Monmouthshire County Council Press Releases
Published: 13 May 2021
13th May 2021
Councillor Richard John announced as new Leader of
Monmouthshire County Council
Photo attached;Infographic showing the new cabinet and their portfolios.
At its Annual General Meeting on Thursday 13th May, Monmouthshire County Council appointed its new Leader, Councillor Richard John. He has taken over from Councillor Peter Fox, who has stepped down from the role following his appointment as Member of Parliament for Monmouth at the Senedd in the recent election.
At 38 years old, Former Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Richard has become the youngest council leader in Wales and has already appointed Monmouthshire’s first gender-balanced cabinet. Councillor Sara Jones has become Deputy Leader, alongside the current Deputy Leader Councillor Bob Greenland.
“It is a real privilege to have been elected to lead Monmouthshire County Council at this critical point in the county’s recovery from the pandemic,” said Cllr. John. “This has been the most challenging year for so many of our residents and our immediate priority is to ensure the wellbeing of our communities and enable our residents to get back to living their lives. This means helping our businesses, including those in retail and hospitality, to get back on their feet, offering children and young people the best possible start in life, enabling more opportunities for good physical and mental health and ensuring dignity and independence for older people.”
Richard John was elected to Monmouthshire County Council in the Mitchel Troy ward in May 2017 and has served as Cabinet Member for Education and Leisure since that time. During his tenure, Cllr. John opened two brand new schools in Caldicot and Monmouth, set in motion plans for a new school in Abergavenny, and led major changes to school catchment areas to enable more Monmouthshire pupils to attend Monmouthshire schools. He has successfully federated leaderships across several schools, paved the way to upgrade the county’s leisure centres and has overseen many improvements in school standards.
“I am truly humbled by the faith that colleagues have placed in me and I will do everything I can to make Monmouthshire an even better place to live, work and raise a family,” said the father of two.
As Ward Councillor for Mitchel Troy, Richard has organised litter picks and community clean-up sessions. He has also served as a school governor and a scout leader, prior to which he was a trained chef.
“I’m looking forward to working with councillors of all political colours and of none, and our county’s partners, together with the Welsh and UK Governments to deliver for the people of Monmouthshire,” said Cllr. John, who holds a Master’s degree in Welsh Politics.
Commenting on the new council cabinet, Cllr. John said: “I have appointed a dynamic and progressive top team, from a wide range of professional backgrounds, and we’re all united by a sense of urgency to get things done and make a difference for our communities.
Outgoing Leader, Councillor Peter Fox OBE said: “Over the past four years Richard has been an outstanding Cabinet Member, he has earned the trust and respect of residents and councillors alike. He’s forged strong relationships across Wales representing the county, especially important right now as we emerge from the pandemic. I am more than confident that he will be an outstanding Leader.”
Cllr. Fox has been a Monmouthshire County Councillor for over 20 years, and the Leader for 13 years. He was awarded the OBE for Services to the Cardiff Capital Region in 2017 and has recently been elected as the Monmouth constituency representative at the Senedd. Peter will remain in Monmouthshire, where he lives with his family and four grown-up children on the livestock farm he runs in the south of the county.
Councillor John’s first act as Leader was to pay tribute to Cllr. Fox: “The way in which Peter Fox has led this authority for 13 years has be exemplary, and has brought plaudits from so many people across the county. Peter is a great collaborator - he played a key role in securing the Cardiff Capital Region deal, amongst to many other achievements. A more humble, genuine and inspiring man you could not hope to find. Peter has inspired so many of us to believe in ourselves, to strive for the best for our county. The impact he has made to our local authority has been beyond measure, I am sure I speak for everyone in Monmouthshire when we thank him for all his hard work.”
15th March 2021
Monmouthshire launches special plea to find loving home for ‘ambitious and
adventurous’ 17-year-old young woman
Monmouthshire County Council is making a special plea to find a kind, caring family or carer to provide a home for an ambitious 17-year-old young woman as she begins her journey into adulthood.
J has overcome many challenges in her life and was placed in her grandparents care when she was just three years old. From the age of 12, J went to live with a short-term foster family before moving to a permanent foster family where she stayed until she was 15. She now is in residential care as there are currently no foster homes available for her at this time. While a sudden end to these important relationships has affected J’s self-esteem, it is not holding her back from her wanting to reach her ambitions and build new relationships.
Monmouthshire’s Foster Care Team is calling on people who can steer J through her pathway to independence, help her build healthy relationships, create a structured environment with boundaries and have the time and patience to support her in future ventures.
J has said she hopes living with a new foster family will mean a new start for her. She said: “I’m a Transgender girl and I’m interested in health and fitness. I want to be accepted for who I am, I don’t want to be judged for who I want to be. I would like a fresh start and to experience being part of a family environment as local as possible to my education setting and my current residential home so I can continue to access all of the positive activities I enjoy within the area. I would like to develop relationships within a foster family home where I feel part of the family for the rest of my life, I need someone who I can visit and remain in touch with when I eventually move on to independent living.”
Cabinet Member for Safeguarding, Social Care and Health, Cllr Penny Jones said: “J is an ambitious and adventurous young woman and she deserves what any 17-year-old should have – a safe, loving family environment, to give her the confidence to be the person she desires and the feeling of acceptance. She has so much potential and just needs the right people and environment to help her thrive. I call on anyone who is able to be that person in J’s life to please contact Monmouthshire’s Fostering team and make a difference.”
Anyone wanting to speak to Foster Monmouthshire about supporting J and to find out about the support, training and allowances associated with becoming a MyST therapeutic foster carer can contact 01873 735950.
11th March 2021
Council sets budget, reaffirming its commitment to
protecting key services
Monmouthshire County Council has today (11th March 2021) set a budget for the forthcoming financial year. Never an easy process. The year ahead will be our most challenging as we work with communities to steer a way forward in the aftermath of a year of great tragedy. The Council will prioritise its spending on issues which will help people live their lives in the way they choose. We will protect services for the most vulnerable, ensure schools are well placed to support their learners as they return to school and ensure that the increasing demand in adult social care and children’s services can be met. The budget recommits the council to an agenda focussed on reducing inequality within and between our communities. As we exit the current stages of the pandemic we will stay vigilant and be ready to respond should circumstances take a turn for the worse.
Following feedback from residents on initial proposals published on 20th January 2021, gathered over the full consultation period, the council has amended its proposals and those have been confirmed today.
Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said: “I would like to thank every resident who has shared their feedback with us. We have listened to you. The subsequent changes to the budget are based on what you’ve told us matters to you. In particular, concerns that that the proposed 4.95% rise in council tax could impact upon those most financially disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the lockdown periods that have accompanied it. As a result, I can confirm that the coming year’s council tax increase will reduce to 3.89%. Our approach continues to be to change, improve and adapt our services rather than to close them down. This budget shows ambition for the county in the face of the most challenging of times.”
Some of the major investments agreed by council today are:
· To protect schools by fully funding all pay and pension increases
· To recognise social care pressures; primarily around our ageing population, adults with disabilities and an increasing number of looked-after children
· To recognise demand-led pressures with children with additional learning needs
· To honour all national pay awards and continue its position to set a minimum wage in line with the Living Wage set by the Living Wage Foundation, and that also applies to apprenticeship roles within the council.
· To increase investment into flood alleviation schemes over next year and the medium term.
· The creation of a £1m capital funding to support grant applications that require a council contribution, most notably in relation to significant Active Travel bids that have recently submitted to Welsh Government
· To spend an additional £0.8 million on highways maintenance schemes.
· To continue work on a new 3-18 school in Abergavenny.
· To deliver a replacement for Severn View residential home.
· To push on with feasibility works on new transport infrastructure in and around Chepstow.
· To continue with plans to regenerate the centre of Caldicot.
Councillor Murphy continued: “A range of service changes and cost reductions have already taken place in the current financial year, including the closure of Mounton House School, albeit with the services being continued elsewhere, the closure of Usk Household Waste and Recycling Centre and an increase in charges for garden waste collection.”
Monmouthshire County Council Leader, Peter Fox said: “The final settlement from Welsh Government is better than we initially feared, but does not fully compensate for the significant service pressures the council is continuing to face. The medium term outlook is uncertain and we look to Welsh Government to continue to provide specific financial support to meet extraordinary costs associated with responding to the COVID pandemic and extending this support towards supporting and building fairer communities and businesses. Local government has a vital role to play in this effort and Monmouthshire County Council will rise to this challenge.
“Once again we are in the position of being the lowest funded council in Wales by a country mile. The current Welsh system of sharing out money is just unfair and discriminates against Monmouthshire residents. We continue to deliver some of the best services in Wales but are having to deliver them on a shoestring. This is not a sustainable way forward for rural, geographically large counties like ours and we will not give up in our call for Wales Government to review how they share out the money.
“Significant uncertainties remain and we call on Welsh Government to provide clarity on our funding going forward into 2022/23 and beyond. Local government should not be seen as the poor partner in the wider public sector family. It plays a vital role alongside the NHS in Wales, keeping people safe through these most testing of times. We ask nothing more than this to be recognised,” said Cllr. Fox.
For further information regarding this year’s budget visit monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2021-2022
22nd February 2021
Local communities continue to benefit from
Llanfoist reuse shop
Photo: Monmouthshire Reuse Officer Martina Morris (right) presents bicycles to a member of Rotary Monmouth
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org
9th February 2021
growers and producers invited to online advice and discussion sessions
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.”
5th February 2021
work to start on strategic Caldicot link
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.”
1st February 2021
Council offers online 60 plus fitness package
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
25th January 2021
Council teams rise to
weekend snow challenge
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 4x4 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.
20th January 2021
Monmouthshire County Council announces launch of
budget proposals for 2021/22
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.