Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Torfaen Council Update - September 2016

Council Update

I'm all about new features on the blog this month! I'm planning that this one will be a monthly round up of what I've been doing in work, consultations that are going on, stuff local residents might be interested in, etc, etc. That way I can use my weekly round ups for purely personal and blogging updates.

The date will vary, to match up with the date of full council meetings, which is the most publicised aspect of a councillor's work. To my mind it seems the most obvious thing to tie them into.

So, without further ado -

FULL COUNCIL

Today's meeting was the first since July, and was the usual mix of 'srs bsns' and celebrating the local community. Some pupils from Nant Celyn School came in to showcase their new role as beekeepers! It's a really cool project, and hopefully other schools will bee inspired to welcome bees into their grounds - you can get in touch with andrew.nevill@torfaen.gov.uk for more info.

Jeff Cuthbert, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, came in to give an update of his first months in office (more on the PCC below), and there was a progress report on the 21st Century Schools project, the aim of which is to teach in buildings fit for the modern age. This has probably been the most controversial issue during my time on the council - even though most of the work has yet to begin! - simply because a big part of its remit is to reduce surplus school places, inevitably leading to the closure and merger of some schools. Even now, projections still put us slightly over the Welsh government target for surplus places (10%) at primary level in 2021.

Council was also presented with the WAO (Welsh Audit Office) assessment report. It was generally positive, and recognised that Torfaen is on the right tracks when it comes to the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

You can watch the whole thing on webcast HERE.

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ADVICE SURGERY

We (the Pontnewydd Councillors) hold our advice surgery on the first Saturday of every month, from 10:30am - 12 noon, at Mount Pleasant Hall. We're in the 'green room' where the bar is, and the main hall has Zumba classes going on. You won't confuse the two! I don't really write much about casework on the blog because it's confidential and fairly repetitive to boot, but we deal with all kinds of issues. The most common problems will be things like neighbour disputes, litter / potholes / overgrowth / other streetscene issues, people getting nowhere with Homeseeker (the housing waiting list) or their RSL (Registered Social Landlord), etc. We can't always resolve the problem, for a huge range of reasons, but we'll do our best to at least signpost you to someone who can.

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CWMBRAN COMMUNITY COUNCIL

There was a full council meeting on Monday 12th (agenda available HERE); unfortunately I had a clash with school governors so couldn't make it. I did have a brief meeting with David, the clerk, and Tony Hopkins of Gwent Archives about a potential history exhibit - there is so much cool retro Cwmbran-ia out there!

In other news, there is currently a vacancy for a clerical officer at the council. The closing date for applications is 4pm on September 30th, so take a look at the advert below. :)


The Community Awards are coming up too, so if you have any nominations in mind check out the flyer:

Cwmbran Community Council Awards


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EDUCATION

GCSE results day saw a bit of a mixed emotion for me: Croesyceiliog, the secondary school I'm a governor of, did really well. Their results were up on last year, and they were within 1% of their predicted outcome (0.8% better, in fact). The first governors' meeting of the term was full of positivity and congratulations... Unfortunately this picture was not replicated across the authority. Some schools' results were as much as 10% points below what they had predicted, so not only did we see a substantial drop across the board, nobody was even expecting it.

We had a seminar on Monday 12th about what went wrong, and what measures are being taken to prevent it happening again. The main problem seems to be around teacher assessment and target setting. Firstly, they were inaccurate which suggests either teachers are struggling to grade work properly, or else are deliberately predicting better grades than their pupils' work merits. Secondly, this has lead to complacency which stopped children getting interventions to help up those grades at exam time. There will be more supervision and moderation of target setting this year, and hopefully we will see an improvement.

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Out and About in Torfaen

I went to the first Best of Torfaen business expo on Friday 16th in my role as deputy mayor.

Upcoming events you might be interested in attending include:
  • September 23rd, 11am - 1pm. Lynne Neagle, AM for Torfaen, is holding a drop-in advice surgery at Tesco in Pontypool. 
  • September 30th, 10:30am - 12pm. Lynne Neagle is holding an advice sugery and coffee morning in conjunction with the Older People's Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira, at the Congress Theatre in Cwmbran town centre.
  • September 30th, 10am - 1pm. SAMA 82 MacMillan coffee morning at Torfaen Business Centre.
  • September 30th, evening. Ladies Night, at Pontnewydd Working Men's Club.

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HAVE YOUR SAY

 - Torfaen Well-being Questionnaire. Let us know what you feel is good and bad about your community.
 - Central Cwmbran Public Spaces Protection Order. Help us tackle anti-social behaviour in Cwmbran's car parks.

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PLANNING

Planning Committee is a monthly affair, this time it fell on the 13th. There were three items; a variation to an existing planning consent in Llantarnam (approved), a change of premises use from industrial to retail for the gun shop in Pontnewydd (rejected), and a proposed 34 dwelling housing development on the old Pontypool hospital site (approved). You can watch the meeting on webcast HERE.

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POLICING

From 10am - 11am on the second Saturday of the month there is a police advice surgery for Pontnewydd, again in the 'green room' at Mount Pleasant Hall. Zai, our local PCSO, is super nice and will do his best to help you with any policing related issues you might have, from drug related offences through to obstructive parking.

On Friday 16th I had a meeting of the Gwent Police and Crime Panel (agenda HERE), which scrutinises the work of the Commissioner. The bulk of the meeting was about the consultation and engagement work done since Jeff Cuthbert came into post, and Jeff also attended full council today to update councillors about the progress of his plan of direction. The main focus will be on prevention, and tackling cybercrime which now accounts for 50% of all recorded crime.

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SCRUTINY

There was a meeting of all scrutiny committees on Wednesday 14th September - you can read the agenda HERE. We hold these as workshops, split into three tables. I got to chair mine, and we looked at the way statistical information is presented to councillors and the public from the Education and Social Services departments. The consensus was that the balance between simplicity and context is not quite there - Social Services, for example, use a smiley face system to show whether or not they've hit their targets. The problem is you then get a bunch of sad faces when the figures have actually improved on the previous year. It just doesn't do anyone any favours!

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For more like this, please click the image below:
Council Business


And then the fun began...





4 comments:

  1. Crikey! It sounds like you have a very varied and interesting job as both Councillor and Deputy Mayor. There is clearly so much going on and it sounds like you manage it really well. #TheTruthAbout

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    1. Aw, thanks! I like that there's always something different going on.

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  2. Obviously this doesn't really apply to me because I live in Hampshire :-) but I love the idea of you putting such a comprehensive summary of events and meetings out here for your constituents. Really thorough round up Jess! #thetruthabout

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    1. Thank you! :) You have to do an official summary each year too, so I figured it would help me write that - I always struggle to remember back further than about three months for it.

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