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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Councillor Mat Feakins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monmouthshire County Council / Cyngor Sir Fynwy

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

Monmouth / Sir Fynwy

Thursday 6 May 2021 / Dydd Lau 6 Mai 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infuse Programme Manager, Owen Wilce, said:

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

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

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

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

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

When is my collection day?

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

Our offices will be Closed on Monday 3rd May

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

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

Fortnightly refuse collection calendar for 2021

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

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

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

Tintern will still be accessible via the diversion route below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The closure points will be as follows:

North End closure: Trelleck Road junction.

South End closure: Royal George junction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to view our Community Renewal Fund Webinar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further announcements will made in due course.

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

Friday, 9 April 2021Monmouthshire County CouncilMonmouthshire County Council

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

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

Further announcements will made in due course.

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

Friday, 9 April 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recycling & Waste

Good Friday: Collections as normal

Easter Monday: No collections ​

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

For more information:

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

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

Recycling Centres are open as normal over Easter.

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

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

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

And will reopen on Wednesday 07/04 at 9 am

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

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

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

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

0345 677 2277

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•       Gilwern – Monday (10am to 12.30pm)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: FreePik.com

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

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

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

The closure points will be as follows:

North End closure: Trelleck Road junction.

South End closure: Royal George junction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monmouthshire County Council’s Biodiversity Champion, Councillor Richard John said: “Our Nature Isn’t Neat approach to mowing allows us to create new habitats for pollinating insects and help increase their numbers throughout the county, while adding to the area’s natural beauty and promoting a wider range of flora and fauna. We are encouraging residents to embrace this and maybe adopt some of the principles at home too.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The funding will secure the following projects in Monmouthshire:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the major investments agreed by council today are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working together to deliver a successful Census 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business photo created by jcomp – www.freepik.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new charge points in Monmouthshire can be found at:

·       Trinity Terrace car park, Abergavenny

·       Woodstock Way car park, Caldicot

·       Castle Dell car park, Chepstow

·       Glendower Street car park, Monmouth

·       Maryport Street South car park, Usk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

23rd February 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Wear appropriate face coverings

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

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

Welsh Government guidance on face coverings

  • Wakes are not currently allowed

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

  • Maintain social distancing at all times

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

  • Hands, face, space

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

  • Visiting a grave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monmouthshire County Council launched its budget proposals for 2021-2022 on Wednesday 20th January. The proposals have been set after an unprecedented year that has brought with it unavoidable pressures, most notably including the pandemic and repeated flooding incidents. Whilst the council presses the Welsh Government to continue its full funding of COVID related costs and income losses through this year and next, the council is facing £10.1m of unavoidable service pressures that continue to bear heavily on the Council’s finances.  These service pressures continue to result from increased demands in supporting looked after children, vulnerable adults and children with additional learning needs.  In accommodating these pressures this demonstrates the continued investment the Council is making in frontline services and in line with its priorities.

Councillor Peter Fox OBE, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council said: “The past year has been very challenging, and the next 12 months will continue to be so for a number of reasons. After several years of making significant savings, the means of achieving further savings becomes increasingly more challenging. This situation has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the serious flooding incidents, which have required emergency response and the need to ensure vital services are delivered effectively in difficult circumstances. This year’s budget proposals need to accommodate £10.1m of pressures on services. Having to address this significant level of pressure, we have been careful and thoughtful in putting together a funding package that seeks to minimise and in most cases prevent any impact on key services areas.

“The budget proposals are now available to view on our website and I would encourage everyone to send in their thoughts and feedback via the online form, which can be found alongside the proposals on the website. In addition, we are hosting a webinar on Wednesday 27th January, which will be an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback in a live online setting. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic our traditional face-to-face engagement sessions are not possible this year, so we are doing everything we can to reach out in other COVID-safe ways,” said Councillor Fox.

Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said: “We are pleased that Welsh Government has acknowledged the difficulties of the past year and for the first time in many years we have received an above average increase in our settlement (3.9%, against an average increase of 3.8% across Wales). However, Monmouthshire still receives the least funding per head of population (£1,067) compared to the rest of Wales (average £1,471), which has led us into having to propose a 4.95% council increase for next year.

“We are making use of our limited reserves and capital receipts to assist the budget, and proposing a package of savings coming forwards, which covers decisions made already over the course of the past year. These include the increase in charge for green garden waste collections, the introduction of reusable recycling bags and reduction of landfill, all of which contributes to a saving of £685,000. In addition, the previously announced closure of Mounton House school will result in a saving of £1.258m. The closure of this building has not resulted in a withdrawal of service and alternative provision has been provided and supported by significant investment in an in-county model that sees children supported in mainstream schools whenever possible.

“However, even with these savings we still have significant pressures to address and are proposing an increase in council tax of 4.95% and introducing some new charges and to increase fees and charges in a number of areas in line with inflation, the details of which will be available on our website. The council tax reduction scheme, which offers mitigation for those on low incomes and those in receipt of benefits, will still be in place. Single person households are also eligible for a 25% reduction on council tax. Charges for domiciliary and residential care are also means tested and capped to mitigate the impact of those on the lowest incomes.

“The Council continues to lead by example in committing to paying its lowest paid staff in line with the Real Living Wage set by the Living Wage Foundation.” said Councillor Murphy.

“Previous years’ budgets have seen frontline services facing notable reductions, however this is not the case this year. We will continue to work hard to protect frontline service areas and tackle key issues that impact on our communities” said Councillor Murphy.

Residents are invited to register for a special budget livestream that will take place at 6pm on Wednesday 27th January. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the face-to-face budget engagement that would normally take place would not be appropriate at this time, so the process is moving online. Register to take part via the council’s website and an email will be sent with a link to join the event . For those unable to join the livestream, the session will be uploaded to the website to watch after the event.

As part of the consultation process, which is open until 17th February 2021, residents are also being asked to share their thoughts a feedback survey on the budget proposals, which can be found alongside all the proposals at monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2021-2022.

Monmouthshire County Council would like to hear from businesses who may be unsure of what funding they could be eligible for, and which grants are available for their sector. Business owners are being encouraged to register for a free hour-long Business Forum event on Thursday 28th January. There are two sessions available to choose from, at either end of the business day: 8.30am and 5.30pm.

Following the restrictions placed upon businesses as a result of the pandemic, there have been various grant schemes launched by Welsh Government to try and help those that have been severely impacted by closures and resulting loss of takings. The online Q&A sessions run by the council are designed to clarify the schemes and to answer questions raised by business owners across the county.

To join in businesses will need to register their interest via a short form on the website: monmouthshire.gov.uk/business-advice. A link to join the meeting via Microsoft Teams will be emailed to businesses who respond.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council said: “After what has been a difficult year and after the launch of a range of business funding schemes, I appreciate that there may be confusion about which grant schemes may be relevant to specific businesses, which funding pots are open, which are closed, and how to apply. This can only add to the stress already being felt by business owners. This is something we would like to address by speaking with businesses directly, albeit in a virtual online setting. I would encourage any business that has questions or would like advice to register for one of the sessions taking place on the 28th January.

“Our business team has been working hard to get funding out to eligible businesses who have already applied for a grant but there are many more businesses that won’t have applied yet. This is a serious concern and I would stress the importance of exploring what support is available by visiting the business advice section of our website.”

“I hope that through these virtual events we are able to reach as many of Monmouthshire’s businesses as possible and offer support. Their survival is key to our county to be able to recover once this pandemic has eventually passed,” concluded Cllr. Greenland.

For more information about business support and to register for the livestream Q&A, visit Monmouthshire.gov.uk/business-advice

REGISTER your interest for the live business webinar here

Homes and businesses in Monmouthshire’s Llanthony Valley and the adjoining Vale of Ewyas will receive improved internet connections over the next 14 months thanks to a grant awarded to the county council from the Welsh Government’s Local Broadband Fund.

The project will enable the area’s communities to connect to a new mixed fibre-optic and wireless gigabit-capable network.  All residents who choose to connect to the network will receive internet connections with minimum download speeds of 50 Mbps. The new network will be carrier-grade and will enable the future improvement of the area’s mobile phone connectivity.

While the Llanthony Valley is one of the most beautiful and historically significant parts of the county it has also been one of the most poorly connected – existing internet speeds are slow and there is little mobile phone coverage.  Of its 122 premises, 30% are businesses – mostly agricultural or tourism – and the new broadband provision will provide a massive boost to residents, visitors and local enterprise.

Following the award of the grant by the Welsh Government the next scheme’s step is the appointment of a supplier. Plans to finalise the network are likely to be complete by the spring and the first connections are scheduled for early in the summer.  While no date has been set for completion, final connections are expected by March 2022 – the end of the 2021/22 financial year.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community development, Councillor Sara Jones said: “I’m delighted for the communities of the Llanthony Valley and the Vale of Ewyas and very grateful for this grant funding.  Without it, the delivery of better internet by commercial providers would have been unlikely due to the area’s challenging topography.  While poor connectivity has existed for some time the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic have highlighted its negative effects, so the award is timely and marvellous news for the area’s residents, tourists and businesses.”

·         For more information on the Welsh Government’s local broadband scheme, log onto: https://gov.wales/local-broadband-fund

Monmouthshire’s community hubs have remained open throughout the period of the current Welsh Government Alert Level 4 restrictions to provide essential services, advice and support.  The role of the council’s community hubs, based in Abergavenny, Caldicot, Gilwern, Monmouth, Chepstow and Usk, is more important than ever during the pandemic to ensure the county’s communities remain connected and supported, either through the council or its partner agencies.

Community hubs bring together council, library and adult learning services to create a single point of access for the county’s residents.  While face-to-face adult learning services and many library amenities are currently suspended, the six community hubs are still open for essential council business, advice, online courses and Request & Collect library books as well as a post office counter in Usk.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for the council’s community hubs said: “Our community hubs provide the public with a vital and close link to the general business of the council as well as delivering important information and assistance.  While the pandemic continues, they act as an aid to maintaining peoples’ mental health by offering means of support.”

Access to all community hubs is subject to strict observance of social distancing measures to minimise the spread of the Covid-19 virus but residents can also use online facilities, the telephone or email to receive services.

For more information, as well as contact details, on Monmouthshire’s community hubs, log onto: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-and-libraries/ or visit the community hubs’ Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MonHubs

Residents are being urged to make use of a wide network of help and support on offer by Monmouthshire County Council and its partners. The support comes as Wales enters a fifth week of lockdown measures, with millions of people across the UK staying at home. The Community and Partnership Development team are reminding residents they are on hand to help anyone who may be experiencing issues from accessing food and essential items to those who may be seeking support for their mental and physical health.

The Community and Partnership Development team, along with key partners, have already played a pivotal role in the COVID-19 response. During the first national lockdown in March 2020, they helped bring together an army of volunteers to support Monmouthshire’s most vulnerable residents and people needing to shield. In recent weeks, with the severity of the pandemic increasing and the heightened risks of a new strain of the virus, the need to help people who may be vulnerable or those without a support network is paramount.

It is hoped residents experiencing any sort of issue will contact the team in order for a suitable mechanism of support to be identified to suit their needs. Collaborative working with key partners including GAVO, Mind Monmouthshire and Monmouthshire’s housing service means they are able to offer support such as access to food and prescriptions, telephone befrienders, pen pals, a supported online shopping service, help with using digital devices to connect with family or others, wellbeing opportunities and support with mental health.  The team will work with individuals to explore the best options and have already helped over 1,200 residents since the start of 2020. 

Cabinet Member for Community Development and Social Justice, Councillor Sara Jones said: “Our communities have remained resilient through these difficult times but we know there are many people facing challenging circumstances. With the significant impact on our economy and many people facing job losses, we want to remind people that they do not need to struggle in silence. Our colleagues are ready and waiting to help people whether it be accessing foodbanks, support with mental health or even if someone is unable to pick up prescriptions while we are in lockdown.

“Collaborative working with this wide network of organisations allows us to ensure a person has the correct help and expertise required to support their needs. I would like to thank our partners and our Community and Partnerships team for continuing to go above and beyond in what’s been the most challenging period in a generation.”

Anyone wishing to access help and support is asked to contact: partnerships@monmouthshire.gov.uk or call 01633 644 696

The Welsh Government has recently announced the launch of the Economic Resilience Fund (ERF) Sector Specific Support (operating cost) package. Applications for this scheme opened at midday on 13th January 2021 and will remain open for two weeks or until funds are fully committed.

This latest funding stream is specifically aimed at businesses in the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors, including businesses supplying those sectors that are experiencing a reduction of 60% or more of their turnover as a result of the restrictions introduced on 4th December 2020, until 22nd January 2021.

The ERF Sector Specific Support fund complements other COVID-19 response measures to support businesses, social enterprises and charitable organisations in Wales – including the NDR (Non-Domestic Rates) grants that are also available.

Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Councillor Bob Greenland said: “I would encourage all Monmouthshire businesses that fall into the remit of this scheme – hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors – to apply immediately. It’s anticipated that a high number of businesses will apply and there is a finite amount of money within this scheme, so time is of the essence – apply now. Thankfully, this latest grant does not preclude eligible businesses in this hard-hit sector also applying for the Restrictions Fund NDR grants. Local businesses are struggling more than ever before, having had to close down at what was, for many, the busiest time of year. I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of getting online and registering. These grants could provide a lifeline, certainly for the immediate future.”

Businesses eligible for the Restrictions Fund NDR grant (excluding the Discretionary grant) can also apply for the ERF Sector Specific grant. More information about the COVID-19 ERF Sector Specific grant and its eligibility checker can be found at: https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/sectorspecificgrant/ 

The scheme, unlike many of the other grants, is being administered by Welsh Government. It is recommended that businesses applying for this latest grant should also consider the Job Retention Scheme (also known as the Furlough Scheme) which now covers more employees and has been extended to April 2021.

Monmouthshire’s businesses affected by additional Covid-related restrictions are eligible for a Welsh Government grant that will offer cash flow support during the current pandemic.  The Welsh Government’s Restrictions Business Fund is aimed at supporting businesses that operate within the hospitality, tourism, leisure sectors, or their supply chain and non-essential retailers that have been affected by the latest restrictions that came into force on 4th December and 20th December 2020.

Eligible businesses that received a payment under the previous Firebreak Lockdown Non Domestic Rate grant scheme will already have received an additional automatic payment of either £3,000 or £5,000.  Businesses that have not received the automatic payment or did not previously apply for the Firebreak Lockdown NDR grant can access the new scheme by completing a short application on the council’s web page – www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/business-advice/.  Businesses with a rateable value of between £51,000 and £150,000 operating in the hospitality, tourism, leisure, or their supply chain and non-essential retail sectors may also be eligible for a Restrictions Business Fund NDR grant.

These grants are currently only available to businesses that are liable for business rates on a property in Monmouthshire.  A scheme to assist Monmouthshire businesses that are not liable for business rates will be launched shortly.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Enterprise, Councillor Bob Greenland said: “We recognise the anxiety in the local business community following the latest lockdown which is why the council has already paid out £2.1m under this latest grant scheme.  Meanwhile, I urge businesses that believe they are eligible for the Restrictions Business Fund to study the criteria on our business advice web page and apply for a grant as soon as possible.”

Further information on the Restrictions Business Fund is available by contacting BusinessSupportGrants@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Monmouthshire and Newport Local Nature Partnership has been established to build on the successful work of the previous Newport Biodiversity Partnership and extended coverage of coordinated action for nature to include the neighbouring county of Monmouthshire. Moving to a single, joint-authority Partnership will deliver projects and share expertise to promote action for nature and will allow the partnership to work at a larger than county scale and deliver more for wildlife and people.

The Monmouthshire and Newport LNP will carry out informed and targeted local nature recovery action to deliver multiple benefits including contributing to well-being objectives and supporting a Green Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by providing expert advice and support and ensuring the best action is carried out in suitable locations to provide multiple benefits for people and wildlife.

The partnership has been strengthened by the Local Nature Partnership (LNP) Cymru project which is a nationwide network of partnerships covering every local authority and National Park Authorities in Wales, collectively constituting the LNP Cymru network.  The project is funded by Welsh Government via the Enabling Natural Resources and Wellbeing Grant (ENRAW) which started in 2019 and will run until 2022.

The Monmouthshire and Newport LNP includes a broad range of partners including statutory bodies, public bodies, environmental charities, friends of and community groups, academics, wildlife recorders and interested members of the public.  The partnership also works in alignment with the regional Area Statement and the Natural Resources Wales people and places teams.

The role of the LNP Coordinator (Sali Palmer) and Support Coordinator (Lucy Arnold-Matthews) is to establish local priorities for action and compile a Local Nature Recover Action Plan (NRAP). The partnerships input in to other strategies and plans and will run events and activities raise awareness, highlight locally distinct nature based culture and participation in citizen science projects. 

The LNP has already supported a project at Barrack Hill Site of Importance for Nature Conservation to restore the grassland and woodland at the site which will enhance the area’s ability to support nature recovery. There has been increased active conservation management, communication and engagement with local residents. Local residents will have better accessibility to well-managed, high quality natural green space which improves and supports health and well-being.

In Monmouthshire, the LNP have supported the Neglected Grasslands project restoring grasslands in three publicly accessible sites in Abergavenny, which have become even more important to the local communities during the recent coronavirus crisis.

Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Councillor Richard John said: “I’m delighted to announce this collaborative venture aimed at protecting one of our most important assets – nature. We have a wealth of beautiful wildlife across Gwent which helps our county thrive. This initiative is just another excellent piece of work ongoing in Monmouthshire to protect our natural environment, to ensure we can continue enjoying the benefits it creates for generations to come.”

Cllr Roger Jeavons, deputy leader of Newport City Council, said “We’re pleased to be partnering with our neighbours in Monmouthshire on this exciting project. The new local nature partnership allows us to expand our biodiversity work, and will deliver wider benefits for wildlife and people within our two counties.”

A new bus service between Chepstow and Bristol launched this week will provide a vital link for commuter, social and student journeys.  The T7 Traws Hafren service operated by Newport Bus started on Monday 4th January and will run from Chepstow to Bristol’s city centre via the Cribbs Causeway shopping centre on a regular basis, seven days a week.  Additional early morning and evening services will connect Magor and Caldicot.

Following the withdrawal of the X7 service in June 2020, Monmouthshire County Council and the Welsh Government launched a trial Traws Hafren service and the route was put to tender in the autumn to ensure long-term continuity of this important link between South Wales and Bristol.  The contract awarded to Newport Bus runs for five years – a significant investment by the Welsh Government.

Tickets will be available when boarding the bus and via the TrawsCymru app.  Pre-booking of seats is to be integrated into the app and fares will remain the same, offering outstanding value especially for those commuting regularly.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for public transport, Councillor Jane Pratt said: “This is a significant regional service that offers crucial access for those travelling to work, for education or providing services as well as boosting tourism and linking friends and families.  We are extremely grateful to the Welsh Government for investing in this vital strategic service.”

Scott Pearson, Managing Director for Newport Transport added: “We’re excited to have been chosen to run the new T7 service. This is the first TrawsCymru service that the company has operated, and so we look forward to developing this service into the best it can be for our customers. This is a big milestone for Newport Bus and we hope to demonstrate our worth to assist improving the TrawsCymru network.”

Timetable and ticket price information is available from the Newport Bus website: www.newportbus.co.uk/traws-hafren-t7-route

People living in Monmouthshire are being urged to consider fostering in 2021. The council’s recruitment call comes after a difficult year, with the impact of widespread job losses and many people revaluating their careers.

The council’s fostering team are calling on anyone who might be looking try something new and who can offer a safe and loving home for the county’s most vulnerable children and young people to get in contact. Recruitment of foster carers has remained one of the council’s top priorities throughout the pandemic, with the ongoing need for children who are looked after to be placed with local families.

Monmouthshire’s foster care team are looking to hear from people from a range of backgrounds who are able to offer a home to children and young people of all different ages and needs. The council is specifically seeking people who can look after teenagers, therapeutic carers, respite carers, emergency carers, sibling groups and children with additional needs. Most importantly, the team are looking for people who can be positive role models and give a child or young person support, encouragement, a sense of belonging and make sure they feel safe and secure.

Successful applicants will be offered local support and training to complement the high standards of care provided by the county’s foster carers. There is also a fostering allowance to cover the costs of looking after a child.

The impact of COVID-19 has meant Monmouthshire’s foster care team have had to recruit differently. This has seen the team offering virtual meetings and chats, with online ‘Foster Five’ sessions being held for anyone wanting to find out more about fostering with the council. It is hoped the new recruitment offers, such as the virtual home visits, will encourage more prospective foster carers to get in contact to begin their fostering journey.

Cabinet Member for Safeguarding, Social Care and Health, Cllr Penny Jones said: “Following one of the most challenging years in a generation, our call for kind and caring people to consider fostering with Monmouthshire couldn’t be more important. If you’re someone who might be looking for a career change and are wanting to do something rewarding, you will not only change your life but also the lives of our children and young people who desperately need a safe home. I would urge anyone who might be thinking of fostering to pick up the phone to find out if it could be for you.”

For further details text Foster to 60060, visit Monmouthshire.gov.uk/fostering, email foster@monmouthshire.gov.uk or telephone 01873 735950.

It was welcome news to find that the Council has received confirmation from Welsh Government that it will receive a 3.9% increase in its core funding next year, ahead of the 3.8% average for Wales and where councils across Wales had settlements ranging from increases of between 2.0% and 5.6%.  This goes some way in allowing the Council to accommodate a range of significant non-COVID pressures affecting Council services next year and to lessen the need for the Council to draw on its limited one-off reserves to support the budget.

Councillor Peter Fox, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council said: “I am pleased that the role of local government in this extraordinary year has been recognised by Welsh Government.  The Council’s services continue to be under continued and increasing pressure, even beyond the cost increases and income shortfalls resulting from the pandemic.  The above average increase will at the very least give the Council some additional flexibility to respond to the unprecedented strain on the Council’s finances and the choices it makes when setting the budget for next year. 

Alongside the settlement announcement and the COVID funding that the Council has successfully claimed this year already there has been and will be significant consequences from UK Government funding announcements, some of which remains to be allocated within the Welsh Government’s budget. It is important that the real pressures in local government are addressed and we will continue to make this case with Ministers during the coming weeks.  Without such funding the Council will again be left in a position of having to take hard and difficult decisions and regardless of the good news offered by the provisional settlement.”

Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said: “The provisional settlement has offered a potential lifeline to the Council and in avoiding it needing to make difficult, immediate and short-term decisions that would impact on its frontline services. Whilst it is understandable given the global and national economic uncertainty that UK Government has only allowed Welsh Government to provide a one-year funding outlook this will continue to make medium-term financial planning difficult. 

“We hope that this above average increase is not short lived and given that the Council has historically and to date been the worst funded Council in Wales.  In fact the Council remains firmly rooted to the bottom of the table for the amount of funding per capita it receives from Welsh Government ”

The Council’s draft budget proposals will be considered by its Cabinet at a meeting on the 20th January 2021 and will then be released for public consultation.  Given the current pandemic and the restrictions that will continue into the New Year the Council will be looking to engage with key stakeholders and the public through its website and virtual budget consultation events.  Further information will be provided on the Council’s website in the New Year.      

Our Offices will be open as follows over the Christmas period

Thursday 24th December (Christmas Eve)Open until 4pm
Friday 25th December (Christmas Day)Closed
Monday 28th December (Bank Holiday)Closed
Tuesday 29th DecemberClosed
Wednesday 30th DecemberOpen
Thursday 31st DecemberOpen
Friday 1st January (New Year’s Day)Closed

If you have an Urgent Enquiry during the Office closures please telephone 0300 123 1055

Refuse Collections

There will be no collections on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, or New Year’s Day.

Changes to the usual collection days over the period are listed below:

Collection dueActual collection day
Thursday 24th December (Christmas Eve)Thursday 24th December
Friday 25th December (Christmas Day)Sunday 27th December
Monday 28th December (Bank Holiday)Tuesday 29th December
Tuesday 29th DecemberWednesday 30th December
Wednesday 30th DecemberThursday 31st December
Thursday 31st DecemberSaturday 2nd January
Friday 1st January (New Year’s Day)Sunday 3rd January

Please ensure that all waste is placed out before 7am for collection.

Monmouthshire County Council welcomes the recommendations of the South East Wales Transport Commission Final Report and in particular the proposed marked changes for improvements to rail and bus services as essential alternatives to the M4 Newport relief road, which the Welsh Government has previously rejected.  The council also supports the quick win measures proposed for improving Active Travel and integrated ticketing, as well as the medium and longer term recommendations for upgrading the county’s stations and bus services .

The proposal for improved public transport facilitated by an access off the M48 to the Severn Tunnel Junction, along with an upgrade of Chepstow and a new station at Magor, will offer a viable and real alternative to the car as a means of travel for residents of Monmouthshire.

Monmouthshire County Council would however also like consideration to be given to the wider potential benefits of the proposed M48 access for the Severnside area, for example by reducing traffic levels on the B4245. It would like to see a separate but concurrent transport study be carried out for this area at the same time as the assessment and outline design of the new motorway junction.

Cabinet Member County Councillor Jane Pratt commented: “The council has been fully engaged with the work of the commission and is very excited about the transport improvements recommended within the report. The council’s Strategic Transport Steering Group has long been debating the idea of improvements to our bus and train services throughout the county and in addition Active Travel has been at the heart of our plans for encouraging residents to take up cycling and walking as part of their commute and travel to local facilities. These radical plans are to be welcomed as they support climate challenges and offer of healthier living and lifestyle for our community. We look forward to working with Welsh Government and becoming a member of the Burns commission development unit.”

ENDS

Businesses directly impacted by the restrictions put into place on 4th December by the Welsh Government to help control the spread of COVID-19 are being encouraged to look into the latest grant scheme that has been announced. The Restrictions Business Fund, which was launched at 10.00am on Wednesday 16th December and will be administered by Monmouthshire County Council, is designed to support businesses by providing cash flow and help them weather this challenging period. The grant seeks to complement the other schemes previously announced, to support businesses, charitable organisations and social enterprises (businesses that reinvest any profits for a social purpose, such as the benefit of a local community).

The reach of the Restrictions Business Fund covers hospitality businesses, which have been significantly impacted by the latest measures. This includes pubs, restaurants, cafés, bars, wine bars, hotels, cinemas, theatres, music venues and indoor play areas. It also supports those in the supply chains for hospitality businesses, as well as tourism and leisure, and their supply chains.

The fund consists of two separate grants: The Restrictions Business Fund Non Domestic Rate Grant and the Restrictions Business Fund Discretionary Grant. Businesses cannot apply for both grants.  If a business has a rates number they should apply for the Non Domestic Rate Grant (NDR), while those who do not have a number and do not pay business rates can apply for the Discretionary Grant.

If a hospitality business has already received an NDR grant under the recent Firebreak business fund they do not need to apply for this grant.  A payment will be made automatically using the information supplied in their original Firebreak application.

However, for businesses who did not receive this grant it is vital that they register, as payment will not automatically be made. This can be done via www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/restrictions-business-fund

vi Businesses will need to complete a short application form.  Hospitality businesses will need to confirm that they have been forced to close and tourism, leisure and retail businesses evidence (on a self-declared basis) that turnover has reduced by 40% or more as a result of the new restrictions.

“We appreciate the immense strain that the latest set of restrictions has placed on so many of Monmouthshire’s hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses that were already struggling against the overwhelming financial challenges that 2020 has presented,” said Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council. “The Restrictions Business Fund will provide a lifeline to a wide range of businesses at a time when they are either unable to trade, or have had their income severely curtailed. Although those eligible businesses who received a Firebreak grant will automatically receive this latest grant, those who did not must register or they will miss out. I would ask businesses who think they may fall within the remit of this fund to visit our website and apply immediately.”

The Restrictions Business Fund Non Domestic Rate Grant offers two levels of support depending on the rateable value of the business: £3,000 (for those with a rateable value of £12,000 or less) or £5,000, (for businesses with a rateable value of £12,001 – £150,000).

Businesses that are not on the Business Rates System can apply for a Restrictions Business Fund Discretionary Grant of £2,000. This is to assist businesses that have been forced, or required to, close as a result of the national restrictions put in place for hospitality businesses. It also applies to those that estimate that the latest restrictions put in place will result in at least a 40% reduction in their turnover for December 2020 as compared to December 2019 (or September 2020 turnover if not trading in December 2019).

Further information about both the Non Discretionary and the Discretionary grants can be found at: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/restrictions-business-fund All applications will be processed and paid as soon as possible, allowing for the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Special Christmas boxes are being distributed across Monmouthshire to support families who have lost loved ones this year. It’s one of many offerings of support by Monmouthshire County Council’s Building Strong Families team, who have been there for local families throughout the pandemic.

The boxes have been created as an alternative to the annual ‘remembering group’, which has been unable to go ahead face to face this year due to COVID-19. As a solution, the team have made and posted dozens of Christmas boxes for local families to provide people with an opportunity to come together and take part in activities that help them to remember their loved ones.

The Christmas boxes have been created and delivered by the Therapeutic Services team which includes counsellors, therapists and family support workers who are  there for everyone during difficult times. The boxes include baubles that can be made up and hung on the Christmas tree in memory of a loved one. The boxes can also be used afterwards as a special place for young people to store their memories in the future. 

Cllr Penny Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health said: “I would like to send my thoughts to everyone who is missing someone they love this year. Grief is heartbreaking at any time of year but particularly hard at Christmas, it can be difficult to know how to manage loss and grief at a time that’s about family and being together. It is so sad that we haven’t been able to meet our families in person at Caldicot Castle this year, but I am so proud of all the work that Monmouthshire’s Building Strong families team have done to provide help in a different way by posting Christmas boxes to local families. Stay safe.”

Anyone in need of help can contact the Building Strong Families team advice line between 10am and 3pm 01633 644152 / 07970166975, or email earlyhelppanel@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Monmouthshire’s Children’s Social Services have been overwhelmed once again thanks to the kindness of people across the county. The Christmas Wishes Appeal 2020 has raised over £7,000 to help bring some festive cheer to vulnerable children, young people and care leavers in Monmouthshire.

Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, this year’s Christmas Wishes Appeal has once again seen an overwhelming response from kind and generous residents across the county.  Donations have come in from residents, Monmouthshire community councils, councillors and staff, the Monmouthshire Building Society and Western Power (Swales) ) via a specific bid for funding through their ‘We’re In This Together’ appeal.

The kind donations will enable gift cards and vouchers to be purchased for 285 children and young people across the county – helping to bring some festive spirit to those who need it the most. All the gift cards and vouchers will be distributed by a very busy social work team in the run up to Christmas.

This year’s appeal follows a successful campaign in 2019, when dozens of toys, toiletries and gifts were donated by organisations and residents. Due to the pandemic, the team has had to run the appeal differently and it was decided donations of gifts would not be suitable or appropriate this year.

Children’s Services were also delighted to receive community support in the way of food donations to make up nearly 100 Christmas hampers for families most in need. Caldicot and Abergavenny food banks, Overmonnow Primary School, Llanvanches Community Church, social work staff and Asda in Caldicot all donated a wide array of items to make up special festive hampers, which were then delivered by Bridges volunteers.

Cabinet Member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said:  “This year has been challenging and yet it hasn’t stopped Monmouthshire’s people supporting such a fantastic cause. This wonderful giving at Christmas time demonstrates that people do care and really want to make a difference to vulnerable children, families and care leavers who need it the most. I would like to take this opportunity, and on behalf of Children’s Social Services, to say how incredibly grateful we are for the astounding support received and give our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has donated during this difficult time. Happy Christmas and stay safe.”

Secondary schools and colleges in Wales will move to online learning from Monday, December 14 as part of a ‘national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams confirmed today.

The Minister made it clear that, thanks to the efforts of education staff across the country, schools and colleges are safe and secure environments, with almost half of all Welsh schools having had zero covid cases since September.

However, it is also recognised that education settings being open can contribute to wider social mixing outside the school and college environment.

By making this decision, the Minister felt it was important to make a ‘clear, national direction’ to take pressure off individual schools, colleges, local authorities, parents and carers.

The Minister said her decision followed expert advice from Wales’s Chief Medical Officer showing that the public health situation in Wales was deteriorating.

The latest TTP data shows that rates of Covid-19 have further increased across Wales and have now exceeded 370/100k with a test positivity of 17%.

The R rate in Wales has increased to 1.27 with a doubling time of just 11.7 days.

As during the firebreak, local authorities and schools will be expected to consider what provision is suitable for vulnerable learners and this could include ‘on- premises’ learning.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “Every day, we are seeing more and more people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms.

“The virus is putting our health service under significant and sustained pressure and it is important we all make a contribution to reduce its transmission.

“In his advice to me today, the CMO recommends that a move to online learning should be implemented for secondary school pupils as soon as is practicable.

“I can therefore confirm that a move to online learning should be implemented for secondary school pupils and college students from Monday next week.

“We recognise, as we did during the firebreak, that it is more difficult for primary and special school age children to undertake self-directed learning.

“That is why we are encouraging primary and special schools to continue to stay open.

“Having spoken to local education leaders, I am confident that schools and colleges have online learning provision in place.

“This will also be important in ensuring that students are at home during this time, learning and staying safe.

“Critically, and this is very important, children should be at home.

“This is not an early Christmas holiday, please do everything you can to minimise your contact with others.”

“The education family in Wales has pulled together so many times this year to make a real difference to the course of this virus and ultimately to save lives and I know we can do the same again.

“Together we will keep Wales safe.”

Monmouthshire County Council has recently issued an emergency closure of the Severnside Range footpath. This action has been taken on health and safety grounds following an increasing number of walkers not keeping to the designated path and walking on top of the sea wall, straying into the neighbouring firing range, putting themselves in danger.

“The Severnside Range Footpath poses many complex challenges,” said Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Monlife. “The footpath, which has become increasingly popular, has also recently been the site of fly-tipping, arson, vandalism and gates being left open, which has allowed cattle to wander off, so there are many issues to address.

“We are deeply concerned that people are at risk as this land contains a live firing range and the Definitive Footpath is in a dangerous condition. This is a very real health and safety issue so we have had to impose an emergency six-month closure on a section of the footpath running through the range until measures can be put into place to ensure all walkers keep to the correct, safe route, or an alternative can be agreed.”

“We will be liaising with all parties involved, including Natural Resources Wales and the landowners, to look into how the issues around this footpath can be resolved. A consultation will follow this before any measures are permanently put into place,” added Councillor John.

Monmouthshire County Council’s Countryside Access Service has looked into the exact route of the footpath. A close examination of the official footpath (reference 354/6/3) on the Definitive Map of Public Rights of Way in Monmouthshire and other records, showed that the path does not run in a continuous line across the sea wall but runs off and on it and beside it, not where people currently walk.  It is not part of the Wales Coast Path. This is routed away from the sea wall in this area and is well sign posted and still available to walkers.  Any interested parties are asked to register their interest with the Countryside Access Service team via email: countryside@monmouthshire.gov.uk

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.”

Programme Manager

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