Strategic Review of Primary Education in the Bryn y Cwm Area:

I mentioned this in the last Newsletter and it has now started. As you know the child population has reduced over the years and there is a view that some schools may become too small to be educationally viable. All the Primary Schools in the Bryn y Cwm area (including ours) are now under review to consider what if anything needs to be done about large numbers of vacant places and educational viability.

Schools need to be of a size which is sufficient to deliver the whole curriculum properly. At the same time we must be mindful of a child’s social needs. Travel time to and from school for young children must not be too long; a child needs to be able to socialise with school friends after school; parents need to be able to easily maintain contact with school and participate in school based activities; and teachers need to have knowledge of the community the child comes from.

We also need to be mindful of traffic congestion and pollution if we have too few schools and too many people travelling; I have asked for a cost/benefit analysis of the environmental aspect of transporting increasing numbers of children to school and have been assured that this will be investigated as part of the Review.

It is also important that children feel a part of their own community as so much of their social development takes place outside school. The view of the Council is that these reviews should be carried out initially on a confidential basis until the Council has decided what options should be consulted upon. My concern about this approach is that it prevents me and other Councillors from sharing information openly. I believe that confidentiality can go too far and I have challenged the approach on the basis that it is widely known that a review is taking place and why. If my view is upheld I can share more detailed information with you about the process. In any event I will keep our school Governors and Staff well informed and there will at a later stage be public consultation by the Council.

Affordable Housing:

There is a County Council Task & Finish Group on this which is looking at getting more “affordable housing” into the County. If you look at the Brecon Beacons National Park Development Plans which affect us (see you can see what possibilities there might be in our area

Waste Disposal:

MCC is part of a consortium with other Councils which is looking at options for disposing of rubbish which is not recyclable and will not in future be able to go to landfill. I have asked several questions of the Cabinet member responsible and have taken expert advice. My concern at the moment is that the process is leading to a large incinerator in the Cardiff area although I have been assured that other technologies will be looked at. I would appreciate comments from anyone with knowledge and expertise on this subject

Safeguarding Children:

As a former Director of Social services this issue is close to my heart and I have asked several questions in Council about the safety of our own services following the “Baby P” case. I am also leading a Select Committee review on the effectiveness of safeguarding children and young people in Monmouthshire.

County Council Budget:

The difficult process of setting the budget and the Council Tax has now started and I will keep you informed as it progresses.