Recycling: City faces fines over targets.

What’s to be done about rubbish?

Newport and neighbouring authorities, Blaenau Gwent  and Torfaen face fines for failing to meet Welsh government recycling targets.

As this blog pointed out recently, the way we handle our rubbish is not working, but how will fining a severely cash-strapped local authority, help matters in the long run?

Newport can’t afford to repair  roads or damaged pavements; it’s cut back on school transport; it’s trying to tackle mountains of illegally dumped rubbish, by people too lazy to dispose of it themselves.`

Lowest tax

Unfortunately its council tax receipts, which Labour boasted were the “second lowest in Wales” are not enough to run a city of 140,000 inhabitants.  Welsh government time would be better spent on coming up with more efficient ways for people to tackle the escalating volumes of waste, caused not just by the average householder, but by the plethora of fast-food outlets dominating every town and city.

There needs to be a concerted effort to tackle once and for all, the huge problems caused by plastics and packaging in general.  Many plastics are actually harmful to the environment and there is nowhere for them to go.

Greed

“First world” greed means we eat on the go; we shop when we want; we keep buying those plastic supermarket bags, which then fly around neighbourhoods causing problems for wildlife, particularly birds.

Rubbish isn’t sexy so we won’t see David Beckham, or the latest pin-up boy or girl pleading with manufacturers to cut back on packaging. Wealth is part of the problem. We’re a throwaway society, like the united States has been since the 1950s.

Target

Newport’s recycling rate is 57 per cent, which given the tardiness of many households, isn’t that bad and is very close to the government target of 58 per cent.

Newport Council’s present system doesn’t work. It’s too cluttered, too messy, too inconvenient and time-consuming.  But the Welsh government response to impose fines is not the way forward.

Newport has its problems, but Blaenau Gwent is the poorest authority in Wales. How would fines help there?

 

Lottery Fund appeal to save Market Arcade.

Newport is one of those Victorian towns lucky enough to have beautiful shopping arcades.

Built in a more graceful age, the arcades once contained elegant shops and cafes suited to a slower pace of life.

Fast forward to now and what Newport has, are decaying and empty premises with transient businesses which can’t succeed in 2016 when everybody wants the “fast and furious” approach to shopping and eating. Few have time to “stand and stare” as Newport’s tramp poet put it, which is one of the reasons for the decline in the first place.

Good news

By far the worst of Newport’s arcades, is Market Arcade, home to drunks and ne’er-do-wells. But there could be some good news on the horizon  for the Grade 2 listed, 1869 arcade, after it was announced that Newport City Council was considering applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a minimum of £400,000 towards a £1.7 m project to regenerate it.

Newport is not good at protecting its heritage and this arcade, the oldest in the city, is worth fighting for.  A report presented to council members said the continuing decline was a matter of increasing “civic concern.”

Stumbling block

It seems that the stumbling block to any improvement lies with the various owners of the units within the arcade.

“Generating a critical mass of  interested parties from among the various owners and tenants that is sufficient to support a bid for external funding has been a long-standing challenge,” the report said.

Success

Newport West AM Jane Bryant welcomed the news and said it was important to build on the success of Friars Walk.

“We have to ensure we preserve our historic Market Arcade so it lasts another 147 years.”

Indeed. We all wish for some positive action in this neglected part of the city and regeneration can’t come soon enough.

Architecture

Friars Walk is all very well, but Friars Walk has “here today, gone tomorrow” architecture, unlike the wonderful facades of the old part of the city. If the funding bid is successful, NCC will have a year to develop a detailed project, which will include High Street and Market Street.

 

Gypsy site anguish will not go away.

The article below appeared in Newport Really Matters three years ago and as any reader can work out for him/herself, Labour councillors voted for Hartridge Farm Road to become a gypsy site.

Malcolm Linton, as this piece makes clear, put up a token resistance then, as he does now.

Known as the “silent” one, he certainly doesn’t put his ward first.

If he did, he and his two colleagues would be battering down the doors at the Senedd, demanding that the views of people in the area be heard. He would also have the sense to realise that the previous administration had whittled the list for gypsy sites down to a small number, which were deemed suitable.

Hartridge Farm Road, a prime building site, was dismissed by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Read on …

Go-ahead given for Ringland gypsy site.

 Newport councillors voted last night  to leave a contentious proposed gypsy site in the city’s future development plan. 

At a meeting of the full council, 31 councillors voted against an amendment to have Hartridge Farm Road removed from the plan, while seven voted for and seven abstained.

Hartridge Farm Road, worth a reputed £5 million,  was to be sold to  part-fund the building of Llanwern High School.

Concerns

Newport Council officers expressed concerns about the suitability of the Ringland site and the three councillors for the ward, decided late in the day, that it was expedient to be seen to be on the side of local residents, who oppose the plan.

Ringland councillor Malcolm Linton attempted to have the Road Safety site removed from the LDP (Local Development Plan) as a site for gypsies and travellers, but the motion failed.

Ringland’s Labour representatives were over a barrel here, particularly, leader Bob Bright.

What does he do? Behind closed doors, they will have discussed tactics and decided on the best way forward.

Councillor Bright  would normally bludgeon any opposition from his own group. But here he is, along with councillors Linton and Emma Corten, having to be seen to support the people of Ringland.

This site was never going away, so Malcolm Linton’s political choreography was rather wasted.

He and his two colleagues knew they could safely make a stand, because the rest of the “faithful” would toe the line and vote the way they were supposed to.

No further delays

At this late stage – there can be no further delays with the LDP and to remove Hartridge Farm Road would make the plan “unsound.”

However, Newport’s LDP would have been much further forward if Newport Labour had not spent the last year playing games and deliberately over-turning a list drawn up by the previous administration.

When a party’s majority is large enough, “errant” councillors can be allowed their moment in the sun. It’s when there’s a small majority, that difficulties arise and had this been the case here, Councillors Bright, Linton and Corten would have had difficult choices to make.

As it is though, they can say, with hand on heart, that they voted against their own party and put Ringland first…

Tinkering at the edges

Another month and more changes to local recycling and refuse collections are taking place in Newport.

In the latest change, Newport Council are rolling out red bags that will replace the much derided green bags.  The red bags will be principally for plastics and cans whereas the green boxes will be for glass and cardboard.

The latest changes are part of the Council’s attempts to meet Welsh Government driven recycling targets – incidentally higher than EU targets – which will result in hefty financial penalties if not met.

Spin

In its attempts to win over residents, the council have issued a leaflet saying the system will be ‘simpler and be cleaner for the street environment’.

It appears that Council bosses are being ironic.  The new system represents a major change to the way residents recycle and is far greater than the introduction of the cardboard bags a few years ago.

Whereas most items could go in the green box – this is now longer the case.  The red bag is likely to become the principal bin/bag (whatever you call it) for recycling in most households.  And whether the red bag can hold as much as the green box is questionable.

Local environment

The other part of the ironic statement is that the red bags will reduce the likelihood of plastics being blown across the streets.  What is not being said is whether the red bags will survive day to day constant use and go missing after being randomly discarded by recycling staff at collection times.

Also not being said is how all the bins and bags in all – which can mount up to a staggering 7 – now litter our streets.  The problem is particularly acute in terraced streets where bins obstruct pedestrians particularly those with push chairs and those with disabilities.

Got it wrong

It is doubtful that the latest initiative will deliver the increase in recycling that is needed for the Council to meet its targets.

By making the system more complicated and confusing – and is challenging for those with families, those working and those with less mobility – the Council have simply got it wrong.

At best, instead of having a fundamental rethink, it represents tinkering at the edges.

A case of saving face

This week the South Wales Argus has reported that Wales’ Economic Boss Ken Skates is pushing for listing of the old college building at Caerleon campus.  It follows the closure of the campus in June by the University of South Wales (USW) and the announcement of plans to flatten the site for housing.

The question has to be asked why there is now a sudden urge to save the doomed building despite the protests to date?  Why didn’t Ken Skates and his colleagues speak out when it was clear that USW was systemically  asset stripping Newport’s University resulting in the loss of hundreds of well paid jobs in Newport?

Legacy

The bottom line is the buildings demise is the direct result of Labour policy in Cardiff Bay to force University mergers in Wales.  Leighton Andrews, the former AM for the Rhondda – and booted out of office in May – pursued an aggressive policy of forcing Newport University into merger with Glamorgan University.  He had wanted Cardiff Met University into the merger but Cardiff Met rallied support and told Mr. Andrews where he could stuff his plans.

Newport was not so fortunate.  Lack of political leadership locally meant USW was able to start the wind down and asset strip Newport as soon as the merger was complete.  Nothing – not even a whimper – was made by local AMs and MPs when Newport staff were being methodically sacked (or rather leave ‘voluntarily’ with gagging clauses) with courses shifted to Cardiff or Treforest.

It was evident to all – except our esteemed elected representatives – that Caerleon was doomed.

Stock answer

When challenged to stop the plans, the Welsh Government came out with their stock answer – that it had nothing to do with them and was a matter entirely for USW.  So the University was able to carry on regardless to this point.

It is only now – and major objections from Caerleon residents – that the consequences of the merger policy are now being publically felt.  The loss of one Caerleon’s – and indeed Newport’s – landmarks begs the question what value is attached to anything in this city?

CADW – the Welsh body responsible for the protection of Welsh heritage assets – have said to date the building does not warrant listing because it is typical of many building across Wales.  That may be true but it is part and a feature of modern Caerleon and that should count for something.

Whether CADW will listen is highly debatable.  The Minister’s late minute intervention does not smack of joined up policy but instead, a blatant case of saving face.

 

 

 

When is racist language not racist?

When is racist language not racist?

When it’s used by dinosaurs at council meetings in Monmouthshire, apparently.

That’s according to Councillor Graham Down, who seems to believe that if a man is over 60, racist language, when not backed up by “hate”, is OK.

Racist language isn’t acceptable, just like urinating in public isn’t acceptable, or punching another in the face isn’t acceptable. Society’s mores change, but not according to Councillor Down.

Colonies

The independent member for Shirenewton, chose to use phrases – long removed from books by Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie and others  – writing when Britain had an empire and was busy subjugating the colonies.

Thankfully the world has moved on – or at least the more educated among the population have – but the dinosaurs refuse to become extinct.

Councillor Down defended his use of racist language during a motion condemning racism and xenophobia in the county.

Lessons

Some Labour members objected, which led to Councillor Armand Watts suggesting that some councillors needed to have lessons and training because “we’re in the 21st century now.”

It’s extraordinary that leafy Moinmouthshire has elected members who feel it is just fine to use “n****r” in woodpiles, and an interviewee would be a good candidate “shame he’s black.”

Councillor Down really needs to move with the times. It’s not acceptable to throw racist and sexist jibes in a place which has protected privileges. If he were on the street he could be arrested.

No harm

These men are “older” and therefore are allowed to make these remarks because they don’t mean any harm.

Try telling that to the people on the receiving end, who feel diminished and humiliated.

It was once acceptable to refer to women as b*****s, W****s and to molest them at will. Black people suffered vile abuse and once upon a time, so did the Irish. . They don’t have to do that anymore and quite frankly the ones spouting this sort of language simply look stupid and make the rest of us feel embarrassed for them.

 

Lib Dems storm to victory in St. Julians by election.

Liberal Democrats it would appear, are on the rise.

Two days ago in the St Julians by election,  the widow of the late Councillor Ed Townsend, Carmel Townsend, held the seat with 948 votes ( 53.7 per cent) while Labour, which has two of the three seats trailed with 432 votes, (24 .4 per cent) of the vote.

Electorates can be fickle, but this was a resounding victory for a party that was in the doldrums four years ago, when Ed Townsend held his seat by one vote.

It took three recounts before he was declared the winner, and yet when he was first elected in 2004, he had the highest vote ( 1718) on Newport City Council.

For a Liberal Democrat to retain a seat, it means they must work twice as hard as the two main parties and this seems to be what Ed Townsend did. Tributes after his death spoke of his work in the community and his ability to get things done.

National

He won St Julians with two colleagues in 2004 and St Julians remained a Lib Dem  stronghold until  May 2012 when Labour won two seats from the Lib Dems.  It’s widely believed that Labour fought the 2012 election on “national” issues, rather than on local concerns, but that is all history.

Newport City Council had one Liberal Democrat – and it still has one.

St Julians electors have put their trust in Mrs Townsend. It will be for her to represent them, just as her husband did.

In 2008 a similar precedent was set in Bettws when Labour’s Val Delahaye became a councillor after the death of her husband, Lloyd Delahaye.

 

Get off your bikes or face a fine.

Gwent Police have banned cyclists from the city centre.

Do they have the right to ban people from Newport’s streets, without any recourse to the city council?

Have the councillors for the area had any input to this draconian measure?

Protocols

Apparently the main target is “anti-social” cycling and yet the Argus reports that “not just those cycling in an anti-social manner” will face a ban.

The protocols are not clear here. While the public demand police action on issues like open drug dealing, drunkenness, “chugging”, spitting, they’re either nowhere to be seen, or are reluctant to do anything about it.

What is the view of Newport City Council’s chief executive or head of Streetscene?

Encouraged

Cycling is to be encouraged, over car use any day, yet cyclists – presumably elderly ladies or trainee athletes – will have to get off, rather than “on”, their bikes.

“‘ello, ello, ello, what have we here? I’m sorry Madam, get off that bike or face a fine. Leave your shopping and get a bus home.”

Come on, Gwent Police.

Targeted

Newport’s business people are the sensible ones. As Paul Hawkins from Diverse Music said: “How can you ban cyclists from the city centre? You can’t ban them from the road.”

Imagine the uproar if motorists were targeted in this way.

Cyclists en masse can be annoying or even intimidating in a shopping centre where people of all ages gather.

Sensible

It would be more sensible to police the area better and to have designated cycling routes.

Cyclists are regarded as second class citizens by many car drivers and some pedestrians. Let’s not demonise them further. There are worse “crimes” to punish.

Dirty Old Town

Walk down any street in Newport and the first thing you register, is how dirty and slovenly many of them are.

So a revived  campaign against fly-tipping is to be welcomed.

Pride

The re-launch of “Pride in Newport” took place in the heart of Councillor Ray Truman’s own ward, Alway.

Alway is pretty neglected and dirty, but Councillor Truman needs to look at every ward in the city, not just his own.

Concerns

We have a cash-strapped council which doesn’t address people’s concerns about litter and fly-tipping and continually chases its tail in clearing up the mess left by anti-social individuals.

Once – proud terraced streets are practically health hazards. Decent people shouldn’t put up with it, and the only way Newport Council can start to remedy the deteriorating situation, is by making examples of  people and going for prosecutions. A zero tolerance approach like in Germany.

Dirty

Why is Britain the dirty man of Europe?  Content to live surrounded by squalor.

To be fair, the council should not have to pick up after lazy, unthinking people who’d rather dump their rubbish in other neighbourhoods, than shift themselves to recycle, or drive to the tip.

Times are hard and nobody likes having to do what councils once did, but unless we’re going to slip back into history and fling rotten meat, fish, slops and other detritus out  of our windows, we’ve got to do something.

Landlords

Landlords  must shoulder some blame too. They don’t care who they put in their houses and young people who would once have bought those properties, have no chance of settling in a neighbourhood, making it their own and watching it prosper.

Interestingly, Pride in Newport dates back to 2007. Why is it being revived? And why did it collapse?

As ever, these schemes need strong leadership and community involvement. They don’t need “hot air” and unattainable goals. We wish Pride in Newport all the success in the world, but let’s see where it is, 12 months from now.

 

The crime we’d like to bury under the carpet…

Child sexual abuse is the crime of our times.

Former pupils of Malpas Church in Wales School were left traumatised, and with no redress for the pain they suffered at the hands of their head teacher, Jon Styler.

Malpas Church in Wales school wasn’t the only establishment where children were subjected to the unwanted attentions of sexual predators.

Exposure

These people carried out their crimes without fear of exposure.

Social class was not a factor, as such brutality stalked the corridors of the country’s “top” schools as well as those in less affluent areas. Children’s homes were notorious for both sexual abuse, and physical violence.

Secrecy

Secrecy was the operative word in all of these cases. Secrecy, and a gross breach of trust.

Many of the abusers were trusted priests, friends or teachers, though  most abuse against children is still confined to the family unit.

Conduct

In the 1970s there was a type of “free- for-all” when it came to breaking codes of conduct.  Who would believe the word of a child against that of a respected teacher? Who would ever believe that a child in care was telling the truth when he or she reported that the housemaster assaulted them in the shower or the dormitory? These things were rampant and we’re only discovering them as we lift up the stones, forty years later.

Freedom

The BBC, the media in general, show business, politicians, employers – all it seemed, were “at it.”

Should parents have suspected? Probably not. This was the age of “freedom”, women’s lib, equality, but children’s voices were silent.

In the 1970s, professional women were still subjected to unwanted male attentions, such as fondling, catcalling, whistling and plain sexual aggression. If women protested they were “frigid” or”lesbians.”

Odd

So what chance did children have?   Many young boys, now men, report “odd” behaviour by their teachers, but back then there was a shoulder-shrugging sense of “well he’s always been a bit strange” or “men will be men.”

Children never lie about sexual abuse. Back then, they didn’t have the vocabulary to describe their experiences. They’re better informed now, but abuse still goes on.