To provide an opportunity to pose questions to Cabinet Members in line with Standing Orders.
No more than 10 minutes will be allocated at the Council meeting for questions to each Cabinet Member.
Members must submit their proposed questions in writing in advance in accordance with Standing Orders. If members are unable to ask their question orally within the allocated time, remaining questions will be answered in writing. The question and response will be appended to the minutes.
The question must be addressed through the Mayor or the person presiding at the meeting and not directly to the person being questioned.
Questions will be posed to Cabinet Members in the following order:
i. Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for City Services
ii. Cabinet Member for Education and Skills
iii. Cabinet Member for Assets
iv. Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development
v. Cabinet Member for Community and Resources
vi. Cabinet Member for Streetscene
vii. Cabinet Member for Licensing and Regulation
viii. Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure
There were five written questions to the Cabinet Members:
Question 1 – Deputy Leader/ Cabinet Member: City Services
Many of us have viewed the fascinating footage of the new Devon Place footbridge installation which took place during the Christmas break. Can the Cabinet member give council an update on the project and set out the anticipated completion date?
The installation of the main decks over Christmas was completed successfully. As the members are aware, rail track possession to enable such activities can only take place when there are no trains running, and so required staff to be working overnight and through Christmas day.
I would therefore like to thank the dedication and effort of staff within City Services, our contractors Alan Griffiths and Welsh Government for the funding of the project.
Contractors are currently undertaking de rig works to remove the temporary concrete pads and supports that were required for the crane to lift in the bridge sections and undertake alterations to the overhead electric lines.
The final fabrication of stairs, ramps and parapets are progressing to programme at the Prosteel Engineering workshop in Pontypool. These will be delivered to site in March and then lifted into place from Queensway and Devon Place.
Following completion of the structural bridge element, works will commence to the public realm which will include paved areas, planters and sustainable drainage.
Works are programmed for completion this summer.
Question 2 – Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member: City Services
Please can the Cabinet member provide council with an update on Active Travel schemes and outline future plans for active travel in Newport.
This year’s active travel (AT) schemes have progressed well with all schemes complete or programmed for completion by 31st March. The schemes delivered this year are:
The route runs through Tredegar park, continuing through the pedestrian subway under Forge Road to provide a link to the route through the old golf course.
The route through Monkey Island includes a new unsegregated bridge connecting the north footway of the main road, the open space area and the housing estate, so users do not have to use the multiple pedestrian crossings on the Southern Distributor Road junction. Both routes will also benefit from the introduction of low-level street lighting which has also been designed to minimise the impact on wildlife and the environment.
New Bridge at Fourteen Locks Canal Centre
A new active travel bridge has been constructed at the Fourteen Locks canal site. The bridge is located below the Canal Visitor Centre and provides a safe and convenient crossing point over the pond.
The route runs from Bassaleg Road to Wells Close (Gaer Estate) and provides a link to the northern areas of the city and the City Centre.
Several other projects are under development (outline feasibility study) this year including the Bettws canal link and bridge, fourteen locks road bridge and Old Town Dock bridge. The authority will be submitting further funding bids 2022/23 to see these schemes delivered.
To help plan future improvement and expansion of AT in the city, a major public consultation exercise was undertaken in 2021. The information from the consultation has informed our statutory Active Travel Network Map for Newport. This was submitted in December to the Welsh Government
Question 3 – Cabinet Member: Sustainable Development
At the last full council meeting the Leader announced that Newport City Council had won the “Outstanding Organisation Award” at The National’s inaugural Environment awards. Please can the cabinet member update council on the ongoing work that has led to this award.
This award is a result of the outstanding all-around effort and a reflection of the ultimate reduction the Council has made in terms of carbon emissions over the past 3 years. Through a combination of capital projects and bold policy changes the Council has significantly reduced its carbon footprint, and these reductions in energy have continued to be delivered despite the impact of COVID 19.
These projects have ranged from:
Training and employee engagement on sustainability and carbon reduction
Through the delivery of carbon literacy training to Members and staff, and through widespread engagement via workshops as part of the creation of the Council’s proposed Climate Change plan. This engagement will continue as part of the delivery of our carbon neutral 2030 objectives and the involvement of all Members and employees will be the key to our success.
The council has completed projects such as the conversion of the velodrome to 100% LED lighting, and we are now developing an ambitious programme of works across the estate which will include the installation of heat pumps to reduce gas boiler usage, Solar PV, LED lighting, more efficient ventilation and new controls.
Solar panel installation
Working in partnership with Egni Co-op (a community energy group) the Council scooped the award for best “Community Energy Scheme” at the Ystadau Cymru Awards for the work we delivered, rolling out solar panels on an incredible 27 council buildings. Planning permission has also be achieved for a small solar farm on council land and is reflective of the administration’s commitment to climate change and sustainability.
EV charging and vehicles
The council has installed public EV charging points across a number of our public car parks (https://www.newport.gov.uk/en/Transport-Streets/Electric- vehicle-charge-points.aspx) and we are continuing the delivery of public infrastructure via the installation of on-street chargers and rapid chargers for residents use.
The Council is supporting two low carbon housing developments, both of which have agreed to not use fossil fuel combustion to provide heating. The developments have also included SuDs attenuation zones planted with a wet meadow mix of flora, including nut/berry bearing tree/shrub species to provide foraging opportunities and habitats for wildlife.
It is clear to see why Newport City Council has been awarded this fantastic award.
Would there be possible training for members to better sign post residents?
Yes, this would happen later in the year for a better understanding of the environmental agenda in the city. The Leader would also be happy to provide a briefing for Councillor Horton.
Question 4 – Cabinet Member: Licensing and Regulation
Within the last two years a number of UK Cities have introduced ‘Clean Air Zones’ such as Manchester and Birmingham. Have there been any plans or discussions by the Council to introduce a ‘Clean Air Zone’ in or around Newport’s City Centre?
There are no current plans or discussion about introducing Clean Air Zones in or around Newport City Centre.
Those councils that have introduced Clean Air Zones have been specifically identified and directed to do so by Central Government and provided with additional funding to enable this, because of specific air quality problems within their City Centres.
I would refer Councillor Mogford to the detailed information that I have previously provided at Council in response to questions about air quality management in Newport. The worst areas of air pollution in Newport, where the levels of nitrous oxide exceed air quality standards, have been designated as Air Quality Management Areas and most of these are located along the M4 corridor. The only AQMA’s that are on the outskirts of the City Centre are in Chepstow Road and George Street. All of these AQMA’s were declared a number of years ago and, as I have previously advised Council, the emission levels in all of those areas are gradually reducing Therefore, we are making good progress in reducing emissions and improving air quality.
We will continue to monitor air quality and we intend purchasing and installing additional real-time monitors for these AQMA’s closer to the City Centre. This will enable us to update the Council’s Air Quality Action Plan with actions to improve air quality in these AQMA’s. A key part of the action plan will be to establish local action groups to engage with the local communities, because educating the public and encouraging changes in behaviour are essential if we are to reduce the effects of air pollution on public health. We have already established the first local action group in Caerleon and a second action group will be formed shortly for the Chepstow Road area.
The use of Clean Air Zones is just one of a range of possible measures that can be used to address air quality and would only be appropriate where other, less intrusive, measures have been unsuccessful. As I have advised previously, the Council has developed active travel routes and sustainable travel initiatives, including the use of electric vehicles. The issue of air quality cannot be addressed in isolation and is part of the wider climate change and carbon reduction agenda.
The designation of a clean air zone would be an improvement, was it therefore in the gift of this council to provide this.
Councillor Truman advised that it was not.
Question 5 – Cabinet Member: Education and Skills
Many councillors are school governors and are aware of the challenges that our schools have faced during the pandemic. Can the Cabinet member provide council with an update on the return to school for the spring term and include an overview of the support that is in place for both pupils and staff?
The return to spring term has presented various challenges to our schools which continue to operate significantly well under the circumstances. We continue to work with our school leaders to ensure that we provide clear advice and bespoke support based on the needs of individual schools.
Local authority officers have continued to communicate regularly with Headteacher’s to provide health & safety advice, information on the hardship fund, up to date TTP self-isolation advice for the school community and any necessary supplies of CO2 monitors, face coverings and PPE.
Face to face learning remains a priority. At the beginning of this term, Welsh Government allowed schools two planning days to consider how they may operate with a forecast workforce pressures. This space and time was gratefully received by all of our schools and as a result of excellent local authority and school efforts; overall Newport has experienced only minor interruptions. This does not take away the high level of operational complexities which schools have managed on a day to day basis and I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Headteacher’s, schools staff and local authority officers who have worked tirelessly to ‘keep things as normal as possible for our learners’. Their efforts are not underestimated. The dedication of our staff goes beyond any of our expectations.
To date, there have been less than ten incidents of year group closures. At this time pupil attendance has had to be managed very sensitively. School staff and the Education Welfare Service have been supporting families with a range of strategies to reassure pupils, parents and carers that school is a safe place and the best place to be.
Where possible our schools have continued to develop their medium and long term strategic plans which include for instance, work around learner standards, catch up programmes, ALN Reform implementation, and Curriculum for Wales’s progression.
In Newport we have ensured that pupil wellbeing remains central to everything we do and I am pleased to report that schools now have further capacity to refer pupils to school based counselling. In addition schools continue to be supported by the local authority to ensure that they are able to sustain and improve their own whole school approaches to wellbeing following the continued unsettlement that the pandemic has brought.
To enable and support pupils in their learning as Cabinet we have over seen the investment in digital equipment which will enable home learning as well as providing an equitable level of access across the whole of the local authority. By the end of this financial year we will have provided schools with:
§ 9024 laptops, Chrome books, PCs and apple devices
§ 146 charging trolleys
§ 105 interactive screens
§ 106 projectors
Additionally Cabinet has made a series of budget investment proposals to support education and our schools. Being minded these are draft proposals, which are subject to consultation and review they currently include:
§ 3 new Teacher Advisors for schools who will support with early identification of ALN, behaviour needs and work with the schools who have the most vulnerable children.
§ Additional support for the Safeguarding Hub
§ An additional £1.2 million for ALN learners
§ £1.75 million to support additional pupil place demand
§ Funding to address teacher and education workforce pay increases.
§ There will be an additional £888k which is needed in order to meet the forecast increases of free school meal uptake.
It is worth noting that at the beginning of the pandemic 3200 pupils were accessing free schools meals. There are now 7000 children who currently require a free school meal at lunch time. This is a rise of 118% and shows the level of support families require across our city and is a measure of the impact of the pandemic, as well as Brexit with the consequent rise in cost of living.
As a Cabinet we remain committed to supporting our schools, staff and pupils. We want the best for our children and a focus in recent times has been on well-being and on ensuring pupils and families are kept safe and will clearly continue to be the case. However, we also want our children to have aspirations and go onto achieve their dreams and this will also continue to be a key priority for this authority.