Agenda item

Questions to the Leader of the Council

To provide an opportunity for Councillors to ask questions to the Leader of the Council in accordance with the Council’s Standing Orders.



No more than 15 minutes will be allocated at the Council meeting for questions to the Leader of the Council.


The question must be addressed through the Mayor or the person presiding at the meeting and not directly to the person being questioned.


Before commencement with questions, the Leader made the following announcements:


Christmas and Small Business Saturday

Last Saturday saw the Countdown to Christmas event held in the city centre. It was amazing to see so many people gathering together to mark the start of the festive celebrations. Thank you to Newport NOW and everyone involved in making the afternoon a success.


The Leader reflected that this year was going to be difficult for many; individuals and businesses alike and continued to urge people to shop locally and spend wisely. 


To that end, The Council was also supporting Small Business Saturday which would take place on Saturday 3 December.  Newport was very lucky to have some amazing small and independent businesses that offered a range of services and products that could not be matched by the larger chain stores.


Street entertainment had been arranged for the day to ensure added atmosphere, it was hoped that there would be a huge turnout in the city centre to support businesses and possibly find some personal and unique gifts.


There would be more news on our social media sites as well as information from our local traders about their own special offers.


Knife Angel


In the city centre over the weekend, an impressive Knife Angel stood proud on Usk Plaza.


We have supported the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent who brought this towering figure to the area as part of a national anti-violence tour.


The 27ft sculpture was made from more than 100,000 knives would stand in Newport until the end of the month as a prominent reminder of the devastating effects of violence and aggression.


Supported by a series of engagement and educational events, it was hoped that the Council would raise awareness and start important conversations.


Cost of living support


Earlier this month the Council hosted a cost-of-living information event and the Riverfront theatre. There was an excellent turn-out on the day and with partners, the Council was able to help many people access the support and advice that was critical in these challenging times.


Work was continuing in this area and there would be further outreach activities and a dedicated advice area on the council website. Following a strategic event with key partners, we were also progressing our coordinated work with partners to ensure we do all we can together to help our communities.


Carers Rights Day


This year Carers Rights Day would take place on Thursday 24 November and was a time to raise awareness of the rights of unpaid carers and recognised their contribution to our society.


To mark Carers Rights Day, our community connector team would be hosting an information event at The Riverfront Theatre and would be on hand between 1pm and 6pm and to provide information and advice on for unpaid carers of all ages and backgrounds.


Carers carry out such an important role; this could be looking after someone who is wall, disabled, has mental ill health, substance misuse problems or needed a bit more help as they got older.


The Leader encouraged who may be in a caring role to come along and meet the team and find out more about the support and advice that was available to them.


Domestic Abuse Commissioner – white Ribbon Day 25 November #33 Challenge 16 days of actions.


Questions to the Leader


Councillor M Evans:

Over the last decade there had been initiatives in place to attract people into the city centre, over the festive period, such as Christmas and Small Business Saturday.  For many traders, this was the time of the year could mean make or break, relying on trade to survive.  Our neighbours in Monmouthshire were offering free parking and free buses as weekend, as were Torfaen and Caerphilly.  We had free buses last year and a park and ride.  Cardiff had two winter wonderland sites. In Newport residents would pay £2.50 to park.  With this in mind, what was the Leader doing  to encourage people into the city centre this Christmas.



The Leader highlighted that she was in receipt of the Footfall report for the food festival, which showed that there was a considerable increase of people coming into the Centre.  The Leader was looking forward to seeing the figures on how many people also attended the Christmas lights event.  There were limits however to what could be done, especially at this time considering our financial position as a Local Authority, which was set out clearly in a recent video.  It was reported to our last Cabinet that the Council was forecasting a £3M overspend this financial year and we were currently looking at a deficit of £33M for next year.  Any support was welcome for subsidized travel, such as funding from the Welsh Government or the Burns Commission, however we were not going to provide free parking for Christmas.



Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Caerphilly and other neighbouring Councils were all facing budget issues but were still providing free parking for residents. In July there was a reported £18.5M underspend from last year, this was the usual time when councils were looking forward to plans for Christmas and there was a £100,000 underspend on the city centre management during the current financial year. Wasn’t it important to provide free transport for residents during the cost of living crisis as well as helping the traders over the Christmas period.



The Leader did not speak on behalf of other councils.  We were responsible and accountable for decision making in Newport. We have a healthy underspend. However, due to high inflation and the cost of living there was a demand on services.  The cost of care had increased significantly, 1,000 more pupils in schools, pay rises and procurement costs by Council.  This was not only experienced by residents but by the Council.  The Council was working with partners to put on events but there was only so much that we could do, free parking would not be a priority.  Climate change was a priority.  The Council was more than willing to listen to any suggestions for extra funding.  The   local press, according to ONS data Newport was the fourth best city in Wales for parking both in terms of  access and cost.


Councillor Whitehead:

Residents concerns and issues were paramount for councillors to address, with this in mind, councillors have to contact various service providers.  Unfortunately, reply to emails from Newport City Council’s City Services was hit or miss and sometimes it could take a while to receive a reply. Members were also prevented from contacting Heads of Service directly.



The Leader advised that there was new legislation going to the Democratic Services Committee regarding officer attendance at meetings.  Residents also had the opportunity to try the Newport City Council App which made it easier for residents to contact the Council.  The Leader also would ask the Head of City Services as well as the Head of People, Policy and Transformation to contact Councillor Whitehead on how to improve services.