First, I would like to thank you all for your support during the past 12 months, without you none of what I do would be possible.
Thanks also to Pastor John Funnell, the Millennium Hall, Garnsychan Partnership, Melin Homes, Bronafon Community Housing and everyone else who have worked with me during the past 12 months.
This time last year who in their wildest of dreams would have foreseen the year coming!
The ward pantomime was on my mind, along with other plans I was getting ready to put aside to support our ward during the year (I often draw up a plan of possible events to work on).
Little did I know that these were about to be torn up and a new Covid plan put in its place.
As Covid started to take hold and the borough shut down, it became apparent that residents needed access to new recycling boxes, nappy sacks etc.
After a week or so delivering them personally, it was obvious that a ward central point was needed to cope with demand, as Noddfa Church already had a food share and after approaching, Pastor John Funnell he agreed for the Church Hall to be used as a distribution centre.
Thanks to Noddfa Church for their support, not only for now, but for the past 8 odd years since elected.
As the virus took hold and Schools closed, £1000 of my Local Project Funding was used to provide activity boxes within the ward for primary aged children to help keep them occupied during their time at home, this was very successful, along with a ward Scarecrow Competition to help keep everyone focused.
Between this, helping as a go between for the ward, to coordinate food deliveries to ward hubs, providing food packs to those struggling during furlough and cut hours within the ward.
As the year progressed it became apparent that pupils needed help returning to school so Back to School Scheme was born, this provided local schools with Calculators, Stationary etc.
With the help of residents and Housing Associations nearly £2000 worth of equipment was donated and shared out between local schools.
After a chance meeting with ward resident Mr Phil McGill, Tin on a Wall was born and has been supporting Noddfa Church and The Garnsychan Partnership food hubs for several weeks, thanks to the Community Champions and team for ensuring this takes place each Saturday.
Finally, after such a gloomy year, Light up the Ward came to fruition after reading about it taking place in other parts of the country.
This was very successful and will hopefully be an annual event.
Throughout the year I have tried to support as much as possible for the ward including £1000 of funding towards the School Hampers at Abersychan High School, it has been very challenging and mentally tiring for all, every penny of my funding has been used supporting the ward as best as possible.
As always, I tried to make personal donations to various ward residents charity collections, including Teenage Cancer Trust, Cancer Research UK, Bowel Cancer UK and Wales Air Ambulance Charity.
This year has been one that I thought I would never see, we have lost loved ones before their time, it has been tragic and even now we are losing too many to Covid.
Please keep safe and follow the latest advice to help protect you and others.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Councillor Ray Williams, another lost before his time, a massive character and sadly missed by all in this ward and beyond.
‘Hope is being able to see that there is light, despite all of the darkness’
Councillor Giles Davies has announced a new competition for the ward called ‘Light up YOUR LIFE’, which will take place from December 1st to the 15th
“Covid 19 has been a dark place for many, with lockdown, furlough, shielding, a worrying time for all
Light up YOUR LIFE’ will hopefully light up the ward with fantastic outdoor Christmas displays as many take part, bringing hope and joy as well as the chance of winning a prize!” Councillor Davies added.
During November an email address to register your home will be set up to enter this FREE competition.
The First Prize will be £200 in vouchers to spent for Christmas along with various other prizes for 2nd and 3rd place.
If the event gets sponsored, these prizes could get added to!
This will be a pilot to see how the competition is received, if it’s a success then it will become an annual ward event.
Many will look back at the past few months and think about furlough, staying at home or shielding, but for many it was about supporting others.
Our own ward Councillor, Giles dealt with many ward issues along with Chairing meetings and catching up with Neighbourhood Police and Community Support on Teams (Web Based Video Conferencing).
Expecting the workload to drop off during lockdown, it soon became apparent that the ward needed more support than ever, leading him to work with local organisations to help coordinate food support between the hub at Panteg House and the ward distributors .
Using a share of his allocated ward funding (Small Schemes, local voluntary Funding) £1500 was put towards food parcels and Covid19 safety, helping provide food for the vulnerable who were shielding with another £1000 put towards providing activity packs for the ward children (90 Packs in total which contained enough items to keep up to 270 children between the ages of 5 to 11 happy).
Responding to many queries with regards to obtaining recycling boxes, nappy sacks etc, Councillor Davies decided to set up a ward distribution point at Noddfa Church Hall to coincide with their food share, this allowed residents to collect recycling equipment and pick up free food alongside.
To further support the ward Giles has now set up a scheme in partnership with Noddfa, similar to the successful Free to a Good Home to provide essential school items for the schools to distribute to any child who needs a pencil case full of items to assist them with their school work, along with a calculator, this will link nicely into Noddfa Uniform Bank and Homework Club.
The Abersychan Ward also has its fair share of heroes, from the Pharmacies at Garndiffaith and Abersychan, Doctors, Nurses and Receptionists at the Group Practice, Shop Staff, Carers, Police and not forgetting our own Fire Service Personnel, there really are too many to mention, but Thank You all, you really are appreciated!
Covid 19 has taught us to appreciate what we have, bring us closer and witness how wonderful the Abersychan Ward Community really are during a crises.
Councillor Giles Davies is pleased to again partner with Pastor John Funnell and Noddfa Church to launch a new ward initiative to help provide stationary items for Comprehensive aged children attending local schools.
Councillor Davies added
‘As far back as 2014, to kit out an average child cost roughly £240 with essentials for a new school term in September, adding up to £2.5bn across the UK.’
‘This is a tremendous cost at normal times, but during a Pandemic factoring in furlough, redundancies along with a shortage of earnings, we are entering a perfect storm between food on the table verses essentials for schooling’.
‘Through this project, we are hoping to take some pressure off the parent(s) or carer.’
The ‘Ready for School’ Project which will officially launch Monday 24th August will link in with the other successful schemes at Noddfa Church, such as Food Share, Uniform Donation and Home Work Club.
Donations of items, which must be new and in packaging, can be dropped off at Food Share at Noddfa 10am – Noon, Friday – Tuesday.
The scheme is also looking for local drop off points, if any organisations or businesses would like to come forward or donate to the scheme, please get in touch.
I have a meeting arranged with the new Gwent Police Geographical Inspector for the area, Inspector Aled George who has recently taken over the role from Inspector Philip O’Connell.
This is in my official capacity as Ward Councillor.
During the past few months the local Neighbourhood Policing Team has also changed, with some of the team moving to pastures new and new team members coming on board.
This meeting planned for September I understand is more of an informal introduction, but if you would like to contact me via Private Message, Email or Telephone with any concerns you have, then I will of course bring these up as your Abersychan Ward representative.
Please remember that I can’t bring up personal issues only general concerns with regards to the ward.
This covid-19 pandemic has been a massive challenge here in the north of Torfaen, as it has everywhere.
However, our communities are strong and have responded brilliantly.
As a councillor in the north of the Borough, I see my role as playing a part in helping co-ordinate that response, to help keep people safe, keep services going as much as possible and helping provide people with the support they need.
Keeping services going in the face of this crisis has meant a lot of change – from social care to refuse collections to schools and so many of the other things council workers do to keep our area going.
Those services have had to plan for coping with fewer staff, as some council employees have had to shield or self-isolate for periods.
They’ve had to adapt to more home-working and to running services like refuse collections or the Household Waste Centre with the added strain of the need for social distancing where possible, to keep staff and the public safe. It’s been quite a balancing act.
Our care workers have been absolute stars, looking after those who need help in their homes and people in care homes, despite the concerns they must have felt for their own welfare.
Our schools staff and staff in areas like the Play Service and Sports Development have helped run key worker childcare facilities. Teachers have kept children learning remotely where possible, having to adjust suddenly to the new situation. None of this has been ideal, but they’ve stepped up to do their best, going above and beyond the call of duty.
Thank you to them all.
Covid-19 has also meant entirely new services having to be created, such as the tracing scheme to help stem the spread of the virus. Council staff have volunteered for redeployment to help with this scheme, working alongside Health Service staff. Business support staff have paid out over £9million to local businesses to help support them through these tough times.
Of course, the council is just part of a much wider community response, and I’d like to thank the organisations in the north of the Borough who’ve done so much good work during the lockdown, to tackle the health and financial challenges this virus has inflicted on so many local people.
Councillors set up a Coronavirus Support Fund at the start of the pandemic, all contributing to a fund. That fund has been added to by Community Councils, and has been used to purchase over £30,000 worth of food for local organisations across Torfaen.
In the north, we have worked with the Trussell Trust, Garnsychan Partnership, Noddfa Church, Trac2, Blaenavon Town Council and their Healthy Blaenavon Team to get food out to people in need, whether that’s because they’re shielding or because the pandemic has affected their finances.
Working with Torfaen Voluntary Alliance, the fund has also helped local organisations with £12,000 in grants to help with the local response, and we’ve also donated toiletries to patients in hospitals who were struggling to get supplies without family visits being allowed.
Thank you to all the organisations and volunteers who’ve made this response possible, and remembered that in tough times, we are stronger together than we are alone.
I know these last few months have not been easy, so I’d like to thank all the local people who’ve done their bit, including those who’ve followed the guidelines and stayed at home as much as possible to help stop the spread of the virus.
I know that lots of council services have had to run a bit differently to normal – some services have had to be delayed or changed – so I’d also like to thank local people for their patience and understanding.
This pandemic has caused so much suffering, and I look forward to the day when it is well and truly a thing of the past. But I hope that the community spirit it has fostered will remain in the future.
Cllr Giles Davies Abersychan Ward
Taken from Issue 2 – Inside Torfaen Online Magazine.
Following the latest 21-day review of the coronavirus regulations, the First Minister has set out a phased timetable to ease restrictions for large parts of Wales’ visitor, hospitality, and leisure and tourism sectors.
He is asking the beauty sector and other close-contact services, including tattooists and nail salons, to begin preparing to reopen from 27 July, if the conditions allow.
Although cases of coronavirus are declining in Wales, the disease has not gone away and everyone has a responsibility to maintain social distancing, good hand hygiene and to respect the places and communities they visit.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
Together we are making good progress to tackle the spread of this virus. It is thanks to the efforts we have made together that we are able to lift the restrictions and re-open more parts of our society and economy.
However, the threat from coronavirus has not gone away and only by all of us acting responsibly will we be able to keep Wales safe. This means maintaining social distancing, thinking carefully about where we go and why.
Immediate changes will come into effect tomorrow (Saturday 11 July) when self-contained holiday accommodation opens.
From Monday, (13 July) the following will be able to open, subject to following the guidance about coronavirus-safe ways to operate:
Hairdressing salons and barbershops, including mobile hairdressers.
Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes outdoors.
Indoor visitor attractions, but a small number of underground visitor attractions will remain closed for the time being because of the higher risks associated with these environments. The Welsh Government will continue to work with these attractions towards safe re-opening.
Places of worship. Faith leaders can begin to gradually resume services when they are ready to do so safely.
The Welsh Government is also making changes to the regulations to allow larger gatherings of up to 30 people outdoors only where these are organised and supervised by a responsible person for sports and other leisure activities and classes.
This will allow sports and leisure activities, such as fitness and dance classes to take place outdoors, as well as collective worship.
From July 20, playgrounds, community centres and outdoor gyms will be able to reopen gradually over the following weeks as and when safety checks and mitigations are put in place. Re-opening community centres will help local authorities provide summer holiday play schemes and childcare. The First Minister is today calling on other businesses and sectors to prepare for re-opening from 27 July:
Close contact services, including nail and beauty salons and businesses providing tanning services, massages, body piercings, tattooing, electrolysis or acupuncture.
Indoor cinemas, museums, galleries and archive services.
Tourist accommodation with shared facilities, such as camping sites. Opening would be from 25 July.
Reopening the housing market fully.
A final decision about reopening these sectors will depend on conditions and feedback from the initial opening of the tourism industry, indoor attractions and hairdressing sector. First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
We have used our headroom to continue re-opening our economy and society in Wales. We have also used part of our headroom to enable the Welsh NHS to provide more essential care and treatment for people – services, which were suspended in March to allow the health service to prepare for coronavirus.
Our ability to carry on lifting the restrictions rests on everyone in Wales – we need everyone’s help to continue following the rule to keep levels of coronavirus at an absolute minimum.
The Welsh Government will also make changes to the physical distancing regulations to reflect some of the challenges faced by the hospitality, beauty industry and other sectors where a 2m distance cannot be reasonably maintained at all times.”
The law in Wales will continue to make the 2m distance the default position, because this remains the safest way to protect people’s health. But when 2m cannot reasonably be maintained, the regulations will require businesses to put in place a set of additional measures to minimise the risk of the virus spreading, including taking reasonable steps to minimise close face-to-face contact and maintain hygiene.
The next formal review of the regulations is due by 30 July. Detailed discussions about how indoor hospitality can operate in a coronavirus-safe way are ongoing. Options for reopening will be considered from 3 August, if conditions allow.
The Welsh Government is also discussing with local authorities and other operators how gyms, leisure centres, fitness studios and swimming pools can introduce measures to safely open. Further work is being undertaken about the risk of coronavirus in swimming pools.
Cross-Cutting Resources and Business Overview & Scrutiny Committee
General Licensing Committee (Chair)
Licensing Committee (Chair)
Statutory Licensing Committee (Chair)
I served on the following outside bodies/committees
Torfaen Leisure Trust – Board of Trustees
Local Ward Activities
During the past 12 months again using Social Media (Facebook, Twitter and Website) to keep residents informed and allowing them to make contact 24/7 including regular ward walks (Street Surgeries), it’s been an exceptionally busy period.
Along with Noddfa Church the winter period was taken up helping to organise Carols Under the Arch, followed by the Ward Pantomime in January.
During this period helping raise funds and support local businesses as much as possible, along with taking on the Chair at the Millennium Hall Community Association and at Garnsychan Partnership.
Unfortunately Covid 19 then started to appear and we went into Lockdown, expecting at first, a drop in workload, this wasn’t to happen.
At Garnsychan Partnership, we decided to throw our resources into supporting the ward and tied in with Abersychan Pharmacy and Surgery to assist prescription deliveries for isolating residents, along with linking in with Torfaen and others to provide and deliver food packages for shielding and vulnerable residents.
A massive thanks to the Partnership Manager Ms Kate Burton for organising and providing this service.
During this period I linked in with Noddfa Church to help deliver Fair Share food bags within the ward.
As it became difficult for isolating residents to collect recycling equipment, it was time I felt to pick up and deliver to them, which is what happened, before arranging a collection point at Noddfa Church Hall for social distancing collection.
Using my allocated exercise period during early days of Lockdown, I walked the ward to pick up on resident concerns and issues affecting them.
Along with the ward Community Councillors we have organised a Scarecrow Competition within the ward to raise morale and keep the children occupied.
I was also honoured to personally provide prizes for a Support your Key Workers Craft competition within the ward.
The first 5 months of 2020 have been challenging and draining, workloads have risen considerably and stress levels along with it.
But I’ve managed to keep in touch with Community Safety, Police and Licensing via Team Meetings online.
Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be working as a Community Leader during a Pandemic.
Initiatives and special activities
Carols Under the Arch Volunteer – Noddfa Church
Other activities and issues
Member of Pontypool Community Council Deputy Presiding Officer – TCBC
Chair – Garndiffaith Millennium Association Chair – Garnsychan Partnership
Volunteer – Noddfa Church, Carols Under the Arch Volunteer – Noddfa Food Share
The Welsh Government is following updated advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and recommending people in Wales wear three-layer face coverings in situations where social distancing is not possible.
The evidence remains clear that maintaining a two-metre distance and good hand hygiene is the most effective way to protect yourself and others from contracting coronavirus, but the updated guidance from the WHO says three layer face coverings could help provide some control of the virus in specific circumstances.
This updated advice only applies to people who are not showing symptoms of coronavirus. People who are symptomatic must self-isolate for seven days and get a test, as set out in existing guidance. Unless the test shows a negative result, they must not go out during this time, even with a face covering or mask.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:
Washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and maintaining a two-metre distance from others remain the best way of stopping the spread of the virus.
“On Friday, the WHO updated their guidance on face coverings, advising that they should be considered in settings where maintaining social distancing is difficult. However, to be crystal clear, wearing a face covering does not replace the need for social distancing or washing your hands regularly.”
“Further scientific evidence is needed on the benefits to the wider public of wearing face coverings, but observational findings so far suggest that homemade or purchased three-layer face-coverings might reduce transmission from one person to another if made, worn, handled and disposed of properly.”
“Therefore, on balance, we are recommending to the people of Wales that three-layer face-coverings should be used in situations where social distancing measures can be more difficult to achieve, for example, on public transport. We are not recommending their use outdoors.
“The wearing of face coverings will not be mandatory, but we will encourage people to do this for the benefit of themselves and others.”
The Minister stressed that this advice only applies to people who are not showing symptoms of coronavirus, adding:
Anyone who has a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste must self-isolate for a minimum of seven days and get a test as quickly as possible. Unless the test shows a negative result, people must not go out during this time, even with a face covering or mask.