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.

Teams from across Monmouthshire County Council’s workforce responded to heavy and persistent rain across the region on Wednesday by working through the night to support residents, unblock drains, deal with road closures and deliver sandbags.  In addition, gritting lorries salted all scheduled routes as temperatures dropped throughout the night, while the council’s contact centre dealt with a high volume of calls.

Care staff remained busy all day, prioritising calls and rescheduling when necessary.  Staff visited rural areas in pairs to ensure safety, keeping in close touch and alerting colleagues to potential travel problems.  While some calls were shortened, all those requiring assistance received help.

The entire road network was flooded by 8pm and the county’s highways staff advised people to stay at home due to the dangerous conditions.  Key areas included the A472 at Little Mill, St Brides Road at Magor, Tintern’s Forge Road, Osbaston Road in Monmouth and Main Road, Portskewett.  Other areas badly affected were Skenfrith, Llantrisant, Llangwm and the route taken by the Olway Brook on the outskirts of Usk.  Meanwhile, a blocked drain at Castle Lea in Caldicot cleared on Thursday morning prevented the risk of flooding in the area.

High river levels throughout the night caused concern but these continued to fall by Thursday morning.  Police and fire services attended Monmouth’s Riverside Park but authorities agreed not to evacuate residents.  However, some houses in Magor and Portskewett were flooded and the council’s grounds and cleansing teams have lent their support.

Staff will start clean-up operations as soon as possible but residents have been warned that debris on roads and footpaths could cause hazards.  Further heavy rain and high winds are likely during Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday and the council has prepared teams to stand by in Abergavenny, Monmouth and Caldicot as well as ensure supplies of sand bags for the weekend.

Council Leader Peter Fox OBE said; “Rain across Monmouthshire fell heavily virtually all day but key workers from the council and other organisations put in a difficult and valuable shift to help residents and keep communications open.  I’m extremely grateful to them for their hard work in often extreme conditions. Thank you for everyone continuing to stay home and stay safe this Christmas while the virus is still with us.”

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

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.      

Monmouthshire County Council has reassured residents that vital services will continue now Wales is in Alert Level 4. This alert level has been declared as a result of a rapid increase in COVID-19 transmission across Wales. Tougher restrictions are in place to try and slow down the number of people having to be admitted into hospital. The message is that to save lives we all need to stay home.

Abergavenny Market will be open for essential food traders on 22nd and 23rd December and until midday on Christmas Eve. Caldicot Outdoor Market will be open for essential food traders on 22nd December. Monmouth Market is closed. The Contact Centre is open to respond to customer queries and recycling and waste collections will continue as planned.

Monmouthshire’s Community Hubs will remain open for essential access to council services, as will the county’s recycling centres (via pre-booked appointments only). All MonLife leisure centres and museums will remain closed. For a full list of service changes visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/services/planning-for-emergencies/coronavirus/

People can still leave their homes for exercise, provided they do so alone or with members of their household or support bubble (and/or carer). Children’s play parks will continue to be open.

Councillor Peter Fox, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council said: “I know that this is difficult, and Christmas will be very different with the move to Alert Level 4. But, please don’t put yourself or your family at risk for the sake of tradition. Don’t invite coronavirus into your home.”

At this time, Public Health Wales is reporting around 2,500 new cases every day and we are not at the peak of this pandemic yet. We need to keep rigorously following the protective measures – hand washing, wearing a mask, keeping at least two metres away from other people, and maintaining good ventilation in interior spaces – if we are to slow down the spread of the virus.

The move to Alert Level 4 has meant that the original bubble arrangements over Christmas have had to be cancelled. The only day you can meet as a Christmas bubble is now Christmas Day. The only exception is for those who have formed a bubble with a vulnerable person in their extended family. Once you form a bubble you cannot change it, so please consider the needs of the individual and the risks involved.

Commenting on the community spirit of Monmouthshire’s residents, Councillor Peter Fox said: “Since the start of the pandemic in March residents have surpassed themselves with their kindness and generosity, getting involved in community support groups and lending a helping hand. I am pleased that this spirit is continuing with many supporting others through this difficult time. If you find that you have more than you need this Christmas, be it food or gifts you have bought, please come forward to help others – especially families with young children who are worried. Equally, if you don’t have anyone who can support you to get essential shopping or prescriptions during lockdown we can help. Our team can be emailed on partnerships@monmouthshire.gov.uk or call them on 01633 644696.”

“Our teams and community groups are working hard to ensure nobody feels alone or isolated,” Cllr Fox continued, “Monmouthshire Meals and our homeless provision are continuing as usual, please contact meals@monmouthshire.gov.uk or phone 01873 882910.  We will link you up with someone who can help.”

For mental health support visit: phw.nhs.wales/topics/latest-information-on-novel-coronavirus-covid-19/how-are-you-doing/how-are-you-feeling/ . Samaritans Cymru is also available 24 hours a day on 116 123.

Welsh Government has issued guidance about what businesses can remain open, such as pharmacies, dentists, funeral directors, post offices, banks, vets, essential food retail, and what has had to be closed, such as close contact services, visitor attractions and non-essential retail. However, non-essential retail businesses can arrange a ‘click and collect’ service for customers. Cafés, restaurants and pubs can arrange a takeaway service. Full details of the restrictions and rules under Alert Level 4 can be found at gov.wales/alert-level-4

The council is currently working through all applications for business support under the various grant schemes as a priority, and encourages any business that has had to close under the latest restrictions to visit its business advice page and apply for any schemes that they may be eligible for as soon as possible: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/business-advice 

For the latest updates from Monmouthshire County Council please visit the website, or follow @MonmouthshireCC on Facebook or Twitter. For information about council services you can access the MyMonmouthshire app on their website, or call the Contact Centre on 01633 644664 during office hours.

For information about forming a bubble visit: gov.wales/making-christmas-bubble-friends-and-family

Monmouthshire County Council Leader, Councillor Peter Fox has reflected on the past twelve months, praising residents of Monmouthshire following one of the most challenging years in a generation and asking people to continue to do all they can to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s been a year unlike any of us can remember, throwing challenges at us that we never could have believed that we would have to face. As we round up the year, I think it is the appropriate time to reflect on how Monmouthshire has pulled together and faced those challenges head on. Before I continue, I must offer my sincerest condolences to all members of our community who have lost loved ones during these last difficult months. My thoughts go out to you and your families.

“There hasn’t been a more challenging and devastating period since the war and it will go down in the annals of history as such. The ever-changing situation has meant decisions have had to be made quickly and we have had to roll with the punches, but in these unprecedented times, our community’s resilience, kindness and spirit has come to the fore. It has been heart-warming to see that in times of adversity, humanity coming to the fore and amazing people doing amazing things.”

Cllr Fox continued: “I’ve been able to see first-hand the incredible work public servants did, and continue to do, to keep us safe and to keep our county and country running. All of us owe a great debt of gratitude to them. With the efforts of our public servants, NHS staff and frontline workers, we have equally seen the army of volunteers step up and work in conjunction with our key services to provide our most vulnerable with the help and support they needed. While the echo of clapping around our neighbourhoods may have stopped, our gratitude will continue for years to come.

“The Christmas season may well be upon us, but this year we need to plan for a different festive season. The situation is far from improving and we need to continue to be vigilant. Although a vaccine does provide us with a road to recovery, it’s still a long journey to get there and in the meantime we need to continue doing all we can to stop the spread of the virus. The winter months present us, and our health colleagues, with a number of challenges and the pandemic is only going to increase those pressures. Please follow the guidance and enjoy time with people only in your selected bubbles. Please also remember to use the NHS wisely, and only attend A&E if it is necessary.

“January and February are also going to be tough months for our businesses after the Christmas rush. We continue our plea to you to support your local butcher and baker when you’re out shopping – these people are our friends, family and neighbours and they need you to support them so they can continue trading.

“While a bumpy road still lies ahead in our fight against the Coronavirus, we know that we are all strongest when we work together. I hope you all enjoy the festive period and I wish you all the very best 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monmouthshire’s leisure provider MonLife is gearing up for its annual Monmouthshire Games, with plenty on offer to keep children and young people active and entertained over half term. The week-long event kicks off from Monday 26th October and will be run across all four of the county’s leisure centres; Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Between 21.00 – 21.30 (approx.)

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

Between 21.45 – 22.15 (approx.)

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

Between 22.25 – 22.55 (approx.)

The closure points will be as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please continue to be role models, Keep Wales safe:

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

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

If you have symptoms get a test.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catchment areas for school nurseries do not apply.

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

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

The funding is currently set at £9.00 per session (2 hours), for five sessions a week, as long as these sessions are on different days. The funding is comparable with the funding school nurseries receive per part time pupil. Your child is permitted to attend each setting for the two hours a day free of charge but if the session is longer than two hours and you wish your child to stay for the full session available, you will be required to pay a top-up fee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goytre Wharf on the award-winning Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

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

Caldicot Castle

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

Castle Meadows, Abergavenny

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

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

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

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

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

Tintern Old Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Councillor Jane Pratt planting a tree at the Reuse shop site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We look forward to hearing from you.

The Arup Project Team

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

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

Students from Monmouth Comprehensive showing their support for the campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Matthews, Chief Executive of Monmouthshire County Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mighty tips to get Wales to number one

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

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

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

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

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

The new status follows a successful bid to move from a Silver Award to a Gold Award. The council has been recognised for proactively demonstrating forces-friendly credentials as part of recruiting and selection processes. The Gold status also means, as an employer, MCC has demonstrated it has actively ensured that their workforce is aware of their positive policies towards issues facing people who are or have served.   

The award comes just months after the council reaffirmed its commitment to working with the armed forces community by signing the Armed Forces Covenant. The covenant was signed together with the five Town Councils (Abergavenny, Monmouth, Usk, Caldicot and Chepstow), making Monmouthshire the only local authority in the UK to have the principal authority and all town councils signing the covenant in unison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Between 22.05 – 22.35 (approx.)

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

Between 22.45 – 23.15 (approx.)

The closure points will be as follows:

North End closure: Trelleck Road junction.

South End closure: Royal George junction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The consultation closes on the 25th of September 2020.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

·         Wash hands – and keep washing them regularly

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

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

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

It really is this simple.

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

·         New continuous cough

·         High temperature

·         Loss of taste and/or smell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Fox, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council

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

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

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

Councillor Jane Pratt,
Cabinet Member for Infrastructure

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

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

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

Here’s her story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Councillor Sara Jones, cabinet member for community development.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. “Idlіng is gооd for the еngіnе.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some examples of offers to the community:

•            Create a promotional poster

•            Painting a community building

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

•            Mow someone’s lawn

•            Become a telephone Befriender

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

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

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

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