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 Questions to the Leader commenced, the Leader updated Council on the following announcements:


·        City of Culture

Newport City Council was committed to ensuring that people feel good about living, working, visiting and investing in our city. 


The Council looked to seize all opportunities to promote confidence and pride within its communities as well as showcasing Newport to the wider world. 


On 19 July the Council submitted an expression of interest to become the UK City of Culture 2025.


Newport was a city with a proud cultural tradition and heritage, the gateway to south Wales, with communities diverse and rich in culture and language.


Newport was also part of a wider region, formerly known as Gwent, where the past, present and future are inextricably linked. Newport shared a social, cultural and economic history underpinned by our internationally recognised heritage.


This expression of interest was about embracing the opportunity to highlight what the city and region had to offer and use it as a driver for change.


It was hoped that this would challenge and shape people’s views about Newport and to tell the world about Newport’s unique culture and long history, including the Chartist march for democracy.  To also tell the stories of people from around the world who chose Newport as their home throughout the centuries.


The estuary and levels would be celebrated, as by those in whose footprints we follow and can still see preserved in the estuary mud today.


It would help reignite the city’s passion for music, art and homegrown talent, to hear poetry, performance and music emanating from all establishments, large and small.


The Council also wanted to create a stronger platform for organisations with mutual interests to co-operate rather than compete for resources. To develop a shared programme of action, planning together to promote the importance of Newport’s cultural wealth to residents and the wider world.


Newport had a strong track record of partnership working and delivering improvements to its environment and communities, and of course, major events on an international scale.


If the bid progressed to the next stage, the Council would develop and submit a detailed bid. If successful, this would see Newport delivering a year-long programme of events, activities and projects – with the support of wonderful partners across the city and region – that would celebrate Newport’s diverse culture and help open it up to even more people – locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. 


·        Transporter Bridge – additional funding

The Leader was pleased to report that an additional £80,000 grant from the Wolfson Foundation had been secured to help fund the Transporter Bridge transformation project.


The grant complemented the previous £8.75m awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the £1.5m from Welsh Government and the £1m capital funding that the Council also committed to the project.


The Foundation recognised the cultural and historical significance of the Transporter Bridge, and that the transformation project would bring this significance to life through improved public access and engagement.


·        HWRC award

The city’s household waste recycling centre was shortlisted for a national award. It was one of only three across the UK, and the only one from Wales, shortlisted for the ‘civic amenity site of the year award’ at this year’s Awards for Excellence in Recycling and Waste Management.


It has been an incredibly busy year for the centre, which benefited from a refreshed layout, improved waste separation measures and a new booking system.


These changes have contributed to an increase in the recycling rate at the centre, from 65% in 2019/20 to over 90% for 2020/21.


The winners were to be announced on 21 July, the Leader wished the team the very best of luck for a much-deserved win.


·        Vaccine take-up and sessions

As the easing of restrictions continued over the coming weeks, encouraging residents to take up the opportunity to have their vaccination, and to ensure they received their second jab, was of increasing importance.


Take up in the area was excellent and in the Aneurin Bevan area 88% of the adult population received their first dose and second doses were progressing well with 90% of over 40s being fully vaccinated.


Our walk-in sessions also had an excellent attendance and helped boost those figures. The Leader thanked everyone who helped spread the message within communities and in particular, for working with those who may be more reluctant or concerned.


Another walk-in session would take place on Sunday 25 July at Newport Centre between 2pm and 6pm.


·        LDP update

Work was well under way on the replacement Local Development Plan. It would determine how the city would look and be developed over the next fifteen years.


The LDP looked at; how land should be used, what roads, paths and cycle ways there should be, the use of parks and green spaces, ensuring there was space for businesses, as well as protecting the environment.


The latest stage of consultation ran until 27 August and landowners, stakeholder organisations and local communities had the opportunity to submit potential sites for inclusion in the replacement LDP known as Candidate Sites.


Submissions could be made for a wide variety of uses - for example, housing, employment, retail, tourism, green infrastructure, recreation and reviewable energy. 


The Leader encouraged any interested parties to have their say at this stage of the process.


The Leader mentioned foster carers in Newport and their fantastic commitment to looking after children in their care.  The Leader therefore took the opportunity to publicly thank those carers. In addition, as a special thank you for our long serving foster carers, the council named a special rose ‘Foster With Love’. This is a tribute to all Newport foster carers from everyone at Newport City Council. 


Leader also wanted to give a public thank you to Joel Hughes from Caerleon who was inspired to set up a Just Giving Page to support a young football fan, whose photo showing her distress at her team losing a European football match was shared on social media. They managed to locate the girl’s family, who donated the money to UNICEF.  This was an outstanding gesture by a citizen of Newport which made the Leader proud of the strengths of the people of Newport.



Leader’s Questions


Councillor M Evans:


Councillor M Evans also praised Joel Hughes and also gave a mention to the foster carers and the good work they did.


Councillor Evans referred to the Night Time economy and his concerns that it was hanging by a thread.  Whilst it was evident that Covid had an impact on the economy, Councillor Evans felt that in part this was a result of the Council’s partnership with the University of South Wales.  Councillor Evans referred to the USW’s accepting money from Newport for the new build, and selling the Caerleon and Allt-yr-yn sites, but failing to attract the number of students anticipated into the City..  He went on to say that Newport had become a poor man’s Pontypridd.  Secondly, Newport had no national night club operators and had not done so, Councillor Evans believed, since Mecca had Tiffany’s.  The person that did own nightclubs in Newport had been caught up in controversy.  Councillor Evans asked if the Leader agreed that radical action needed to be taken to address these issues and asked would the Leader consider approaching a national night club operator and also a casino operator.  Finally, what was the Leader doing in relation to USW in order for them to take Newport more seriously?




The Leader queried which question would councillor Evans like to be answered as they were two separate questions. Councillor Evens mentioned that they were effectively one question because they referred to the night time economy. 


The Leader highlighted the positive and constructive working relationship with USW and a lot of their cyber and digital based activity was based in Newport. They offer strong support for start-up companies, which was important for the Council, as some of the business were located in Newport such as the Alacrity building. Both Alacrity, and the Nation Software Academy situated in the Information Station building also host start-up companies. USW also played an important role in the economic growth and knowledge transfer within the city.  In addition, they formed part of Newport’s Public Service Board and the Newport Economic Network.  The world has changed, and the focus of universities has changed, providing an opportunity to develop the cyber offering in Newport, and we were working constructively with USW to do this.


The Leader also visited the city centre and the feedback from operators was that they were seizing new opportunities to develop new offers, such as outdoor seating, and the night time economy was starting to recover from the impact of the pandemic.  The Leader understood that the question related to pre pandemic night-time economy, but within the context of the pandemic, the recovery strategy is leading to opportunities.  The Queen’s Hotel recently changed hands and there would be a new, exclusive night club on these premises. The Leader could not comment on a casino as each case is taken on it’s own merit and the planners would need to look into this.




Councillor Evans reiterated that student numbers had dropped and whilst there were new initiatives in the city, the student accommodation within Newport was being filled by Bristol students. Councillor Evans added that local students were not pertinent where an accommodation block needed to be filled with students. Councillor Evans stated that this was an issue that needed to be recognised in the strongest of terms, and it did affect the night-time economy.

In 2017. the council announced the Purple Flag Status for the night time economy, and it was anticipated that the Cabinet Member at the time would look into this further. Councillor Evans appreciated that night clubs could not open at the moment in Wales, but wanted the Purple Flag Status to be looked into. Councillor Evans felt that as far as a Casino was concerned, the council needed to look at radical solutions. Whilst there was the ICC and the Celtic Manor, customers might prefer to go to Cardiff or Bristol instead of Newport.




The Leader highlighted that Newport did work well with USW who had a key number of activities, scientific and business disciplines here. The Leader stated that this matched the focus of our city, which is about growth and a thriving city for everyone. With reference to student numbers, we could not take this question in isolation and must take into account Coleg Gwent who would be moving to the City Centre and the increased footfall of students.  It should also be noted that students attending further education colleges are not all aged 16-18, and also attracted a wide range of mature students. The relocation of Coleg Gwent in the city centre would attract around 2,000 students into the area.  In terms of opportunity for growth and attractions, it depended on whether the focus was on residents wellbeing.  The focus could be on putting mental wellbeing at risk by opening a casino and encouraging gambling, or by encouraging grassroots activities such as a live band, similar to what had taken place in the city centre on last Saturday afternoon in High Street.  The Leader urged the councillor to talk to representatives, such as local businesses, and ask for their ideas. In terms of the Cultural City Bid, local businesses had all indicated that they wanted a Newport that would grow organically without the need for major companies to come in and exploit people.


Councillor K Whitehead was not present to put forward a question to the Leader, but would do so via email as instructed by Councillor Jordan.


Councillor C Townsend:


As part of recent levelling up fund application, could the Leader confirm if there was any other schemes that were looked into by Cabinet?




Our Master Plan for city centre provided us with the framework to match the criteria for the Levelling Up, which included the regeneration schemes.  What guided this decision therefore was; the Master Plan, the financial limits within the Fund, and what could reasonably be achieve within the expected timeframe of implementing any actions from the successful bids. Another factor in the decision was the multiplier effect in relation to the active travel, following on from the South East Wales Transport Commission, and that was why that area was highlighted.


Councillor Forsey:


With regard to the bid for Newport to become the City of Culture in 2025, which organisations were involved, and what was the range of events that were planned?




Newport City Council were encouraged to apply by the Secretary of State for Wales.  In terms of the application itself, this was the first time that the UK Government had allowed this application to be submitted, on a broader geographical basis.  Whilst Newport was applying for this bid as a city this would leave a footprint for Gwent which had a richness of history and culture.  Our partners in this would be the four Gwent Local Authorities. A huge range of other partners included USW, Coleg Gwent, Newport Now Bid, Friars Walk as well as the creative companies, Screen Alliance Wales and some freelance companies. This was because Newport recognised that this required a collaborative effort to achieve all of the benefits for cultural enrichment, and the economical benefits that came from regeneration.  Our focus was looking to the future, we knew our history and heritage was inextricably linked from heavy industry to the industry of the future.  We would look at how to embed data and technology.  What was important was the role of individual and communities and working with organisations and children within these communities to develop a programme of events.  An example was Operasonic, who were working with Roma gypsy travelling families in Maindee and Lliswerry, using music to unite and build community cohesion. Ballet Cymru had also done some excellent work with children in Somerton in relation to the National Duets Project.  We therefore wanted to engage with communities to provide a sound platform for the future.