The County Council has changed everything that it does since March 2020 and focussed all of our resources on protecting life. We have set aside other priorities and our staff have been redeployed into areas where they have been able to make a positive impact. We have acted with a clear plan and we continue to do so. We are four months in and we have many more months in front of us as a health emergency becomes a social and economic emergency.”

The Council will consider an early view of the financial impact of COVID-19 at its meeting on Thursday. Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources will present a paper setting out a high level view which identifies an in year deficit of anything between £3 million and £10 million.

Councillor Murphy said “The Council has a strong track record of financial discipline. We have not overspent our annual budget for more than a decade but this situation is beyond any of our planning. We have lost almost all of our income streams, we have supported our social care system to meet its needs and we have found every homeless person a place to stay. We have not had the flexibility to reduce any of our fixed costs which are considerable. We are thankful to UK Government for providing Welsh Government with over £210 million of direct targeted funding assistance for local government. We have taken Welsh Government at its word that they will support every Council in Wales and make good our extraordinary cost pressures. I have no reason to believe that Welsh Government will not honour this pledge but I would ask them to introduce urgency now so that we are clear what we are getting and have certainty on how much more we need to find ourselves. I am also asking that Welsh Government create the ability for all Councils to deal with any residual overspends over a number of years so that we can continue to provide important and necessary services rather than withdraw them when they are most needed. With every day that passes the challenge of making in-year savings grows. I have initiated a full financial sustainability exercise and have asked officers to complete this work for September so Council can form a view on its next steps but I expect these to include a significant draw on our relatively small reserves.

Councillor Peter Fox said, “in over twelve years as Leader of this Council I have never been prouder of the staff, the people of this county, volunteers and businesses. Everybody has made an extraordinary effort to tackle this pandemic and as things stand we have it under control and our towns can start to move again. We do however have to be vigilant and we need the money in place to provide support for people that need it and to contain the virus if it returns. I’m hoping that Welsh Government will step up and make this possible.”


Monmouthshire County Council’s free lettings service offers the area’s housing property-owners advice and support to help with the daunting prospect of letting out a home.  Monmouthshire Letting Service (MLS), which prides itself on its “no-fee, hassle-free” experience, is an agency with a difference, where both landlord and tenant are listened to and valued equally.

The MLS team has a wealth of experience and is eager to provide a friendly, knowledgeable and professional deal.  MLS can help landlords attract the most appropriate tenants for their properties while offering a free full management service in addition to other benefits.

County Councillor Bob Greenland, cabinet member with responsibility for housing said: “Landlords with properties in Monmouthshire looking for a professional lettings experience should talk to the team at MLS.  It is a letting agency with transparency and honesty integral to its working practices.  The team will work with you to help manage and advertise your property as well as find tenants best suited to your circumstances.”

Landlords with properties in Monmouthshire looking for a no-fee, hassle-free letting service should contact Private Sector Housing Project Officer, Lindsay Stewart on 01291 635713 or e-mail: mls@monmouthshire.gov.uk.

Photo: Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People

Monmouthshire County Council has today welcomed plans by the Education Minister to allow schools, that can do so safely, to reopen from the first week of September, with all schools reopening from September 14th.

Local plans and preparations are underway between Monmouthshire County Council and schools in the area to review risk assessments, processes and systems. This will ensure individual schools can welcome pupils back safely, in line with guidance by Welsh Government.

Schools which can do so will reopen from the first week of term. Some specific groups of learners might need to be prioritised during this week, such as year 7, 12, 13 and Special Units for secondary, special units for early years and year 6. Parents will receive more specific information from their school and Monmouthshire County Council as it becomes available.

From September 14 th, school attendance will be compulsory. Parents are asked to contact their school if a pupil is unable to attend to discuss their situation further.

Each school setting will have local challenges to address, including staffing levels. Work is underway with colleagues to confirm school transport arrangements. Monmouthshire County Council will work closely with all schools to overcome such issues.

Welsh Government has also announced £29million to boost support for learners to minimise the impacts of the disruption due to the ongoing crisis. The equivalent of 600 extra teachers and 300 teaching assistants will be recruited across Wales throughout the next school year, targeting extra support at years 11, 12 and 13, as well as disadvantaged and vulnerable learners of all ages. Monmouthshire County Council will be working with schools to clarify the details.

Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: “The last few months have been an emotionally challenging time for children, young people and their families as parents have sought to juggle work and childcare. I warmly welcome the Minister’s plan to allow schools to safely welcome all pupils back full time in September in line with all necessary safety measures and Welsh Government guidance.

“We recognise that hardworking staff in our schools, learners and their families have been placed under considerable emotional, financial and psychological pressure during this incredibly challenging time. Monmouthshire is continuing to work closely with our schools and childcare settings to consider how best to support the ongoing well-being needs of all children and young people.

“I’d also like to thank all our teachers and school staff for the work they’ve done in recent months to stay in touch with their pupils, run our successful hubs and offer distance learning opportunities.

“We are very aware that pupils’ learning has been severely disrupted by the crisis. I welcome the £29million pledge by the Welsh Government to recruit extra staff to support the recovery phase, minimise the impact on pupils and continue the ongoing work to raise school standards.”

Monmouthshire County Council is working with businesses across the county to support a #ShopLocal #ShopMonmouthshire campaign.

For Monmouthshire’s town centres to prosper and for traders to survive then they need everyone to support them. Many residents have been walking and cycling more over the last few months and it’s hoped that this will continue. Equally it is acknowledged that a return to public transport is likely to take some time to return to pre-covid levels. One-hour free parking in Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth and additional Blue Badge parking provision is being provided to encourage people to return.

One-hour free parking and additional Blue Badge parking provision will be introduced as follows in coming weeks:

Abergavenny: 48 additional ‘one hour free’ spaces and 17 Blue Badge spaces (Tiverton Place car park) offsetting the restricted access to nine ‘30 minutes free’ spaces and eight disabled parking bays on Cross Street and the loss of six ‘30 minutes free’ spaces on Frogmore Street. If accessed before the road closes at 10am, the Cross Street disabled parking bays remain available for use, and Blue Badge holder can exit via Market Street.

Chepstow: 63 free Long Stay spaces at Chepstow Leisure Centre while the centre remains closed for business. 15 additional ‘one hour free’ spaces in addition to changing the 15 ’30 minutes free’ spaces on Welsh Street to ‘one hour free’. There will also be the provision of 10 additional disabled parking bays. The five spaces that are within the road closure on Bank Street will be reopened as soon as the amended legal Order is in place and access is made safe for motorists and pedestrians.

Monmouth: 35 additional ‘one hour free’ spaces and 12 additional disabled parking bays at Cornwall House car park, offsetting the loss of 35 ’30 minutes free’ spaces on Monnow Street. The disabled parking bays on Monnow Street and Blestium Street remain available for use, including the four bays just within the Monnow Street road closure.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, said “It is our hope that the ‘one hour free’ parking scheme will welcome more residents and visitors back into our towns, encouraging everyone to Shop Local, Shop Monmouthshire. We are also looking to offer some additional Blue Badge parking provision. It has always been our aim to do everything we can to help businesses get back on their feet after the devastating impact of COVID-19. We are hoping that the loss of income from our car parks will be offset by more people being able to feel confident in returning to our high streets, and spending their hard-earned money by shopping locally. This scheme will be in place until at least 30th September 2020.”

“We have made physical adjustments in many of our towns to make it easier and safer for pedestrians to move around. We recognise that this presents some challenges to motorists and we have mitigated these where possible. We have been asked by some to provide free parking up until the end of the year. If we could we probably would but such an approach would cost the council in excess of £500,000. Our finances are in a precarious position already given the demands around flooding and pandemic work in the first half of the year, so we can’t stretch this far.

Speaking about changes in the layout of some town centres Cabinet Member Councillor Jane Pratt said “We have listened to residents’ feedback on these schemes, which are part of an ongoing trial. We have never had to introduce such measures before, so it’s been a learning process for everyone. Our concern is, and always shall be, the safety of our residents. We’re doing everything we can to enable shoppers and businesses to follow social distancing guidelines, which includes keeping pedestrians out of harm’s way from traffic. In addition to this we must ensure that our high streets are accessible to all, and that means addressing the needs of those who use Blue Badge parking bays. I believe that the plans being introduced now will address this and if residents have concerns about where to park and accessibility, our contact centre is there to help on 01633 644644.”

For more information click here

UPDATE 9/7/20 We are offering extra Blue Badge parking provision and one hour’s free parking in a number of towns. This will involve updated legals Orders, reprogramming the parking machines in some places, and painting of bays. We will post a further announcement as soon as this is all in place.

KA campaign has been launched across Wales encouraging people to contact social services if they are worried that a family member, friend, neighbour or someone that they know in their community is at risk of abuse, neglect and harm.

Social Services in Wales has seen a reduction in referrals to its services since lockdown. Abuse, neglect and harm hasn’t stopped but opportunities to spot the signs have reduced as access to childcare settings, schools, social situations and interaction between people has been limited.

It is now more important than ever that we look out for each other and people are advised to contact Monmouthshire County Council’s social services safeguarding team on 01873 735492 if you are worried about an adult at risk;  01291 635669 if you are concerned about a child; or call 101 if they are worried that someone could be at risk.

Councillor Sara Jones, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Community Safety, said: “Social services are open and ready to help if people are concerned that a family member, friend or neighbour needs support. Although we have tried to maintain contact with people already known to us before lockdown, there is a risk that abuse, neglect or harm is happening behind closed doors and is even being exacerbated by the pandemic.

“I would encourage anyone who is worried to make the call to social services. It can be a difficult decision but one which could help to save someone from suffering abuse, neglect or harm. You can also call 101 or, in an emergency call 999. During this difficult time it’s down to all of us to look out for each other – together we can keep children, young people and adults safe.”

Visit the Safe Help website https://gov.wales/safe-help/keeping-people-safe for more information about local social services and how to raise your concerns. If your call is more urgent dial 101, or in emergency call 999.

Although the number of Covid-19 cases have diminished, the virus has not gone away and that without caution, in particular observing social distancing, there is the risk of further cases and even deaths. While some residents feel confident returning to our shopping streets, many others are not. Unless safe shopping environments can be created, many of our shops, particularly in smaller towns, will not survive.

At present, footfall in Usk’s Bridge Street is still low. There is work to be done to enable shoppers and visitors to feel safe returning to the shops in order to regenerate local businesses. Usk could be at risk of major decline should many of its valued businesses go under.

Monmouthshire County Council believes firmly that it is its duty to help provide a safe environment for shoppers – and this means making sure people are able to safely social distance. Whether the guidance stays at a 2-metre distance, or this is reduced to one, social distancing is a challenge in Bridge Street.

A one-way pedestrian system, requiring a new pedestrian crossing was rejected. Apart from technical issues, it was anticipated that many people, wishing only to use shops on the one side of the street, would ignore the requirement to cross the road twice to return to the car park.

“Doing nothing is not an option at this stage,” said Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council. “The Town Council, wishing to avoid a one-way system, proposed traffic lights whereas the council’s preferred option was for a temporary one-way traffic system. The closure of Bridge Street to traffic for gas main works in 2018 and the two-way diversion then, worked much better than many expected and while it is understood that many local residents may not wish for this one-way system to be tried, it is essential if we are to achieve social distance along Bridge Street. 

“What is proposed now is a part only of those diversions that were effective two years ago.  The trial one-way system will be installed and monitored carefully by officers and adjustments can be made, if deemed necessary and appropriate,” explained Councillor Greenland. “We are open to feedback, which can be submitted via the council’s website, and will be monitoring the measures closely.”

As part of these measures, the parking prohibition by the fish and chip restaurant remains in place and the council is seeking to work with the police to enforce the current HGV restrictions.

*Feedback to these measures may be given via Monty the Chatbot (the icon on the bottom right of this screen).

Today (01/07/20), the Gwent Local Resilience Forum, including the five councils, agreed to increase the number of mourners permitted to attend funerals at cemeteries within the five local authority areas of Gwent to 20. This will come into effect on 02/07/20.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and in line with government restrictions, it is still necessary to limit the number of people in any public space and ensure necessary social distancing.  Therefore, the number of mourners permitted to attend cremations at the Gwent Crematorium will remain at 10.

However, the councils fully recognise and understand how difficult these restrictions can be for the family and friends of the deceased.

The level of demand and related risk at these sites has been under constant review and restrictions were eased as soon as it was deemed safe and appropriate to do so for both the public and staff.

All decisions are made following a review of risk assessments and take into account a number of factors, including the ability to safely maintain and enforce the two metre social distancing requirements and the impact any increase in attendance would have on the continued health, safety and welfare of all those attending, managing and officiating the funeral.

The current numbers support the continued protection of the public, the ongoing effort to slow the spread of the virus and ensure bereavement services can continue to manage a safe and dignified funeral.

The original decision to limit the numbers of mourners was not taken lightly. Respect for the deceased and compassion for the bereaved is an important part of our decision-making, but protecting the health and wellbeing of the public, funeral and cemetery staff must be the foremost concern during this ongoing public health emergency.

Partners of the Gwent Local Resilience Forum will keep this matter under continual review while the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect the Gwent area.

Wildflowers have attracted pollinators in increasing numbers thanks to the selective mowing approach

This year has seen significantly more wild meadow areas across Monmouthshire’s open spaces, as the council’s ground maintenance teams have left verges and parks largely unmowed to allow wild flowers to grow and attract more pollinators.  These measures have helped to support biodiversity and contribute to Monmouthshire County Council’s climate change action plan. Feedback has been very positive, and it the council’s actions were recently highlighted by the BBC natural history series Springwatch.

The move to a more restrained mowing approach throughout the spring has brought with it learning and adaptation and a new set of challenges as the summer approaches.  The extended period of non-mowing gave a fantastic opportunity to witness a host of flora within parks and public spaces grassland.

Management to protect the ecological value of meadow grassland will entail some cutting and in many situations the grass will also need to be collected. This will help lower nitrates within the turf, presenting a more suitable environment for indigenous flora to germinate again.

The logistics of this operation are complex, not least due to the council’s fleet of mowers not adapted to handle this type of grassland.  In addition, the council will need to look into the transportation and disposal of grass cuttings, something not undertaken on this scale before.

“To leave this work until the end of the summer will be extremely problematic, and should any difficulties arise we would have little capacity and resilience within our teams to manage this workload. Therefore, we have made a decision to start trialling some cutting and collecting of smaller verges and patches of meadow grassland on our open spaces where the flora has now finished flowering,” said Councillor Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member with responsibility for parks and open spaces.

“This will allow us to stagger the workload and inform our logistics planning.  We will also get a better understanding of the limitations of the machinery we have available and give us information to consider purchases of new machinery.  Importantly, the unusual circumstances this year will continue to play a role in helping us learn what we can and cannot achieve.  This is invaluable in developing how we will adapt the management of our open spaces over the coming years.”

“Monmouthshire has been the focus of interest by other councils throughout the country, who want to learn more about what we have done and what we are planning for the future. Monmouthshire County Council’s reduced mowing programme has also received recognition recently from the naturalist Iolo Williams on BBC Springwatch. This acclaim is due to the work of not just the council, but residents, community groups, Monmouthshire Housing Association and town councils, who have wholeheartedly supported campaigns such as Nature Isn’t Neat and No Mow May. We are keen to keep working to improve biodiversity further and build upon this success,” said Councillor Pratt.

The council will continue the ‘meadow management’ regime of Monmouthshire’s open spaces for the foreseeable future.

The likelihood of the Welsh Government’s requirement to stay local being lifted on Monday 6th July and self-contained visitor accommodation (without shared facilities) being allowed to reopen on 13th July has resulted in Monmouthshire’s tourism industry making preparations to welcome visitors back to the county. 

Tourism is an important element of Monmouthshire’s economy and in 2019 the county welcomed 2.28 million visitors who spent almost £245m and supported over 3,100 full-time jobs, helping to boost high streets and associated businesses.

The council recognises that it’s never been more important to support local businesses, and as high streets reopen it’s taken steps to encourage support for independent shops and town centres.  As well as efficiently administering £22.4m worth of grants from the Welsh Government to 1,728 businesses, it has developed a new shop local campaign in partnership with Monmouthshire’s trade groups and town and community councils.  Also, a volunteer ambassador programme is in the pipeline to provide a warm and friendly welcome for visitors to the county’s town centres.  Ambassadors will share their local knowledge and advise on COVID-19 specific restrictions or adaptations in place.

Despite incredibly difficult times for tourism and hospitality businesses globally, an increasing number of Monmouthshire’s enterprises have displayed resilience to play a significant part in supporting communities during lockdown.  The Angel Hotel group (which includes Abergavenny’s Angel Hotel, the Art Shop & Chapel and The Walnut Tree restaurant) joined an initiative to help raise £100,000 to provide quality food to front line NHS staff and during the pandemic’s peak 120 meals were supplied every evening to the nearby Nevill Hall Hospital.  Monmouth confectioner Granny Browns and Chepstow restaurant Panevino also donated sweets and chocolates and delivered food to frontline NHS staff.

Meanwhile, the Wye Valley’s Silver Circle Distillery and the Budweiser Brewing Group in Magor diversified their operations to produce much-needed hand sanitiser for local hospitals and care homes to address a nationwide shortage.  And in the north of the county, Road House Narrowboats of Gilwern offered its shop entrance as a collection point for food items donated by the local community.  These were transported each week to Abergavenny’s food bank.  In addition, many businesses have adapted their procedures to offer local delivery and click and collect services.

County Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for tourism said: “The Covid-19 pandemic and February’s severe floods have hit the county’s tourism and hospitality businesses severely so we very much look forward to welcoming visitors back to Monmouthshire when travel restrictions are lifted.  We hope they will make the most of our attractions and activities and enjoy their time spent in this beautiful corner of Wales.  We ask however that they observe any remaining restrictions relating to the current pandemic and behave responsibly, respecting our communities.”

The council is encouraging the county’s tourism businesses to obtain the new Visit Wales ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry standard to demonstrate to visitors and residents that they adhere to the respective government and public health guidance, that they’ve carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment and that they have the required processes in place.  Visitors should look out for the We’re Good to Go kite mark when planning their visit.  For details of We’re Good to Go businesses and for up to date pre-arrival information log on to: www.VisitMonmouthshire.com

The Welsh Government has today launched a Start-Up Grant scheme to support those who are self-employed but fall outside of the UK Government’s Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) because they only started trading in 2019.

The Start-Up Grant aims to provide a lifeline to those who established their business after the 31 March 2019, and help them to continue trading through the Covid-19 outbreak. The purpose of the grant is to support newly created businesses with immediate cash flow support to help them survive the economic consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak. The grant seeks to complement other Covid-19 response measures to support businesses, social enterprises and charitable organisations in Wales.

The total pot for the Start-up Grant across Wales is £5million, and will provide eligible businesses with a grant of £2,500 each. It is predicted that this scheme will support in the region of 2,500 businesses. It will be operated on a first come, first served basis.

“We’re hoping that this latest scheme will be able to help some of those smaller, independent businesses that have fallen in the gap between the existing schemes offered by Welsh Government thus far. I would urge any businesses that think they may meet the criteria to go online and use the eligibility checker as soon as possible, as once the fund is fully allocated, the scheme will be closed.” Said Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader, Monmouthshire County Council.

Businesses can apply from noon on Monday 29th June 2020, and the scheme will close when the fund is fully committed. The grants will be administered by Monmouthshire County Council. The aim is to process each application within a 30-day period.

The Welsh Government’s eligibility criteria for the Start-Up Grant is:

– HMRC Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) Number

– VAT Registration Number or a VAT exemption certificate

– Written correspondence confirming registration with HMRC

Businesses can check their eligibility for a Start-Up Grant using the Economic Resilience Fund eligibility checker on the Business Wales website https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/  If eligible, businesses will be directed to the online application form.

For more information:
https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/app/uploads/2020/06/Start-Up-Grant-Guidance-Notes.pdf

ENDS


Monmouthshire County Council has provided a new opportunity for people interested in fostering to enjoy an informal introductory chat.  The Fostering 5 service is available each Tuesday from 3pm to 4pm and Thursday from 7pm to 8pm and it can be accessed by booking time with a member of the council’s fostering team who will contact those applying with a phone or video call.

Fostering 5 offers the chance of a friendly five-minute dialogue but each booking can be extended to 20 minutes if necessary.  To book a slot log on to: shorturl.at/acEHT

Councillor Penny Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for fostering said: “Our new Fostering 5 service will provide you with information, options and answers quickly and informally with no obligations if you have ever thought about fostering.  Fostering 5 can guide you to the gateway which could make all the difference to a child’s life.”

For more information, call 01873 735950 or visit monmouthshire.gov.uk/fostering


Road safety measures in Usk are to be revised following feedback from the Usk community and meetings between Monmouthshire County Council and Usk Town Council.

The temporary traffic light system, cones and barriers will be removed today. Following a meeting with Usk Town Council, a number of alternative options have been discussed and reviewed but they were not deemed suitable. The County Council’s revised option of a one-way system will be put in place by the end of the week commencing 29th June 2020.

The one-way system will operate using Bridge Street for motorists heading east of Usk towards the A40. Twyn Square to New Market Street will then be used to send motorists west through Usk over the Usk Bridge.

The installation of the traffic light system, as originally laid out as the preferred option by Usk Town Council, was implemented on a trial basis, with Monmouthshire County Council seeking views from residents and the Town Council on how it was working. The alternative option of a one-way system will also be a trial.

In line with the feedback, other measures will remain in place, including the proposal to provide an area wide 20mph speed limit throughout Usk and the prohibition of waiting at any time on Castle Parade between the Usk Traditional Fish and Chips shop and the fire station. The council is also reviewing signage and enforcement of the HGV restrictions through the town.

Cabinet Member for Innovation, Enterprise and Leisure, Councillor Bob Greenland said:  

“COVID19 has presented many challenges that communities across the world have had to come to terms with at speed. With community transmission of the virus under control, we now have the chance to give businesses, particularly retail the chance to re-start but only if traders and customers can comply with the 2 metre social distancing guidelines. Usk – given the nature of Bridge Street – is the hardest challenge in Monmouthshire and if we want the town to have shops we are all going to have to accept some adjustments. We understand why UTC has been keen to try a traffic light system to avoid the introduction of a one way system whereas Monmouthshire County Council believes a one-way system using Bridge Street in one direction and Twyn Square through to New Market Street in the other is the best solution. It is clear that the initial siting of traffic lights has not worked. We are unable to try different configurations for the traffic lights that will resolve the issues experienced. A one way pedestrian system was considered but rejected. These work best in traffic-free streets but rarely elsewhere. There were several issues that ruled it impractical in Usk.

“So we will be removing the current measures and implementing a trial one-way system. We are aiming to introduce this by the end of next week. It is important to emphasise that without change shops will not be able to trade safely and will likely close. This is an outcome that would be devastating for Usk”

Loyal blood donors in Monmouthshire have responded to a request from the Welsh Blood Service to ‘donate differently’ by rolling up their sleeves to make a lifesaving donation at one of the Service’s new regional hubs.

Across Wales, of the 6,808 individuals that visited a Welsh Blood Service donation session in May 63% of donors attended a clinic that was not their usual donation venue.

In Monmouthshire, 1,259 donors came forward to give blood in May, with 248 attending a donation session for the very first time.

Following a series of Covid-19 related venue cancellations and social distancing restrictions, the Welsh Blood Service was unable to host donation sessions at the thirty community venues it would typically visit across Wales each week.

The Service introduced a new collections schedule at the beginning of April which saw collections taken from five regional donation hubs at different locations in Wales each week. Donors were asked to travel to donate at their nearest hub.

Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service, said: “When it became clear we couldn’t continue with business as usual, we knew we’d have to ask donors to donate differently. Our regional donation hubs have replaced our usual local collections programme and the response from donors has been remarkable.

“98.3% of the appointments we’ve made available since lockdown have been taken and many of these appointments have been taken by donors who have been prepared to go even further out of their way than they usually would just to make a potentially lifesaving donation.”

The Service has also observed a sharp rise in the number of new donors coming forward to donate.

Mr Prosser continued: “In May 2019, around 11% of those that attended our donation sessions were new donors. This May, around 19% of our attendance has been people who had never given before.

“We’ve also see a surge in the number of donors who haven’t given in years returning to our sessions to help us boost stocks. It’s been amazing and we’re hugely grateful.”

Blood stocks in Wales have remained healthy throughout the pandemic as the reduced collections activity has mirrored a reduction in the volume of blood used by hospitals. However, the Service is urging donors to continue to attend their local sessions as and when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

“Blood stocks are currently very healthy thanks to the commitment of new and existing donors but we need people to keep giving blood to ensure we can continue to meet hospital demand in the coming months. Travel to donate is considered essential travel and anyone who is fit, well and eligible to donate can book an appointment through the welshblood.org.uk website.”

The regional donation hubs sessions for July in Monmouthshire and surrounding areas are:

  • Caldicot 1st/2nd July
  • Llanyrafon 13th/ 14th July
  • Monmouth 16th/17th July
  • Pontypool 24th July
  • Newport – Christchurch Centre 23rd/ 24th July

(issued on behalf of the Welsh Blood Service)

Monmouthshire County Council has announced the proposed plans for improvements to Church Road in Caldicot. They are intended to address a number of local needs that have been identified by the county council and other local organisations. 

These include managing traffic and parking during school drop-off and pick-up times, reducing traffic speed, improving the environment for local residents to walk and cycle, whilst developing the road into a more attractive and ‘green’ street by introducing more trees, planting and wider footways. These improvements will also enhance the link between the town centre and Caldicot Castle and Country Park.

This project is the outcome of extensive consultation over the past few years where people were asked which areas in Caldicot they would like to see improvements made.

The Church Road proposals form part of the wider regeneration plans for Caldicot Town, and plans are being developed to improve the area for businesses, residents and visitors alike.

In 2018, Caldicot Town was chosen as Monmouthshire’s priority regeneration scheme and forms part of the wider Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) regeneration plan.

The scheme is largely funded by a Welsh Government grant and the council is waiting to hear if the money has been awarded. If the funding is put in place this year, then it is anticipated that work would start early next year, with exact timing to be confirmed in due course.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services said: “I am very hopeful that the Church Road scheme will proceed. It sits well with the improvements to the Cross and helps to link the castle to the town by walking or cycling rather than by car.”

Councillor David Evans, Mayor of Caldicot commented: “The Cross scheme is bringing major improvements to the town centre and this enhances it further. Our focus will then be upon gaining further investment to improve the remainder of the town centre. I very much hope the funding is put in place so that the Church Road scheme can proceed.”

The proposals have already been shared with the residents and businesses of Church Road, as well as Castle Park Primary School representatives.  They are now available for wider public consultation and can be viewed via https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/caldicot-regen/church-road/

Residents and businesses are encouraged to provide feedback via the surveys on the page.

Monmouthshire’s markets will reopen to the public and traders next week.  Abergavenny and Caldicot markets will reopen on Tuesday 30th June with Monmouth’s reopening on Friday 3rd July.

The decision follows guidance from the Welsh Government allowing non-essential businesses to reopen.  Monmouthshire County Council has been working to ensure the markets and outside areas operate in accordance with the latest social distancing and government guidelines to ensure a safe shopping experience for traders and shoppers.

The reopening of the market coincides with the current #shoplocal #shopmonmouthshire message from Monmouthshire County Council, which encourages residents to think of supporting local businesses as lockdown measures begin to ease. Shoppers can expect to see the usual selection of fresh produce, home crafts and locally sourced goods.

In preparation for reopening, all three markets will be subject to cleaning. Communal touchpoints will be cleansed throughout the day and cleaning will be undertaken each evening after the markets close.  The council has emphasised that social distancing must be maintained between stallholders and customers at all times.

Customers will be encouraged to pay for goods by contactless payment.  In addition, people shopping at Abergavenny will have to queue to enter the market hall while applying hand sanitiser, available at the entrance and around the premises.  They will also be required to follow one way walking routes installed by market staff.

Opening days for the markets are as follows:

Abergavenny – Tuesday 30th June, Friday 3rd July (the market is expected to return to a four-day opening from 6th July)

Caldicot – Tuesday 30th June, Saturday 4th July

Monmouth – Friday 3rd July, Saturday 4th July.

Cabinet Member for Resources, Councillor Phil Murphy said: “Market spaces are vibrant hubs in our communities and the role of these spaces stretches far beyond just a place to buy produce.  I know many of our residents will look forward to seeing familiar faces of Monmouthshire’s brilliant traders once again.  We want shoppers to return feeling confident that their safety is the main priority.  It’s wonderful to see these important focal points of our towns returning and we encourage all residents to think of their local butchers, bakers and jewellery makers when next heading into town.”


Thanks to a generous gesture by local firm Gwent Energy, Monmouthshire County Council’s community hub in Chepstow has received a defibrillator which could help save lives in the town.  The defibrillator will be set into an external wall and will be available for use at all times.

Gwent Energy specialises in energy-saving technology and provides the electric vehicle charging point next to the community hub.  Phil Powell of Gwent Energy said: “A few years ago, Gwent Energy CIC installed an electric vehicle charge point next to the community hub in Chepstow, as our area was lacking in charging infrastructure. Funds raised from the use of this charge point help to provide community benefit for Monmouthshire. As all of our community events have understandably been cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were instead presented with the wonderful opportunity to use our community funds to purchase and install an important and potential life-saving kit.”

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for the county’s community hubs added: “We’re very grateful to Gwent Energy for providing a defibrillator at Chepstow Community Hub where it will be conveniently situated for the centre of the town.  We hope we’re never in a position when we have to use it but it’s good to know that if the occasion demands we can help to save a life.”

Meanwhile, a successful application to charity Welsh Hearts, which provides public-access defibrillators, screening for heart conditions and CPR training for the public in Wales, will result in the installation of a similar apparatus at Usk Community Hub in the near future. 

Monnow Street and St John Street in Monmouth will close to vehicles from Thursday 25th of June 2020. The council has carried out an emergency order to ensure people visiting the high street and town centre are safe when shopping and socially distancing. The measures mean vehicles will be prohibited from travelling via the streets, with an exemption for delivery vehicles needing to service the town.

The temporary measures are part of a number of changes to Monmouthshire’s towns and villages, with the aim of supporting local shops and businesses to begin trading safely following the Welsh Government’s recent announcement regarding the reopening of non-essential businesses.

The measures include: temporary speed limits, closures of streets and putting up signage in areas where there is a potential risk to pedestrians who may be socially distancing from passers-by. It’s hoped the changes will encourage the public to make the most of the active transport opportunities available to them by walking, cycling or catching public transport to visit Monmouthshire’s beautiful towns and villages.  The measures have been put in place on a trial basis and the council is seeking constructive feedback from residents and businesses on how the changes are working.

The measures coincide with the council’s new ‘Shop Local, Shop Monmouthshire’ campaign which is supporting businesses to reopen with all the necessary safety measures in place. Banners, social-distancing markers and planters are being used to help return the county’s towns and villages to the vibrant hubs they were before lockdown, however, in the short-term it will be necessary to provide barriers, cones and signage to segregate traffic (pedestrians, cyclists and cars).

Cabinent Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services Jane Pratt said: “These temporary measures are part of Monmouthshire County Council’s wider initiative to support businesses as they begin to reopen after what has been a challenging period. We understand there will be a knock-on affect for people who may be used to driving through the high street but these measures have been implemented with our residents’ safety in mind. We would encourage everyone to reflect on how they travel during this time. If you are able to cycle or walk then it’s a perfect time to enjoy the summer months while doing your bit to help the environment. And don’t forget to Shop Local, Shop Monmouthshire.”

Details of all changes to Monmouthshire’s towns and villages can be found at:

https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/shop-local/changes-in-your-town/?preview=true

Birth registrations in Monmouthshire and across Wales can now re-commence.

As the register office is currently dealing with a backlog of registrations, appointments will be prioritised based on baby’s date of birth – with those who have waited longest being registered first. The register office has started to make appointments for the week beginning 29th June.

Parents whose babies were born before 1st April 2020 are being encouraged to get in touch with us to make an appointment. For babies born on or after 1st April, parents are asked to contact  the register office for more information.

New arrangements have been made for all births within the Gwent area / Aneurin Bevan Health Board. The five local authorities of Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen are working together so that parents can attend their local office to complete the registration and purchase their baby’s birth certificate at that appointment.

New parents will need to attend a register office in person but offices will be minimising this interview time by collecting information beforehand.

Local authority websites are below:-

Contact details Email address Telephone number
Blaenau Gwent Registration Service registrars@blaenau-gwent.gov.uk 01495 353372
Caerphilly Registration Service registrars@caerphilly.gov.uk 01443 864166 or 864170
Monmouthshire Registration Service RegisterOffice@monmouthshire.gov.uk 01873 735435
Newport Registration Service registrar@newport.gov.uk 01633 235510 or 235520
Torfaen Registration Service registrars@torfaen.gov.uk 01495 742132 or 742133

Monmouthshire County Council is introducing a new Request & Collect service for library books in response to restrictions posed by the coronavirus pandemic.  Customers can browse the library service on-line catalogue and use the My Monmouthshire app to choose their preferred books and reserve a time to collect them.  Collections will initially be available from Monmouth and Chepstow Community Hubs.

Staff will quarantine returned books for 72 hours to prevent the spread of coronavirus which means choices may be more limited than usual.  Demand is expected to be high and if people’s preferred titles are unavailable the council’s library team will suggest alternative books from the same genre.

For those unwilling or unable to travel, the hubs’ digital services continue to be available.  E-books and audiobooks are free for library members via the Borrowbox app while the RB Digital apps offer free downloads for a wide range of magazines.

Speaking about the launch of the service, Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for community hubs, Councillor Paul Jordan commented:

“Losing yourself in a book is great way of escaping from all the stresses and strains of the present situation.  For children, reading is essential for their continuing development and education – and a wonderful way to keep them occupied.

“During lockdown the staff that would usually be running the library service have been redeployed, helping with the Monmouthshire County Council response to COVID-19, by supporting vulnerable people and ensuring prompt payments of grants to local businesses while continuing to provide story-telling, short story competitions and other activities on-line.  For many people nothing can replace the enjoyment of reading a physical book and library staff are thrilled that they are once again able to provide a physical book lending service.”

The online Request & Collect booking system opens at noon on Tuesday 23rd June.  Collection appointments will be available from Tuesday 30th June on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Chepstow and Tuesdays and Fridays in Monmouth.

Corovavirus pandemic restrictions mean there will be no access to other services usually available from the buildings – for example, computers, photocopying and toilets.  Residents with any council-related queries can access the My Monmouthshire app, the council’s chatbot Monty or call the Contact Centre on 01633 644644.

More information about the service is available at: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-libraries/

New customers can register for membership online: https://wales.ent.sirsidynix.net.uk/client/en_GB/mmou_en

Residents lacking internet access can access the service by ringing 01633 644644.

Recycling bags are accessible from the following locations: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-bag-outlets/

Monmouthshire County Council has been working to support businesses and help residents feel confident about returning to their town and village centres, as non-essential shops prepare to reopen from Monday 22nd June.

As part of this process the council recently ran a survey to get a clearer picture of how residents felt, what their concerns were, and to ask for ideas and feedback about how the county’s towns and villages might look in the future.

Following these findings and discussions with the Town and Community Councils and the local Monmouthshire Business Forum, the Council is launching ‘Shop Local, Shop Monmouthshire’ today. This campaign celebrates the unique nature of the county’s villages and towns, encourages residents to support independent businesses by shopping locally, and provides businesses with clear guidance about what they need to do in order to reopen.

Cllr Bob Greenland, Cabinet Member for Enterprise and Land Use Planning said: “Independent businesses have faced major challenges since lockdown was announced so we want to give them as much support possible as they work towards reopening. Our website will now have a dedicated section addressing their needs. On the ‘Shop Local, Shop Monmouthshire’ pages they can access essential information and resources that can be downloaded, such as posters, signage. It will also include the information they need to ensure their customers and staff are as safe as possible, such as how to conduct a risk assessment. The information will be updated regularly as legislation changes to ensure that it is beneficial long term as well.”

Monmouthshire County Council is also working with the town and community councils to put measures in place progressively from next week, that will help make residents feel more confident, such as social distancing signage, a 20mph speed limit in key central areas to enable pedestrians and cyclists to feel safer, health and safety measures, and ensuring businesses are aware of what they need to do to be ‘COVID secure’.

The measures being brought in will be tailored to each town. In Abergavenny, Chepstow, Magor and Monmouth there will be a number of noticeable changes, such as stenciled social distancing signage on pavements, barriers, reduced speed limits, and trial road closures or one way systems. In Caldicot, there will be enhanced restrictions within the existing pedestrianised area.  These were decided on collectively by each town council and community council, town by town with Monmouthshire County Council. Consultations with business forums have also taken place.

In Usk, the council will be adopting the town council’s recommendations regarding measures. These include traffic light controls on Bridge Street to create a single carriageway and allow for widened pedestrian areas. In Gilwern and Raglan, there will be minimal changes as a result of the consultation with the community council.

All the measures put in place will be evaluated in real time, and adapted according to how they are received by the community and how effective they are.

Cllr Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services added: “As preparations are made to reopen Monmouthshire’s towns and villages, we want to ensure that this is done as safely as possible.

“We have listened to the feedback from residents who took part in the survey and know that although these initial measures are short-term, they could form the basis of long-term changes and improvements to our towns. It is reassuring that the majority of residents who responded expressed a clear determination to shop locally, so we want to do everything we can to make that as enjoyable and safe as possible. ­­The survey has brought to light many wonderful ideas and useful feedback, including more online shopping opportunities with local businesses, more Active Travel schemes, more outdoor cafes, and socially-distanced events.”

So this is not the end of the process, we will learn quickly and be adapting plans as we go forward, and will improve based on feedback. We would still love to hear residents’ ideas. These can be submitted via our Facebook account or Ask Monty on the council’s website and will be shared with the appropriate town and community councils. We are open to conversations with other town and village communities who may feel they could benefit from some of the measures introduced ­­”

For more information visit www.monmouthshire.gov.uk and click on the Shop Local, Shop Monmouthshire link.

In light of the Welsh First Minister’s announcement today, in which he is advising non-essential retail businesses may reopen from Monday 22nd June, Monmouthshire County Council is stressing the importance of businesses remembering to flush through their water supply thoroughly.

Since lockdown restrictions were put into place on 23rd March, many buildings and sites have been closed for a prolonged period. With hot and cold water systems out of action for several weeks, the chances of bacteria forming which can cause Legionnaires’ disease – a potentially fatal type of pneumonia – are much greater.

Standing water is any water which has been held in pipes or storage tanks for longer than 24 hours. It can result in the water in internal plumbing systems becoming warmer, microbiological growth (such as bacteria) in the water and an increase in plumbing metals seeping into the water.

“It is vital that businesses take this seriously,” said Councillor Penny Jones Cabinet Member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health. “As preparations are being made for reopening, water isn’t necessarily the thing on everyone’s mind. But, the risk of exposing yourself and customers to bacteria, even Legionnaires’ disease is very real.

“All hot and cold water systems need to be considered, including those at: retail outlets; hairdressers; beauty salons; offices; hotels; gyms; sports clubs; golf clubs; hotels; pubs; clubs; restaurants; camp sites; volunteer-run premises and anywhere that has a water supply which is currently shut down or is experiencing restricted use. Under health and safety law, employers, business owners and landlords must manage the risks of exposure to Legionella bacteria. So, I am asking all business premises to please familiarise themselves with Welsh Water’s advice and follow the very straightforward measures recommended.” said Councillor Jones.

For a step-by-step guide to ensuring your business’ water supply is safe follow the steps advised here: https://www.dwrcymru.com/en/Business/Covid19-Impact/How-to-restore-your-drinking-water-system.aspx

If businesses would like additional advice contact Environmental Health on 01873 735420.

Proposed plans for the multi-million pound redevelopment of Caldicot Leisure Centre have been unveiled by MonLife, Monmouthshire County Council’s provider of leisure, tourism and cultural services.

MonLife has revealed its plans on a dedicated website – www.monlifeleisuredevelopment.co.uk – which also encourages residents to participate in consultation for the proposed development

The proposal follows the successful completion of the project at Monmouth Leisure Centre, completed in 2019. It also reinforces the commitment by MonLife to invest in initiatives which will benefit the health and wellbeing of the community, not only now but also for future generations.

The proposed new facilities will include a children’s adventure play area, extended fitness suite, a power-assisted exercise studio, a spin studio, fitness changing rooms, a studio/community room, a changing village for the pool and outdoor changing facilities.  In addition, plans are in the pipeline for a café, new reception area, viewing for the pool, new skatepark, additional parking spaces and refurbishment for the swimming pool.

Councillor Richard John, cabinet member with responsibility for MonLife said: “Monmouthshire’s elected members 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, not only now, but also for our future generations.”

Residents will be invited to voice their opinions on the scheme by completing an online survey and signing up for regular updates by visiting: www.monlifeleisuredevelopment.co.uk.  They will subsequently be entered into a prize draw for a chance of winning a MonActive annual membership worth £335 or a Fitbit Charge 4 fitness tracker.  Two winners will be drawn on Monday 3rd August 2020 and contacted via email.


Anti-litter campaigners and Monmouthshire’s recycling and waste staff have appealed to residents for help to counter the increasing amount of litter left on the banks of the River Wye at Monmouth.  Groups of people congregating on the riverside have left huge quantities of cans as well as plastic and glass bottles on a regular basis.

Volunteer litter pickers have cleared the site but struggle to cope with the amount of rubbish abandoned.  The council has offered further help to the volunteers.

Local anti-litter campaigner Emma Bryn said: “We are so lucky to live in such a stunningly beautiful part of the country, which we share with some amazing wildlife. Littering here is thoughtless on so many levels.  We are very privileged to live and enjoy this incredible area and so ask that anyone taking bottles and cans to any location, including this beautiful riverside spot, should take their empties home and recycle them.”

Councillor Jane Pratt, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for recycling and waste added: “Despite the phenomenal response to the issue of plastics in our oceans raised in the BBC series The Blue Planet, we hear that local volunteers are struggling to cope with the amount of litter on our river banks.  Such littering is particularly damaging to the environment as it can easily enter the river and ultimately the sea where it will cause significant harm.  Please remember that this is your environment, please respect it and keep it beautiful by taking your litter home.” For further information log onto https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/dogfouling/

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 Monmouthshire County Council has submitted a bid for a new railway station in Magor, together with the Magor Action Group on Rail (MAGOR) local community group. The bid for a walkway station – a station accessed by the local population primarily via walking and cycling – has been made to the Department for Transport’s New Station Fund and aims to provide improved and sustainable accessibility to key destinations for residents of Magor with Undy. 

 Population expansion in the area and employment growth in Cardiff and Bristol have led to an increased demand for public transport.  The proposed station would be served by hourly trains to both cities as well as Newport, Chepstow, Gloucester and Cheltenham.

 The entire population of Magor with Undy, expected to rise to 10,000 over the next few years, is within one mile of the preferred site for the station, which presents an opportunity to open a unique community-engaged and integrated walkway station, adjacent to a planned community centre.

 The proposed facility will include features normally associated with modern stations such as cycle parking, LED lighting and CCTV as well as bus stop and waiting facilities with first-rate pedestrian access. 

 Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Councillor Peter Fox said: “The return of railway travel for Magor with Undy after many years will be welcomed by the community and will offer many benefits.  It will bring employment, retail, healthcare, education and leisure opportunities closer for residents and reduce traffic growth on congested local roads.  It will significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from transport and promote sustainable integrated travel. The council and MAGOR have previously applied for funding from the New Station Fund, and while we received very positive feedback from the DfT, we were unsuccessful as other proposals were further advanced. With more investigative work having being done and a stronger case, we are hopeful that this time it may be successful.”

MAGOR’s Ted Hand added: “The Magor with Undy Walkway Station concept is unique. A station that will do what it will say on the station sign – a walk/cycle/public transport accessible station. As far as we can ascertain, it would be the first dedicated walkway station to open in 100 years and a first for Monmouthshire, Wales and the UK in recent years. It will be a case of back to the future for our community.  Hopefully, it will be the first of many of this type of station to open in the UK – stations that are specifically designed to reduce pollution, integrate public transport and get people active. All these elements will be essential to address climate change. The aim is also to provide a much needed holistic and integrated solution to public transport in Severnside, joining up the bus services and having a park and ride station at Severn Tunnel Junction, together with a walk and cycle to Magor with Undy Walkway Station.”

Contact Monmouthshire’s Transport Planning and Policy Officer, Christian Schmidt – ChristianSchmidt@monmouthshire.gov.uk – for further details.

“If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together”

This captures some interesting dilemmas for us as we look to our future. Our initial COVID response has been very fast and very effective. We have taken command of our own destiny, taken advantage of our own talents and abilities whilst ‘selfishly’ focusing on our place and our people. We have been focussed and relentless for 12 weeks and hammered along with our Plan on a Page. We have shut down / shut out many long meetings that have, in part, characterised our organisation and replaced them with evidence, analysis and a need for action.


Our purpose has been to do whatever it takes to protect life. There have been no reported deaths in our county for 8 days and only 1 new reported case in the last 4 days. Progress is being made.
This week we have opened our council run post-office in Usk, we have committed to take over the food parcel scheme for shielded people from Wales Government, we are likely to enable people to join our green waste scheme and we will be building a click / collect approach to the issue of library books.


All of our schools are putting in place arrangements that will enable children to return to their schools in a couple of weeks time and we are building plans to safely re-open all of our town centres as soon as Wales Government give the green light. We are doing our ‘travel alone’ stuff ever so well.


We now move into our next stage. All of the above needs to continue as we build a better picture of the next three months. Social distancing will remain with us, distance restrictions on travel are unlikely to be relaxed, there will not be a vaccine and we have to avoid that R number edging back towards 1. But we have to live and we have to get ready for a new environment.


Many residents of Monmouthshire will lose their job and with that their income and stability. Many more will be fearful and anxious of returning to public spaces. It’s likely that many will have lost fitness, missed scheduled medical procedures, be claiming benefits for the first time in their lives and will be worrying about how they meet their mortgage / rent whilst feeding their families. At the same time there will be others that have actually saved money, reduced their outgoings and taken advantage of the opportunities afforded by quieter times. Thousands have been volunteering and been neighbourly and new friendships will have formed. The social web and inter-connectedness of our people has become even more complex and it’s this space that we are now drawn towards. New challenges to us, new asks of us and many will require us to ‘travel with others’ to make the impact we need to make.


We have a rich history of being a great partner and these skills will need to return now because we have to make sense of a challenging social picture and satisfy ourselves that we have the right support arrangements available for those that need them. I am seeing third parties starting to re-establish overly complicated governance mechanisms – we are going to need to get our voice heard but we haven’t got time to live in these places.
So as a Strategic Leadership Team and at Cabinet level we are starting to think about all this stuff and will be codifying a new plan over the next couple of weeks. It will have to be flexible but I think it will be more focussed on supporting people who have gone through the toughest of times rather than protecting life. It will be about helping people to feel safe in their local communities and it will fan the flames of social action and volunteering. To deliver we are going to have to hold onto our flexibility and trust in each other. 


To conclude I have a picture of one of our new volunteers. Meet Leo. Leo has been helping Ian Blomeley who is one of our colleagues working in Countryside / Green Infrastructure to check out the condition of of footpath network. Those little legs have covered some miles but I think he’s enjoyed it. Thanks Ian and the team – our footpath network is a phenomenal asset but like everything else it needs care and attention. Let’s hope we all get to use it more in the months ahead. It would be a shame if Leo’s efforts aren’t put to good use.


Monmouthshire County Council has announced that as of Wednesday 10th June, it is reopening its applications service for garden waste permits. Collections restarted last month and now the backlog has been cleared the service can be accessed by those who need to renew their permit or the request one for the first time.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, said, “We’re pleased to be able to offer this service to more residents and we’re expecting a lot of applications. Therefore, please allow 14 days for the permit to arrive. If you require a garden waste bag you’ll need to email contact@monmouthshire.gov.uk or phone the contact centre on 01633 644644. We appreciate that there are many residents who have been waiting for this news, and would like to thank them for their patience while we have been working to get as many services operating again as possible.”

To apply for a garden waste permit visit www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/garden-waste