Agenda and minutes

Strong Communities Select Committee - Thursday, 17th June, 2021 10.00 am

Contact: Democratic Services 


No. Item


To note the appointment of County Councillor S. Woodhouse as Chair


To appoint a Vice Chair


Councillor Treharne nominated Councillor Webb, seconded by Councillor Edwards.



Declarations of Interest


There were no declarations of interest.



Open Public Forum


No members of the public were present.



Climate Change pdf icon PDF 300 KB

To challenge the Cabinet Member on what the council is doing to address climate change through scrutiny of the Climate Change Action Plan.

Additional documents:


Matthew Gatehouse and Hazel Clatworthy presented the report and answered the members’ questions, along with Cabinet Member Jane Pratt.


The pie charts refer to progress on actions made in 2021. Is it correct that there are no projects yet to start?

A few actions in June hadn’t started. For example, a couple of schools-related projects that hadn’t started, due to lockdown. One of the first actions in the plan is about ensuring that new builds are zero carbon; at that point, no new builds were happening, but discussions are now taking place about the new building at King Henry VIII school, so that has moved to ‘green’ – we are ensuring that sustainability and net zero are included in the specifications for that. Those are a couple of examples of projects that hadn’t started but are now underway.

There is no progress on fitting bike carriers to buses – what is on the table to progress that and make the buses compatible?

Contractors operate many of the buses that run in the county, so we have less influence over what can be done with those. With the buses that we do run, where the bike racks would need to go is where the engine compartment is, so it’s not feasible given the type of buses that we have. As and when we look at renewing buses, this matter will be picked up and explored then, to see if we can use buses for which bike racks are compatible.

Some residents are complaining about the mowing of green spaces – who decides that larger areas are to remain uncut?

It would be helpful to receive details by email of the particular areas of concern, so that they can be passed on to Nigel Leaworthy (Commercial and Operations Manager) and his team, who do the mowing. The council is mowing playing fields and pitches. In other areas they have let the wildflowers grow, but still mowing paths around or through those areas so that residents can walk unaffected by wet, cut grass etc. In some of the residential areas, sometimes it’s not the council that is responsible i.e. it might be the responsibility of a housing association. Similarly, schools are in charge of their own grounds and how they are managed; sometimes, they might ask the council team to mow their area in a way that is not necessarily in accordance with the council’s policy. Thus, it would be useful to know in which precise locations residents have concerns. It is tricky to get the balance right, as we have also had many compliments from residents about the wildflowers and the increase of bee numbers.

Regarding open spaces and mowing, is it worth putting out an update to residents about how effective the measures have been, and to reassure them that the situation is monitored?

Yes, we will speak to colleagues about this. Press releases went out earlier in the year, and we have done a lot in terms of signage  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Welsh Language pdf icon PDF 123 KB

To consider the annual report of the council’s performance in embedding Welsh language.

Additional documents:


Alan Burkitt presented the report and answered the members’ questions.


For perspective, how many calls are made in other languages during the same period as the 74 Welsh calls?

About 75,000 English calls. On calling the council line there is the option to continue in English or Welsh. Expectation levels are likely low, so many Welsh speakers will probably choose the English line. Figures have slowly increased over the years, and that is likely to continue.

Are the stated Welsh language skills among the staff based on self-evaluation or someone else’s determination?

I have spoken to all of the ‘fluent’ Welsh speakers, and I know the people in the ‘higher’ levels. I organise the classes for the ‘lower’ levels; the further someone goes through the course then they go up the levels. With self-assessment, people tend to under-assess their skills, so I try to chat with them and gauge their level. It’s not an exact science, of course, especially as there are different levels of fluency.

Is there a particular service area that’s of concern? CYP looks like a problem area, for example?

Yes, I would agree that there is a shortage of skills in CYP. Frontline is where we have the particular challenge. We have now appointed people in the contact centre who are Welsh speakers, which has worked really well. There has been something of a hiatus due to Covid, but once we are back working in offices as before, we don’t have many staff who could speak to someone who comes through the door. This is a problem: if we were challenged, we would have difficulty in offsetting that challenge.

What support could the Welsh language group in Monmouthshire give to town and community councils, especially in providing translations?

I’ve had very fruitful conversations with town and community councils in Monmouth, Usk, Chepstow, Caldicot and Abergavenny. We are trying to be realistic in terms of resources. The website is probably the biggest public service that is provided. From a conversation with Councillor Tudor Thomas we started on the Abergavenny one, and from there, conversations have taken place with other town and community clerks. We have offered to do translations for their sites. They are still under the old Welsh language act, and aren’t subject to the same requirements that we are, so don’t need to translate as much.

It would be good to see more in the report, for example, by including the Welsh speaking teaching staff. Can we also highlight the changes in our schools i.e. the new schools, and things like the Welsh youth club in Caldicot?

Yes, these are interesting points. The 2011 census gave the Welsh-speaking population as 9.9%, approximately 8,500 people; that has no doubt increased in the most recent census. It is therefore a sizeable minority. Concerning data for schools, our focus for this particular report was our resource for providing council services – we therefore can’t include schools staff as a resource.


Chair’s Summary:

We’d like  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


To confirm minutes of the previous meeting

Additional documents:


The minutes were confirmed and signed as an accurate record, proposed by Councillor Webb and seconded by Councillor Treharne.



Strong Communities forward work programme pdf icon PDF 495 KB


Councillor Easson suggested, following Councillor Guppy, including B4245 (the road between Rogiet and Undy) and grass cutting. He noted that there hasn’t been recent scrutiny of crime and disorder; previously there was extensive work on speed management as part of it. He also proposed looking at CCTV provision – it would be useful to understand whether sufficient time can be given to Monmouthshire’s towns when the central hub is in Blaenavon, and an officer has to travel there to get any footage that is needed. The Chair agreed to invite the officer responsible, Andy Mason, to the committee.

Councillor Treharne proposed that the Police & Crime Commissioner attend to discuss the numbers of police officers in the community. The Chair suggested starting with CCTV, as it’s not clear with which Select committee this matter lies.

Councillor Smith suggested a review of highways infrastructure – it is the highest profile issue but the budget has reduced each year. The Chair noted that a particular aspect would need to be considered. The Councillor has asked for a breakdown of the department i.e. a directory.

The Committee will put in a request for this as a Recommendation.



Cabinet & Council forward work programme pdf icon PDF 198 KB


Date and time of next meeting: 29th July 2021