A Review – My First Term. 

Over the past 5 years I hope I have achieved my aims of being approachable and my vision of using Social Media to relay information to the Ward has been successful.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I believe this was a first within our Ward.

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The Barber Shop Abersychan
When elected against what I thought was all odds of winning, I decided to walk the Ward as often as possible and try and support local businesses and donate to different causes behind the scenes, I wanted to be different in my approach.

The first year was a huge learning curve where I made a few mistakes and spent time trying to repair them along with making contacts to help me carry out my role as fluidly as possible as a newby.

Unfortunately I learnt from an early age that somethings can’t be repaired, but you can learn from them and move on, before it ties you down.

During my term I worked alongside the refuse and recycling crews to experience what it was like on the frontline.

From this I was instrumental in getting the caddy bags introduced throughout Torfaen and gained a massive respect for our frontline employees.

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Litter Picking – Taking Pride in OUR Ward over the years
During my term a motion I submitted went forward and was passed, blocking access to Payday Loan companies from all Council IT Systems, helping to protect the most vunerable who access our systems, directing them instead to Credit Unions, who offer very low rates and advice.

As Mayor (The 5th from Abersychan Ward) I passed a ruling to ban all alcoholic drinks from being served within the Parlour and tried to bring a fresh outlook to the role, managing to support Pancreatic Cancer UK by lighting the iconic Folly Tower Purple as a beacon of hope on World Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day 2015, with the help of local businesses. I was the first Torfaen Mayor to have a Twitter Account.

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At the Llanerch View Point
Along with my Colleagues we set up the Llanerch Memorial Fund, on the anniversary of the disaster we hold a memorial service at the site with local school children to raise awareness of what happened on that day and to pay our respects by the laying of flowers

 

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The Abersychan Ward Pantomime
With my colleagues, we came up with an idea to provide a free pantomime and goodie bags for children attending each year within the Ward, our children here shouldn’t miss out on this experience because of ridiculous pricing structures by many theatres, this year also I used some of my Local Voluntary Funding to cover the rent to keep our under threat play service in the Ward at two venues and together we covered costs of providing parties to celebrate the Queens Birthday, bringing our community together.

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Regular Ward Walking (Street Surgeries)
The past few years haven’t been easy, I have lost some friends and made many new ones, I’ve learnt to develop thicker skin, which I quickly learnt is needed in this role!

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Born, grew up and living in the Ward I represent – The White Hart Abersychan
I have also learnt, that no matter that I reside in this area, was born here (The Unicorn on High Street) and call it my home, some people will always think the worst of you, whatever you try and do, they will always see another angle to attack, but that’s human nature and democracy.

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Over 35 Years Campaigning for Abersychan Ward – My Home

Some will see this blog as electioneering others will see it being a review of snippets from the past few years.

However you see it, I’ve really enjoyed the past few years working for this Ward, have earned a real respect for my Ward Colleagues and feel blessed to have had this experience and opportunity to work closely with them, which was never really planned at all.


Teamwork at its best #abersychanward

 

 

The Poppy Queen

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Mrs Nancy Felton ‘The Poppy Queen’ with her husband.

Local ward resident 82-year-old Mrs Nancy Felton is well known within the Abersychan Ward for selling poppies over the past 47 years and in doing so, has raised thousands of pounds for the Poppy Appeal.

Mrs Felton started selling poppies when she first went to a dinner and dance at the Abersychan British Legion which was located on Foundry Road and an announcement was made for someone to volunteer as a seller.

For many years Mrs Felton, has walked the streets of Garndiffaith selling poppies and raising money for the Poppy Appeal, today you can find Mrs Felton who now finds it difficult to walk, sat in her chair in the co-op store at Garndiffaith selling poppies.

Mrs Felton has seen many changes over the years with regards to supporting the appeal.

She said, “Many years ago it was just the Poppy but now there are wrist bands, poppies for ladies’ hand bags and many other different items to raise funds”.

On Remembrance Sunday Mrs Felton, laid a wreath at the Abersychan Memorial Garden which was created by the pupils of Abersychan High School, in memory of those who lost their lives in the first and second world wars including other conflicts in the world including Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Councillors Gwyneira Clark, Giles Davies, Wayne Tomlinson presenting flowers and a framed photo to Mrs Felton at the Millennium Hall, Garndiffaith. 

The following week the Ward Councillors surprised Mrs Felton by turning up unplanned at a presentation evening at the Millennium Hall and presented her with a framed photo and flowers to recognise her commitment to our fallen heroes.

Our very own ‘Poppy Queen’.

Super Heroes Academy at Noddfa

Last Friday I signed up to the final day of Super heroes Training Academy at Noddfa, last time I took part was when I was 10 years old in 1977, then I spent a week at the old Ambulance Hall on Church road where I took part with many others in activities and craft work, some items I still have to look back on!IMG_1444

When I heard that Noddfa Chapel was running this Academy I was overjoyed that once again they were taking the lead during the holiday period to offer parents some rest and keeping the children occupied throughout the week as they did in 1977.
When I arrived at the Academy I watched as parents registered their children at the registration desk and were given a badge.image

They all took part in a singsong before being split into groups matching their ages, the group I was in took part in activities such as making plastic cup and string telephones and group activities to encourage friendship.

In the next room were mothers and preschool children, who were socialising and introducing their children to each other.

Upstairs was a craft section, making shields, jewel belts and items from milk bottle tops and other recyclable materials.

Everything was so organised and everyone was having so much fun!

imageIt was a pleasure to see and take part in such a community effort, designed to bring everyone together and I thank Pastor John, his family and helpers for making this possible.

I’m sure this will now grow from strength to strength and is most welcome in the Abersychan Ward.

 

Circulate Recycling Visit 

Today I visited Circulate Recycling, part of the Garnsychan Partnership and based in Blaenavon, it’s also Torfaen’s biggest re-use and recycling enterprise.

The project diverts over 250 tonnes per year of bulky unwanted waste from landfill and redistributes it back into the community to support people who are on low incomes.

In essence the overall aim is to alleviate poverty and families in deprivation and contribute to the big green agenda.

The project is semi industrious and offers a whole range of opportunities these include warehousing, furniture restoration, cleaning, sales, customer service, deliveries, assisting with removals, electrical safety testing, house clearances, marketing and administration.

A massive thank you for inviting me to view the showroom, meet the staff and volunteers and to give me an insight of what the charity does and how it helps within the community.

Garnsychan Partnership is a registered charity that exists to support the residents of the Abersychan ward and wider Torfaen.

Victoria Community Hall Table Top Sale

Yesterday I called into Victoria Community Hall in the ward to take a look at their regular Table Top Sale to raise funds for the hall.

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What a treat, seeing so many friendly faces and lots of local produce from Abersychan Goat Soap, Duck eggs, Plants to Knitted wear.

There were also home baked large individually boxed Hot Cross Buns, Bread and Welsh Cakes!

img_1312I was made really welcome by everyone and also picked up a few issues to chase up next week in my Councillor role.

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Yet again I was taken aback by how hard everyone works to make these events happen and how much local produce is actually made within our ward of Abersychan.

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Really pleased I took time out to attend and I’m really looking forward to the next!

The Rotary Club of Henllys Charity Concert 

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Canon Brian Pippen
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Blaenavon Ladies Choir

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a Charity Concert at St Cadocs Church, Trevethin, which was put on by the Rotary Club of Henllys and compered by the brilliant Canon Brian R Pippen.

If you haven’t been to a concert compered by Canon Pippen, then please do so, as you’re missing a real treat, with his spot on comical one liners and professionalism, along with an outstanding warm welcome to his church.

Last nights concert featured Blaenavon Ladies Choir, conducted by Richard Watkins and accompanied with Pianist Lyndon Stevens.

The Choir dressed in red velvet outfits looked spectacular as the spotlights sparkled on their tops.

I also learnt that the choir has been running since 1975 and was founded by Jean Williams, who sadly passed away in 1996.

I’m sure that after hearing them perform last night, she is looking down on them very proudly!

If you want to become a ‘Blaenavon Lady’ then go and join them, they practice Wednesdays at 7pm.

A huge surprise to me last night was guest trombone player Jonathan Pippen and his wife Alex who were accompanied by pianist Mr C. Williams, as you may have guessed, Jonathan is Cannon Pippen and Paulas son.

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Jonathan, Andrew and Alex Pippen

Jonathan has played the trombone since the age of 7 and has enjoyed a career in music including playing with the Philharmonia, BBC National Orchestra, Ted Heath Big Band and many more, along with the RAF Central Band.

Last night he also played an exclusive specially composed piece along with his brother Andrew on the horn and his wife Alex, written for his parents and family, which was a very proud moment for all, who were privileged to be the first to hear it.

A very enjoyable evening, topped off with thanks from Paula Pipen, President Henllys Rotary Club.

Just to remind you that Theatre Adhoc will be preforming ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ on Saturday 30th April at the church along with various other venues and on May 7th from 10am to 3.30pm it will be open day at the church, this year’s theme ‘Our Industrial History’.

IMG_1015For more details and tickets, ring 01495 762228

How might councillors use social media as part of their work?

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How might councillors use social media as part of their work? Dyfrig Williams spoke withCllr Giles Davies, the Mayor of Torfaen.

The recent #PSDigital conference gave a lot of food for thought around how public services use social media. Ben Black spoke at the event about his Cwmbran hyperlocal site, and I also had a chance to speak to him about how Cllr Giles Davies, the Mayor of Torfaen, is using it to connect with the community of Abersychan. If you want to see what’s happening in the area, check out the hashtag #AbersychanWard, which Cllr Davies has started.

Local v National

Cllr Giles DaviesCllr Davies was kind enough to discuss his approach with me, and one of his first points was that people are interested in what’s happening in the locality by their front door rather than national party political issues. It’s by covering issues in Abersychan that Cllr Davies has been able to successfully communicate with his community.

Due to the workload involved in managing social media accounts, Cllr Davies has chosen to focus on using Facebook and Twitter. People aged 16-85 have contacted Cllr Davies through Facebook, and Twitter has been helpful as posts are uploaded quicker. The local press follow him too so they share his activities through their channels.

Social media enables Cllr Davies to be responsive to things that are happening in his area. If a road is closed, Cllr Davies is able to quickly share where has been affected to his community as his phone is always in his pocket. It also enables him to be available at all hours and chat straight away, which is much more convenient for community members.

Online v Offline

Since taking to social media, Cllr Davies no longer runs traditional surgeries, which were poorly attended. This hasn’t stopped him from engaging offline though, as he walks through the borough and meets residents to discuss any issues they may have. He uses social media to tell people when and where he is should they want to talk to him, and also uses the WiFi at local businesses to interact, which means he can give publicity to them and meet members of the public there at the same time. By meeting people in cafes, he highlights his support for shopping local and keeping communities vibrant.

Cllr Davies’ use of social media helps him to communicate what his work involves, and to show that he is actively responding to people’s concerns. When he is contacted about an issue, Cllr Davies posts his email to the council about the matter on Facebook so that people can see that he is responding to what they’ve said.

Cllr Davies is also able to showcase the difference he’s making to the community by sharing his litter picking when he’s out walking. By responding to comments on the post, he’s also able to help people deal with waste management issues.

Transparency

The transparency of Cllr Davies’ approach enables him to build trust with the community. He even published his expenses online and had a supportive response. He’s able to get feedback on ideas of things that might be able to help the community, like a Chamber of Trade, and even invite people to check whether his Draft Annual Report is accurate. It’s well worth reading the comments beneath the post to see how the community feels about him.

Overall I was blown away by how Cllr Davies is using social media. As someone who uses it myself I’ve always seen the potential for social media to change how elected members interact with people in their community. It’s fantastic to see how Cllr Davies is making the most of opportunities that social media has made available to better communicate with the people of Abersychan.

Nearly a year overdue!

It’s been nearly a year since I last updated my blog, but what a year it’s been, the ward has ticked over nicely under the watchful eyes of my colleagues and myself, although I must admit I’ve taken a bit of a back step as my role as Mayor of Torfaen has taken much of my free time covering the whole of the County Borough.
It’s pleasing to see that several new businesses have opened; this is a remarkable achievement during the current climate and shows a great confidence in the ward.
The support that Victoria Primary School and Brynteg Nursery are receiving from the Community, Assembly Member, MP, Baron Touhig, of Islwyn and of course Ward Councillors, against the possible closure is very uplifting including the alternative action group document put forward to be considered.
A real professional well thought out alternative.
Main issues within the ward is still recycling and missed collections which needs to be resolved as many people are saying that they are going to stop recycling if it’s not sorted.
This would be sad if this was to happen as so much work has gone into reducing waste and aiming to reach our recycling targets set by the Assembly.
The ward itself looks a lot cleaner on the main drag, as you see any litter issues, it’s reported to us or Torfaen via the App and removed.
The ward pantomime was another success this year, as you know it’s sponsored by myself and Wayne Tomlinson to enable all children to attend free and receive a goody bag.

Some of the Hall Committee serving during the interval

Thanks to everyone at the Millennium Hall for making this possible and making it a success!
From May I’ll update this blog regularly again as my term as Mayor will end then and I’ll be a back bench Councillor until the next local election in May 2017.
Then either I will stay as your Councillor, or be kicked out, the choice will be yours!
Until then I’ll uphold my election pledge to be an approachable Councillor and to keep you updated as much as possible via social media, email or via a ward walk and chat.

 

An Evening of Thanks

I would like to thank Sue Malson, Community Coordinator at Trac2 for inviting me to their ‘Evening of Thanks’ which was held at Trevethin and Penygarn Community Centre last night (10th April 2015).

For the benefit for those who haven’t heard of Trac2, then here’s a short background.

Trac is short for ‘The Really Amazing Charity’ and after attending last night, I fully understand why, Trac2 was established over 4 years ago and is run by 4 part time staff members, 11 volunteers and 6 trustee board members.

The charity has helped over 700 families, donated over 1011 items of furniture and over 200 food parcels and helped low budget families to purchase excellent quality clothes, household furnishings, toys and much more at very affordable prices.

In 2014 Trac2 was officially granted charitable status!

Their shop, based at Trevethin contains household items, bric a brac, small items of furniture and clothing and are typically priced between 1 and 3 pounds.

Recently the charity has expanded to new offices and offer services linked to their partner agencies, which include, Citizens Advice Bureau, Gateway Credit Union, Job Club, Bron Afon and Communities First.

Over the years Trac2 has prevented over 18 tonnes of household items being entered into landfill and this is expanding year on year.

During the past 3 years Trac2 has been working extensively with TCBC and The Trussel Trust in issuing and supporting food bank access for local people.

Trac2 has also launched a website http://www.trac2.org which contains a lot of useful information about the charity and ways to get in touch.

Last night I was blown away by the passion and enthusiasm of Sue Malson the Coordinator who spoke about the trust, bursting into tears along the way, it showed her outstanding commitment to the community.

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Sue Malson - Trac2 Coordinator speaking about the charity

I was pleased to see that the charity has helped several families in my ward at times of crises.

So a huge Thank You from me for that, any charity that helps families in need in the Abersychan Ward is a now a firm favourite of mine as one of their representatives!

Once again Sue, thank you for inviting me and letting me be educated in what you do, which blew me away, you should be very proud, I look forward to supporting you over the coming year and onwards.

Trac2 is based at 2 Church Avenue Trevethin and can be contacted on 01495 764078

Easter at The Barber Shop

After seeing the Easter window display on Facebook with regards to The Barber Shop in the ward, I just had to pop down to take a look.

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Claire's Easter Farm Yard

As always the shop was very busy, but Claire the owner made me really welcome as she does with everyone who enters her shop.

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Her shop never ceases to amaze me, it’s so child friendly, the kids love it there, I wish we had Barbers like this when I was a child!

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This Easters theme is farm yard animals along with the Easter Bunny, the whole window ledge is covered in straw and farm yard animals along with bunting draped across the window.

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If you haven’t seen it yet and have young children, then pop down and take a look, also take them inside the shop to see Batman!

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Better still pop in and treat your children to a haircut and free lolly, they offer competitive prices and there’s ample parking outside!

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The Barber Shop can be found on Union Street Abersychan.