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.


The Leader updated council on recent announcements.


Support for residents and businesses

Many residents and businesses faced a challenging two years and the post-Christmas period could be particularly difficult for some.


Together with its partners, the Council could offer a wealth of advice and support – from help with bills, to assistance in finding work or accessing training. If anyone was struggling financially, the Leader urged them to get in touch. There was also information on the website contact via the City Contact Centre.


The Leader was pleased that the council was able to commit £100,000 to support local organisations dedicated to helping people affected by food poverty.  Local food banks provided a lifeline to some individuals and families by providing essential supplies to those struggling to cover the most basic needs.


Demand for the food banks was very high and the Council was putting money into services at the heart of communities, as they were making a real difference to people’s everyday lives.


The funding would help community food initiatives meet increased demand or difficulties sourcing sufficient donations.


The council was also administering the Winter Fuel Support scheme for Newport residents and the Leader urged people eligible to apply for this extra financial help before the deadline of 18 February.


The continuation of help for local businesses was available by distributing grants to those whose livelihoods were impacted by the pandemic.


The Council also supported those who wanted to start or expand a small business through its City of Newport Business Fund. This offered grants of up to £10,000 towards costs such as rent, or the purchase of equipment.


City centre graffiti initiative

The Council was working with Newport Now, the Business Improvement District (BID), to tackle graffiti in the city centre.  Member businesses could have graffiti removed free of charge by the council thanks to funding from Newport Now.


The initiative was aimed at making the city centre a more desirable place to shop, live and work and promote the local economy.


This remained one of the Council’s priorities and the Leader was pleased to see some new, independent businesses opening their doors in recent months. Shop local had never been a more-important message – as well as being better for the environment was so vital, these businesses could only thrive and survive if they were used.


Social value

The Leader announced that last week Cabinet agreed to put social value at the heart of its work.


The Council would adopt the Welsh national themes, outcomes and measures framework for measuring social value (known as TOMS).


It set out seven themes, 35 outcomes and 93 measures that were produced to help public sector bodies gain more social value through their commissioning, procurement, and contract management processes.


This would allow the council to ensure that its work generated as much social value as possible, benefitting the people and communities it served.


Participatory budgeting scheme

In February and March, residents could vote for projects put forward as part of the latest round of the participatory budgeting scheme, Our Voice, Our Choice, Our Port.


Launched last year, 24 community groups and projects received a share of the £103,000 available in the initial round.


The Council allocated £250,000 from its Covid-19 recovery fund for this round of the scheme. This allocation was for community groups to develop community-based Covid recovery projects.


A further £165,000 was made available by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, taking the total available in this round to £415,000.


Community groups and projects were able to bid for up to £15,000 to help support an idea or project that helped meet one of the scheme’s key themes.


Funding would be allocated to projects according to the vote share.  This was a fantastic way of empowering residents to take decisions on what mattered to them.


Devon Place Bridge

The Leader thanked all those involved in the operation to install the spans of the new Devon Place Bridge over the railway line at Christmas. It went incredibly well and it was an excellent piece of engineering.


The project was being led by the Council working with partners Transport for Wales and Network Rail and local contractors Alun Griffiths.


Work was now underway on the rest of the bridge, which should be completed later this year.


It was a direct replacement for the old Devon Place subway, and would provide an active travel link from the city centre to the streets north of the railway line.


Holocaust Memorial Day

Thursday 27 January would mark one of the most somber days in the calendar.


In recognition of Holocaust Memorial Day, the Council was preparing to light the Civic Centre clock tower in purple and raise the memorial flag outside the building.


This year, the theme was “One Day” when people from around the world would remember all the victims of genocides – in the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur.


Newport had many diverse and wonderful communities and the Leader wanted to celebrate that as well and welcomed those who made the city their home and it was important that everyone feel safe in the city.


The Leader was proud that the Council would again be "lighting the darkness" by lighting up the clock tower and hoped people would join the national commemoration and put a candle safely in a window at 8pm.


Questions to the Leader


Councillor M Evans:


Councillor M Evans referred to an urgent decision taken by the Leader on 1 December 2021  in relation to free bus travel over the Christmas period, where councillors were unable to comment as there was no consultation. Councillor Evans asked why was it not planned earlier and how much did it cost for free travel and did it increase footfall.



The Leader advised that  the decision made was based on on professional officer advice.  The scheme offered up to residents an opportunity of free travel during 1-21 December around Newport.  The Burns report showed that 35% of residents did not have cars and it therefore allowed those with no cars to access the city centre and visit family and friends during the lead up to Christmas. It also reflected the value for people  of active travel.  Passenger journeys did go up and the details were in the report that Cllr Evans referred to in his question.



Why was it not decided in the summer to promote funding.  On officer advice why was it taken so late in the day.



The Leader referred Councillor Evans back to the report and advised that securing of external funding was successful for another scheme of this nature and that the Leader would be making an announcement on that soon. 


Councillor Whitehead:

When would the cemeteries be fully opened, as we were one of the last Council’s in Wales not to fully open and concern was expressed by the public.



The Leader was aware of the concerns expressed by public and agreed with the acknowledgment by Councillor Whitehead of measures put in place by covid.  Some issues with the plant machinery and vehicular access during the week.  There was access to cemeteries every day, although only sometimes pedestrians had access. People needing access to the cemetery could contact the council to get this access.  Cemeteries were open during the Christmas period, however it was reported that some people treated cemeteries poorly and with lack of respect.  One driver almost ploughed into mourners during a funeral.  There was £25,000 worth of damages to Christchurch cemetery when it was broken into and there was also numerous photos of those with no respect people parking on graves.  But we did need to ensure that they were open to public and in the Council was in the process of undertaking further assessment to open in a safe way to public and information would be coming soon.



Councillor Whitehead mentioned that the booking system was proving chaotic for a certain age group and hoped to be back to normal as soon as.


Councillor C Townsend:

Similar to Whitehead, Councillor Whitehead also referred to access to cemeteries and asked if a Fairness and Equality Impact Assessment (FEIA) could be carried out, which would be a big help.



The Leader advised that with a view to opening cemeteries it would not need to be considered as there were no changes to policy although FEIA were relevant and considered in all decisions made by the Council.


Ballot Questions


Councillor K Thomas:

In the light of the emerging cost of living crisis, could the Leader outline to members the support available for citizens at this time.



The Leader mentioned that this was a difficult time and the main challenge was the energy crisis and in the coming months there would be increases of a magnitude never seen before. The Resolution Foundation had highlighted price increases in energy bills over taking living wages.  The Resolution Report stated that Spring looked particularly difficult with April bringing a broad based cost of living catastrophe, which after a pandemic was what citizens were faced with.  With other increased bills, this could cost households an increase of over £1,000.  The Council did try to mitigate this but there was also huge pressure on council budgets.  The impact on families meant that residents had to choose between heating their homes or eating.  Residents would be signposted by the Council to help and support, including small businesses.  Information on the website was also available and the Leader urged residents and small businesses to get in touch as funding from the Council of £100,00 was available as well as the Winter Fuel funding therefore residents must apply before 18 February.