Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Torfaen Council Update - December 2016

Council Update

This is the third installment of this council update series - you can find my September and October updates HERE and HERE. There was no meeting in November because of the way the calendar rotation is set up, so I'll probably forget a bunch of stuff that happened longer than four weeks ago!


FULL COUNCIL

The big ticket item today was Cllr Bob Wellington's announcement that he was retiring as leader of the council after 13 years; he's actually been a councillor since 1982, 6 years before I was even born! He hasn't always been the most popular figure, but he's acheived some really outstanding stuff in that time - they did a little write up with some the key successes on Wales Online. In his place, Council elected the super competent Cllr Anthony Hunt as leader, and Cllr Richard Clark as deputy leader.

Other items of note were:

Item 4. City Deal Presentation - this was an update on the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal which encompasses Torfaen and nine other surrounding local authorities. This represents £1.2bn investment if it comes together, so it's a pretty big deal. (Geddit?)

Item 5. Presentation of CIPFA Awards - Nigel Aurelius, Assistant Chief Exec for Resources, and Dave Lilly, Head of Financial Services, received awards from CIPFA for long service and contribution to Welsh public finance, and for leading best practice across Wales respectively.

Item 10. Torfaen State of the Nation Report. Chief Exec Alison Ward presented Torfaen's annual overview update report - it's full of detail so I'll just link the whole thing up HERE.

Item 13. Motions - Cllr Hunt moved a motion calling for independent scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee of the arrangements regarding surpluses from the Mineworkers Pension Scheme. The motion was approved.

Item 14. Member Question Time - two questions on what the customarily disappointing Welsh PISA results mean for Torfaen from Cllrs Kemp and Rees, and a question about the Council's capital spend programme for the coming year from Cllr Rees.

You can watch the whole thing on webcast HERE. It begins with a staggeringly unattractive image of myself next to Pastor Jonny Raine of Pontrhydyrun Baptist Church - but, on the plus side, I did put some make-up on for once because it was the full council photo this morning, before the meeting!



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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

I went to a couple of CCC events in this period - the Christmas light switch on at the council house in Old Cwmbran, and at Ladywell retirement complex in Pontnewydd.

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EDUCATION

N/A

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Out and About in Torfaen

Veronica is up and about again so I haven't been to that much. A couple that stand out are the Remembrance Parade in Pontnewydd, and the infant school nativity show at Our Lady of the Angels RC Primary - it was so cute!

If you want the mayor to attend an event, or would like your group, etc, to visit the mayor's parlour, just put a request in through Chris Slade in Democratic Services via democraticservices@torfaen.gov.uk or ring 01495 742163.

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HAVE YOUR SAY

 - The Future of the Library Service in Torfaen. £250,000 needs to be saved from the library budget by 2017, and to do this there are three options on the table: closing a library, reduce manned book loaning (i.e. move to self-service) for three days a week across all Torfaen libraries, or reduce to two and half days a week in Pontypool & Blaenavon and four in Cwmbran.

 - Establish a Sixth Form Centre and End School Based Sixth Form Provision. The much discussed sixth form college is finally nearing the green light stage at Welsh Government level; if it goes ahead, sixth form provision will be removed from Croesyceiliog School, Cwmbran High, and St Alban's RC High School.

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PLANNING

There was a lot of planning this time around, with meetings on November 15th (webcast), November 22nd (webcast), and December 13th - as I write I'm about to go to that last one! The meeting on the 22nd dealt with just one item, the proposed 226 dwelling development on the old Llantarnam school site, which was approved.

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POLICING

I can't think of any particular problems off the top of my head - if you do want to get in touch with the neighbourhood police, 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.

There was a meeting of the Gwent Police and Crime Panel, but I couldn't make it as it clashed with something else. You can find the agenda and other documents on the PCP website.

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SCRUTINY

I had two scheduled scrutiny meetings in this period. First up was Healthier Communities on November 17th (webcast HERE) looking at the work of the North Torfaen Wellbeing Team. It's really postive, and it will be interesting to see how well they manage to adapt the model as it's rolled out across Torfaen.

Resources and Corporate Business Scrutiny was held on November 30th, and focused on the funding to Greenmeadow Community Farm. I had to give my apologies for this meeting, but if you're interested in finding out more you can watch the webcast.

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Council Business






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