The Leader presented the report to Cabinet.
This was the fourth Annual Report of the Council’s five year Corporate Plan.
The purpose of the report was to reflect on 2020/21 assessing the achievements this Council made, where we could improve and looking forward for the remainder of this Corporate Plan.
2020/21 was one of the most challenging that this Cabinet and officers across the Council had to manage as we responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and supported Newport’s communities.
Despite these challenges, Newport’s communities came together to support our public services, reaching out to their neighbours and helping our local businesses to recover and thrive again.
The report provided an overview of what Newport Council and its partners have delivered against this Cabinet’s mission of ‘Improving People’s Lives’ and the four Wellbeing Objectives
1. Improve skills, educational outcomes and employment opportunities
2. Promote economic growth and regeneration whilst protecting the environment
3. Enable people to be healthy, independent and resilient
4. Build cohesive and sustainable communities
Throughout the pandemic, many Council services were impacted by the restrictions and the Council committed to four Strategic Recovery Aims to support the response and recovery of services, Newport’s communities and businesses. The Strategic Recovery Aims were:
1. Understand and respond to the additional challenges which Covid-19 has presented including loss of employment, impact on businesses and on the progress, achievement and wellbeing of both mainstream and vulnerable learners.
2. Understand and respond to the impact of Covid-19 on the city’s economic and environmental goals to enable Newport to thrive again.
3. Promote and protect the health and wellbeing of people, safeguarding our most vulnerable and building strong, resilient communities.
4. Provide people with the resources and support they need to move out of the crisis, considering in particular, the impact that Covid-19 has had on our minority and marginalised communities.
The Annual Report was presented in September to the Council’s Overview and Management Scrutiny Committee. Detailed discussions on the Council’s Covid-19 response and feedback were in the contents of the Annual Report. The Committees recommendations were considered and updated in the final version of this report presented today.
Following the Cabinet’s endorsement, the Annual Report would be published and made available in Welsh.
In the last year, Newport Council had to adapt to deliver its services and have had to change long established habits and practices to meet the urgent needs of the crisis. Services switched incredibly quickly wherever possible to remote ways of working, video calls, and wearing protective clothing to minimise the spread of the virus.
From the start of the pandemic, this Council’s priority was to protect the most vulnerable across our communities.
This could not have been achieved without the collaborative approach that Newport Council, public and third sector organisations took to achieve this and it was hoped that this was one of the legacies of this experience that could be sustained and built upon for the future.
The Annual Report demonstrated that the Council continued to make good progress against its Well-being Objectives despite the challenge faced and increasing continuing financial pressures faced by the Council’s front-line services.
The Council’s finance position was in a good position at the end of 2020/21 which was helped by the Welsh Government funding to support the Council’s response to the pandemic.
Cabinet was aware that there were new financial challenges as services were seeing increasing demand, which would require the Council to make difficult and bold decisions going forward.
The report also highlighted some of the areas in the Council that would require improvement and where the Council would make necessary changes in the delivery of its services. These being:
Well-being Objective 1 (Improve skills, educational outcomes and employment opportunities) – Education / Regeneration.
· Despite the challenges schools and pupils gained good results in their GCSE and A levels.
· The Council recognised the need to ensure the achievement gap did not widen for the most disadvantaged pupils in the future.
· For schools, pupils and their families it was a challenge with home schooling. The Council was able to provide devices and internet access for many pupils to ensure they did not lose out on their learning.
· Throughout the year schools supported Free School Meals pupils and families by providing supermarket vouchers.
· The Council’s 21st Century schools programme was impacted by the pandemic but despite this, existing projects at Ysgol Gyfun Gwent Is Coed, Bassaleg School, Caerleon Comprehensive School and a new school at Whiteheads would be delivered throughout 2021/22.
· The Community Regeneration Team were impacted by the pandemic making it difficult to offer face to face programmes. Despite this and working with Digital Communities Wales the Council was able to offer IT equipment and support to people to undertake remote learning.
· The Council also offered online and virtual support through the Reach / Restart programme to refugees in the City which resulted in 95 assessments and supporting 74 people to gain employability skills and qualifications.
· Collaborative working with the DWP, Careers Wales, Coleg Gwent Adult Community Learning was vital to giving opportunities to many people in the City to retrain, gain new qualifications and employment.
· Newport Youth Academy and Aspire enabled young people not in education, employment or training to gain qualifications and entry into employment and further education.
· There were clear signs that Newport as a digital industry hub would continue to thrive, creating first class jobs and opportunities.
Well-being Objective 2 (To promote economic growth and regeneration whilst protecting the environment) – Regeneration Investment & Housing, City Services.
· Supporting businesses was vital, helping 1,000 businesses access £19 million of the financial support available from Welsh and UK Governments and acting as a conduit for national advice and support.
· An incubator space was planned for start-up businesses in the digital, technology and creative sectors in the Information Station which was already home to the National Software Academy.
· The redevelopment of Newport Market and Market Arcade were among the city’s most exciting projects.
· Once again, Newport was recognised as one of the best performing authorities on our waste and recycling in Wales and the UK.
· Newport was the first Council in Wales to purchase electric refuse vehicle as part of our ongoing programme to upgrade the Council’s fleet to electric vehicles.
· Installed 20 charge points across Newport sites for electric vehicles and upgraded street / parking lighting across car park sites.
· Significant funding was achieved towards repairs of the Transporter Bridge and development of the Heritage Centre.
· Continued work to reduce and respond to fly tipping in the city and worked on a number of projects to improve wildlife and biodiversity in the city, such as No Mow May.
Wellbeing Objective 3 (To enable people to be healthy, independent and resilient) – Social Services, City Services, Law & Regulation, Regeneration Investment & Housing
· The social service and community regeneration teams worked tirelessly through the pandemic alongside social care partners and the NHS to support some of our most vulnerable residents.
· Innovative work enabled us to develop a toolkit for children at risk of exploitation which was being adopted across Gwent and shared throughout Wales.
· A new outreach service developed to reduce isolation and loneliness during the pandemic would become a permanent service offer to offer respite in the absence of the former day service for Newport citizens.
· The Community Connector team provided a service to over 2,000 residents providing information, telephone advice and one to one support.
· The Council and Newport Live supported the NHS throughout the vaccination programme, providing buildings, staff and other facilities to ensure as many people as possible were vaccinated in the city.
· Intermediate Care Funding (ICF) enabled the employment of Transitions Occupational Therapist to assist young people’s transition into adulthood.
· The pandemic also demonstrated the benefits of not relying on cars to travel around the city. Active Travel projects delivered this year demonstrated the benefits of walking, cycling and using public transport. There was an improvement to the air quality in the city because of people being encouraged to work from home.
· Our work with the Cardiff Capital Region, Gwent Public Services Board and Western Gateway would start to bring significant investment over the next decade to improve our infrastructure making it more integrated across the region.
Well-being Objective 4 (To build Cohesive and sustainable communities) – People & Business Change, Regeneration Investment & Housing.
· Tackling homelessness through the pandemic with accommodation, mental and physical health support through our well-developed relationships with partner organisations and funding from Welsh Government. We are determined to build on our positive achievements.
· Neighbourhood Hub teams supported residents at need, through 5,000 phone calls to shielding residents, delivering 800 food parcels to isolated and vulnerable families, coordinating the Welsh Government Food Parcel scheme and home food growing initiative in Ringland.
· Flying Start settings provided childcare for children of keyworkers through lockdowns and summer holidays.
· Strong partnership work created a Safety and Anti-social behaviour data dashboard to collaboratively focus efforts and find solutions to make greenspace safe and accessible for all.
· Newport had a long history of offering welcome and sanctuary to people who choose to make the city their home and was proud of its diverse communities. Throughout the last year this Council supported and stood alongside its Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities as the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum and the Council remained committed to tackling all forms of hate crime with our partners in Gwent Police.
· Our community cohesion team worked hard alongside third sector partners to ensure that our EU residents and others were supported to continue to live and work in Newport.
· We would also continue to support refugee families that have been displaced due to conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan.
· Undertaking Community Impact Assessment to understand the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown measurers on communities in Newport.
Comments from Cabinet Members
· Councillor Cockeram stated that this was the most positive corporate plan that he had seen in his history with the Council. Councillor Cockeram highlighted items that stood out for him within the report. Home First was a reablement service preventing unnecessary admissions and there were savings involved as a result of this initiative. Community Connectors supported residents who engaged their services. Councillor Cockeram was proud to be part of the plan and thanked the Leader who articulated the report well and congratulated all those engaged in the report.
· Councillor Davies referred to the strategic recovery work undertaken in relation to schools, including the implementation of the Socio-Economic Duty. Remote learning for pupils was a challenge and by using the WG funding the Council was able to provide over 6,000 devices in children’s homes as well as installing wifi for those pupils with no internet access. Impact on the emotional wellbeing and post covid recovery work was in place to help students and staff. The report also focussed on the success of the Neighbourhood hubs in delivering education programmes such as the Newport Youth Academy and Aspire, providing bespoke training and ensuring young adults were prepared for work and engage within the system. The Reach/Restart programme was delivered across Newport despite pandemic, with many support modules in place to support refugees.
· Councillor Truman echoed councillor Cockeram’s comments that the report was the best report to date despite the pandemic. The Track, Trace and Protect (TTP) system was set up quickly and was considered to be one of the best in Wales. The mobile testing unit, community hubs, support for rough sleepers in addition to many other reactive services to the pandemic was testament to the hard work put in place by the Council. Councillor Truman thanked all employees of Newport City Council who pulled together and contributed to the positive content of the report.
· Councillor Hughes mentioned that the officers met the challenges of sustainability and the environment in Newport to meet the Net Zero Carbon Neutral target by 2030. Achievements highlighted were, changing LED lighting to low energy and Newport was the first Council in Wales to introduce electric refuse lorries. Newport City Council also received the prestigious Alan Clarke award for local/community energy at the Solar and Storage Live Awards in December 2020. The success of various projects to improve the environment in the city by Newport was also pointed out by Councillor Hughes.
· Councillor Harvey referred to the continuous regeneration of the city, including the Chartist Towe, Indoor Market, the Market Arcade and the Mill Street Post Office building, Devon Place footbridge, Information Station to name a few. Councillor Harvey congratulated the Leader and Deputy Leader for the report and was proud of the senior team of the council for their hard work and involvement within the report.
· Deputy Leader also was very impressed with the report and said well done to all those involved. The Deputy Leader extended his thanks to the residents, with the introduction of the smaller refuse bins the recycling which had contributed to reducing refuse. The Deputy Leader also echoed the comments of Councillor regarding the regeneration of the City and also referred to the active travel scheme which was increased by 47% this year.
· Councillor Mayer echoed comments of colleagues and highlighted the amount of times that the Neighbourhood and Intelligent hubs were mentioned in the report and that they had progressed during the challenging times. Councillor Mayer referred to page 33 within the report which showed a case study of the hubs was which extremely informative.
The Leader thanked colleagues for their considered comments.
That Cabinet endorsed the Annual Report 2020/21 to enable the report to be published by the 31 October 2021.