Microsoft data centre plan for Quinn’s plant
Oct 4 -Microsoft is planning to develop a data centre in Newport according Data Centre Dynamics.
“Microsoft will be applying for planning permission for a data center in Newport,Wales “ the company said in a recent post to its Community site. “We are preparing a planning application for the site in the Quinn Imperial Park to deliver a new state-of-the-art data center.”
Kingsway sold for £615k
Oct 3 – The Kingsway Centre has been sold for £615,000 following an auction on Thursday, September 21 – well belowvthe £1 million guide price. The current centre has 36 retail units as well as office accommodation, a theatre, gym and car park. The sale includes Sovereign House formerly DWP premises, a vacant office building above the shopping centre.
New speed limit starts
Sept 17 – A new 20 mph speed limit is introduced in Wales today. In Newport most residential roads will be restricted to the new limit including Chepstow Road with most key routes such as the SDR and A48 and rural roads remaining unaffected.
Wales’ first minister said it would “keep people from losing their lives”.
“It’s going to take you a minute longer to make your journey, and we will save 10 people’s lives in Wales every year as a result of that one minute contribution – it doesn’t seem an unfair bargain,” said Mark Drakeford.
The law will change the speed limit on about 35% of Welsh roads where lamp-posts are no more than 200 yards (183m) apart.
Job losses at Llanwern as Government plan falls short
Sept 17 – A sticking plaster plan for the UK steel industry involving a £500 million subsidy to Tata. This will involve switching from using blast furnaces powered by fossil fuels to electric arc furnaces which can be powered by using renewable energy. The transfer will involve the loss of 3,000 jobs leaving the future of Llanwern unclear.
Kingsway Centre up for sale
Sept 14 – Kingsway Shopping Centre has been put for sale by receivers Cushman and Wakefield next Thursday. The guide price is currently set at £1m.
Leaseholders Kingsway Investments (Newport) LLP was officially placed into liquidation in August. Newport City Council are the freehold owners. One of its major stores Wilko closes as part of its UK wide shutdown on September 17. Shoe Zone has relocated to Friars Walk.
Jobs double body blow for Newport
Sept 6 – Newport was reeling today from a double jobs body blow. The failure of the Wilko retailing giant has led to the loss of 79 jobs at the firm’s Magor distribution centre. In addition, 100 job losses are proposed at the Nexperia Newport Wafer Fab plant in the west of the City. The loss of the Nexperia jobs has been blamed on UK Government inactivity.
The company was bought by Dutch-based firm Nexperia, a subsidiary of Shanghai-based Chinese firm Wingtech, in July 2021.
In announcing a consultation on the job losses, a company statement said: “This is a business decision that has not been taken lightly but is one that we are taking to protect the future viability of the site.
The Welsh Government has called on UK ministers to treat the sale of Newport Wafer Fab “as a critical priority” for it describes as a sector that is “a great success story for the Welsh and wider UK economy”.
“It is critical that any new owner of the business has the means and intention to invest in the site as soon as possible,” said Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething.
County lines drug gang jailed
Aug 23 – A Newport based ‘county lines’ drug gang has been found guilty and sentenced at Swansea Crown Court.
In addition to trafficking drugs three of the gang were charged under modern slavery legislation with recruiting a vulnerable 15 year old boy to deliver drugs in the Neath area.
David Stock, 28, David Allen, 30, and Justin Henshall, 36, pleaded guilty to trafficking a child and conspiracy to supply a class A drug. Stock was sentenced to nine years in prison, Allen was sentenced to eight years and three months, while Henshall was given a jail term of six years and eight months.
Three other gang members were sentenced for conspiracy to supply a class A drugs – Joshua Jefferies, 32, was sentenced to three years and eight months in jail. Ottis Jefferies, 28, to three years and four months. Bernard Hurely, 37, to three years and four months. Two others are awaiting sentencing reports.
Huge deficit in Council budget predicted
Aug 22 – A BBC investigation has revealed the huge pressure on local authority budgets across the UK with a forecast shortfall in excess of £5 billion. Newport’s proposed deficit of £27 million in 2023/24 will mean savings of over £19 million are required placing significant pressure on core services and meaning that some non essential services will no longer be delivered. The savings are equivalent to £122 per person in the City. The pressure is a consequence of cuts in central government (UK) funding even though this is devolved to Wales the pressure remains.
Violent disorder in Pill, six arrested
Aug 10 – Six people have been arrested following violent disorder in the Tredegar Street area of Pill on Monday evening.
A Gwent Police statement read: “Officers on patrol came across disorder in Drovers Mews, Newport at around 6.30pm on Monday August 7.
“Further officers attended, along with personnel from the Welsh Ambulance Service and the Welsh Air Ambulance. A 45-year-old man from the Newport area was taken to hospital with serious injuries, he has since been discharged.
“Six people have been arrested. A 37-year-old woman, 37-year-old man, 43-year-old man and a 45-year-old man, all from the Newport area, were arrested and have since been charged with violent disorder.
“A 36-year-old woman from Newport was arrested on suspicion of affray, possession of an offensive weapon and section 18 assault – wounding with intent. She has since been released on conditional police bail. A 45-year-old man from Newport, was arrested on suspicion of violent disorder and remains in police custody at this time.”
Officer in the case, Police Staff Investigator Rachel Hine, said: “Officers will be making further enquiries at this time, it is possible you may see ongoing police activity in Newport as part of this work. If you have concerns or information then please do stop and talk with us.
“Disorder negatively impacts upon the quality of life for our communities. This type of behaviour will not be tolerated and we will continue to take action against anyone intent on causing harm and disorder in our communities.”
UK Government shows no ambition for semi conductor development in Newport
Aug 4 – UK technology minister Paul Scully has dismissed ambitious plans to develop a semi conductor cluster in the Newport area. In an interview with the Financial Times he claimed ‘we are not going to create another Taiwan in south Wales’.
“To leverage our position, it is about advanced packaging and design,” he said, arguing the UK should be an “integral part” of the global chips supply chain rather than compete for manufacturing. To this end the UK Government is offering an incentive of just £1 billion over 10 years to encourage new investment.
Vaughan Gething, the Welsh Government Minister for the Economy said ‘I am extremely surprised by the Tech Minister’s comments, which are a real disservice to the talented workforce in the south Wales compound semiconductor cluster. We are ambitious for the industry in south Wales, and are working collaboratively with UK government to develop it.’
Labour MS for Newport East John Griffiths, said: “At present, it (the sector) has a UK government, which is not on its side, with dithering, delay and a half-baked strategy with nothing at present about manufacturing for the sector.
The UK Government’s strategy is in stark contrast to the subsidies being offered by the US and EU to aggressively entice micro chip developers.
Query over Friars Walk ownership
Aug 3 – A Wales Online investigation has raised some queries about the ownership of Newport’s Friars Walk shopping centre.
Friars Walk was sold by Newport City Council to Canadian company Talisker Corporation in 2017. The Council received £84.5 million but agreed to pay a rent subsidy of £500k per year over 15 years. According to the report the right to the subsidy was transferred to Old Star Finance. But it is not clear who currently owns the centre.
Duffryn man jailed for murder
July 20 – Andrew Southwood has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a 20-year minimum prison term, for the murder of his girlfriend’s brother in August 2022.
Southwood, 39, beat the convicted paedophile Carl Ball to death on Heron Way in Duffryn, Newport with a wooden plank.
The court heard Southwood had 27 previous convictions for a total of 46 offences committed between 1998 and 2015.
The majority of those were for theft, but included incidents of assault, robbery, possession of an offensive weapon and battery.
Judge Justice Griffith at Newport Crown Court said it was a “slow, painful and humiliating” killing. Ball suffered multiple injuries that caused him to bleed to death.
Development plan for market site
July 17 – Newport planners are considering an application from Collingbourne Properies to develop the old cattle market site adjacent to the SDR in Pill. The proposal comprises plans for a new petrol station, convenience store and two drive through restaurants.
Pressure on Council over summer free school meal payments
July 15 – Newport City Council’s Labour Group is under pressure to commit to provide free school meal payments to the city’s poorest families after Welsh Government announced they were unable to commit to the funding. Labour controlled Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent were first out of the traps to announce they would be providing the funding from their reserves in their areas throughout the summer.
On July 4 Caerphilly stated Leader of the Council, Cllr. Sean Morgan confirmed plans to support the allocation of a one-off fund of £900k to support families with a Free School Meals holiday payment of £19.50 per week through the holidays.
Blaenau Gwent confirmed their approach yesterday at a cost of £300k. At their full council meeting on Thursday, July 20, their councillors will also be asked to agree to build in £700,000 in future council budgets to provide free school meals (FSM) in future holiday periods.
Newport has yet to commit. We have established that the city has substantial reserves. A report in the South Wales Argus stated that they were at least £137 million in July 2022. Given the swingeing increase in Council Tax this year supporting the city’s most vulnerable families would be a much needed and politically appropriate move.
City Centre economic fragility underlined
July 15 – The fragility of Newport’s City Centre economy was emphasised yesterday with the news of two closures. Jewellers Jeffries will be closing their store in Friars Walk after trading in Newport for 35 years. In addition, Karen’s Diner will ending their short term lease in the city on August 6. In better news a new cocktail bar, Cosmo, will be opening in Friars Walk shortly with a plan to open between Wednesday and Saturday.
TB case confirmed at John Frost School
July 7 – Public Health Wales, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and Newport City Council are investigating a single case of tuberculosis (TB) in an individual associated with The John Frost School in Newport.
As a precaution all pupils and teachers who had contact with the individual will be offered screening for TB. There is nothing to suggest that the case contracted TB at the school, rather they have attended the premises when they unknowingly had the infection. No outbreak has been declared.
James Adamson, Acting Consultant in Health Protection at Public Health Wales and chair of the multi-agency incident management team said:
“Following established infection control procedures we have identified individuals who may have had contact with the individual concerned, these individuals have been contacted and offered screening for TB which is easily treated with a course of antibiotics. Local GPs have been informed.”
“This is a routine process, and if any other positive TB infections are identified as a result, appropriate treatment will be offered.”
Prospect of deal for purchase of Dragons and Rodney Parade
July 1 – Rodney Parade, gifted to the people of Newport for recreational purposes by Lord Tredegar, is set to be transferred to the ownership of David Buttress and a consortium of business people. The development follows the signing of a heads of terms agreement between current owners, the Welsh Rugby Union, and the consortium.
The WRU took ownership of the site following the withdrawal from the Newport RFC Board of benefactors the late Tony Brown and Martyn Hazell. Newport shareholders voted to allow the sale of the site to the WRU in 2017 for the knockdown price of £2.5 million (the site was previously valued at over £6 million).
The new agreement covers the whole nine acre site including the so called cabbage patch at the rear of the stadium and the former clubhouse building. This was not originally envisaged but made possible by a belated intervention from a new business person.
It will now open the way for a long term agreement between the new consortium and football league side Newport County. Newport RFC will continue to ply their trade at Newport Stadium and are seeking their own long term agreement with Newport Live!
The transition to regional rugby in Newport has been little short of disastrous since 2003. The fledgling Gwent Dragons could not pay the bills and attracted little interest, Newport owner Tony Brown stepped in to bail out the new entity and following a 12,000 signed petition added Newport to the name. After an initial surge in interest the project has fallen away with little support from the city’s rugby public in the Dragons and even less from so called Gwent.
The latest interventions from Buttress have given some stability to the Dragons but there is a long way to go in terms of identity and buy in from the people of Newport.
In addition, professional rugby Union is littered with the corpses of dead teams – Celtic Warriors, Scottish Borders, Richmond, London Welsh, Wasps, Worcester, London Irish – with ambitious prospectuses but not enough financial support from backers or spectators to survive. The Dragons would be well advised to focus on the thousands of professional rugby fans they have lost since the days of a professional Newport side.
Monmouthshire ratepayers facing financial fallout over Newport leisure park purchase
June 25 – There was fallout in a Monmouthshire County Council this week regarding a controversial commercial purchase by the previous Conservative administration. In 2019 the Council purchased the area of Newport leisure park occupied by several chain restaurants and Cineworld. The Council paid £21 million for the site utilising funding from the Public Works Loan Board. The decision was controversial given the site is not in Monmouthshire but a key retail area in the east of Newport. The investment was part of a so called ‘entrepreneurial’ portfolio built up by the council to boost funding.
The original investment envisaged a return on investment of 2 per cent and an annual income from rent in excess of £400,000. A report to the Council’s scrutiny committee noted a loss of £109,000 in 22/23, the shortfall to be funded by taxpayers. The value of the park is likely to have diminished too. There are some empty units and ongoing concerns about the future of the Cineworld chain. One Labour member suggested that they sell it off for a pound but (Labour) Executive Member Ruth Garrick stated the Council had no plans to offload it at the moment. She did acknowledge that they had tried to secure the services of Karen’s Diner but lost out to Friar’s Walk!
Commercial investments by Conservatives local authorities in England have led to significant issues for ratepayers in Woking, Croydon and Thurrock.
Boxing event raises £30k for crash victims
June 13 – A boxing event has raised over £28,000 for the families of the three young women involved in the fatal crash on the A48 near St Mellons in March.
The event at the Neon in Clarence Place received strong support from the local community. Organisers Mark Brogan and Kate Porter described the response as amazing.
Eve Smith and Darcy Ross, both aged 21 and from Maesglas died in the crash on Saturday 4 March.Sophie Russon, 20, who attended Saturday’s event, was also seriously injured in the crash.
Three weekly collections start on June 19
June 12 – Newport City Council has announced that the first phase of its new three-weekly bin collection schedule will start from Monday 19 June.
The new schedule will see household rubbish bins and garden waste bins be collected once every three weeks. Currently these are collected once every two weeks.
Around 12,100 households across the city will move to three-weekly collections as part of the first phase. A mix of streets and a mix of households has been selected from across the city.
The full list is here
Sunak trip funded by businessman
June 5 – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s whirlwind trip to Newport and Glasgow on April 28 for Conservative Party events cost £38,500 by private plane and was funded by a Tory party donor, Akil Triapathi. Sunak was criticised for avoiding media scrutiny on his visits. He has taken a number of short haul flights during his Premiership mostly funded by the tax payer including one to launch his policy in Scotland on Green tax breaks!
Huge increase in shoplifting
May 31 – A huge increase in shoplifting has been reported in the Gwent Police area. Across the entire area (Newport, Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Caerphilly , Blaenau Gwent) the number of instances of shoplifting increased from 552 to 961 between 2021-22 and 2022-23, up by 74 per cent. The figures for Newport are not detailed separately.
It is clear in certain stores they are limiting the number of items on shelves in an attempt to reduce theft. In addition, items such as alcohol and meat are being security-tagged.
A recent court case (in reported that a thief in Newport Retail Park took meat and groceries from Tesco and tried to make off with four bottles of whisky from Marks & Spencer before being caught. In another instance a shoplifter in the city centre stole Ferrero Rocher chocolates from Tesco Express, headsets from Game, a pre-workout supplement from Holland & Barrett and baby milk from Sainsbury’s. In another case a thief went on a shoplifting spree across Newport and Cwmbran to fund his heroin addiction stealing 17 bottles of Prosecco. All received significant prison sentences.
Criticism as Tory AM puts name forward for London Mayor
May 25 – Conservative AM/MS for South East Wales Natasha Ashgar has put her name forward for nomination as the Tory candidate for London Mayor. She said ‘I just want to make you all aware that I’ve lived in London just as many years as I’ve lived in Wales.” Her decision followed a “lot of deliberating and gentle nudging from residents across London,” according to a press release.
Conservative leader on Newport council, Matthew Evans, said he was “quite surprised” Ms Asghar had applied. According to the BBC David Fouweather, a Conservative councillor in Allt-Yr-Yn in Newport and a former senior officer of the Newport West association, said: “I’m just absolutely astounded that she put her name forward. I thought she lived here in south east Wales, not London. It’s a matter for her. If that’s what she wants to do that’s fine. But she needs to make a choice about what her priorities are.”
In a recent Senedd session Ashgar claimed she was a resident of Newport and went on to criticise the City Council’s plan to introduce three weekly refuse collections.
Candidates for Mayor must be a citizen of the UK, Republic of Ireland, European Union or Commonwealth and are registered to vote in London, or have lived, worked, rented or owned property in London for the past 12 months.
Asked whether she intended to resign she told WalesOnline: “I am not resigning as all I have done is simply submit an application form. You wouldn’t expect someone to resign from their current role if they had just applied for another job in any other area of society – and this is no different.”
South Wales Police confirm arrest in Darren Leah-Moore case
May 16 – A man arrested on suspicion of manslaughter following the death of a Newport man has been released from police bail under investigation.
The 50-year-old was arrested after the death of Darren Meah-Moore 39, in Cardiff on 22 January. Mr Meah-Moore, from Newport, was a drag artist who performed as CC Quinn, and previously as Crystal Coutoure.
South Wales Police said examinations were ongoing to establish the cause of death and inquiries were continuing.
The force added that Mr Meah-Moore’s family had been updated and continue to be supported by family-liaison officers
Man arrested on suspicion of murder
May 15 – A 44 year old woman found dead at a property in Sandalwood Court in Maindee has been named as Kelly Pitt.
A 25-year-old man, from Newport has been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in police custody, said Gwent Police.
Officers attended Sandalwood Court, in Maindee, Newport at 11:30 BST on Friday after Ms Pitt was found to be unresponsive.
In a statement her family said she was a “much-loved, caring and devoted” mother and nan.
Planning and development update
May 10 – The City Council published its Masterplan for Pill (Pillgwenlly) today. The plan sets out resident and community aspirations for Newport’s most diverse and economically deprived area. The plan sits alongside the huge regeneration project being undertaken by Newport City Homes.
Demolition work has commenced on the former Newport Centre as part of the site for a new Further Education College building.
The new leisure centre would include a pool, fitness studio and health and well-being areas as well as modern changing facilities and a café.
It is planned to put the new state-of-the-art centre on a key brownfield site on the riverfront between Castle Bingo and the University.
This would enable the vacated Newport Centre site to be used by Coleg Gwent for a £90m further education campus creating the Newport Knowledge Quarter and bringing hundreds of students and staff to the city centre.
In the interim a new council city centre gym facility has opened at Cambrian Road until the new centre is complete.
Fratelli’s restaurant has opened at 113 Caerleon Road replacing the former San Remo restaurant. The restaurant has relocated from Caldicot and is not related to the former Fratelli restaurant nearby owned by the Allonzi family.
Superdrug is opening a new store at Newport Retail Park near to Marks and Spencer. New discount store One Beyond has opened in the Kingsway Centre. In Newport Market a new Caribbean street food vendor has opened and Maindee hair stylist Friend is also set to open there.
The Blaina Wharf near the SDR bridge will close for a £210,000 refurbishment until June 1.
Improvement works to footbridge begin
May 1 – Improvement works to the Newport City footbridge began on Friday 28 April. The works will see new deck boards laid across the length of the bridge. These boards are designed to reduce the noise levels made by people crossing the bridge, particularly those on bikes and scooters.
Some of the new deck boards were installed at one end of the bridge in March as a trial, the results of which showed that they were effective in reducing noise levels
Work will start tomorrow and is scheduled to be completed within six weeks.
While there will be some disruption, the bridge will remain open for public use throughout the works. Work may be suspended during the six-week period to fully reopen the bridge around major events taking place in the city centre.
Schools - Newport High out of special measures but Lliswerry reports assault near school
Apr 28 – Following a recent Estyn monitoring inspection visit, Newport High School has been removed from special measures.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales has confirmed that the school has made sufficient progress and no longer requires this level of intervention.
Councillor Davies Deb Davies, the council’s cabinet member for education, said: “This is excellent news and I would like to thank the head, staff and governing body for their determination to raise standards for the benefit of all pupils.
“Newport now has no schools in special measures and the council will continue to support its schools to continually improve to ensure children in the city receive the best possible education.”
The head teacher of Lliswerry School has reported that a child was assaulted near the school on Monday. The 16 year old was taken to hospital with facial injuries. It is now a police matter.
Gwent Police stated “At about 3.30pm, yesterday afternoon, an officer found a 16-year-old boy who’d been assaulted on Spytty Road. He’d suffered facial injuries and was taken to hospital and has since been released. Enquiries are currently ongoing to trace the offenders.”
Huge rise in families dependant on food banks
Apr 26 – New figures released by the Trussell Trust charity reveal the scale of the crisis in household finances in Newport and across the UK.
New annual figures from the Trussell Trust show that almost 3 million (2,986,203) food parcels were given out – more than ever before. Alarmingly more than a million of the parcels were provided for children. The number of parcels provided between April 2022 – March 2023 is more than double the amount distributed by food banks in the same period five years ago. The charity is calling for a stronger social security system that ensures we can at least cover life’s essentials, like food, heating, and clothes.
The charity has three distribution centres in Newport. In 2017-18 3,142 food parcels were handed out to Newport households (1,846 for adults, 1,296 for children). In 2022-23 the total number has increased to 4,879 (adults 3,045, children 1,854).
There are 1,400 Trussell Trust food banks in the UK and 1,172 independent food banks. There are now more food banks than MacDonald’s outlets (the latter has 1,355). When the Conservatives came to office in 2010 there were only 35 food banks. The increase in usage is attributed to welfare and housing policies, in particular the impact of the introduction of Universal Credit and the support for those in work.
More than half (56%) of low-paid workers in the UK have had to use food banks in the last 12 months, according to research from the Living Wage Foundation. This equates to 2.7 million workers in the country, while 1.7 million admitted to using food banks more often during this time.
Hospital advises residents not to use A&E unless absolutely necessary
Apr 25 – The struggling Grange Hospital has asked potential patients not to use its accident and emergency department unless absolutely necessary. The Aneurin Bevan Health Board said “ Our Emergency Department at The Grange University Hospital is extremely busy, and unfortunately patient will face long waits if their condition isn’t life threatening. We need to ask for your support and to only attend if it is life threatening or you have a serious injury. If you need medical help, please think carefully about the services you choose.If you are unwell and unsure what to do, you can check your symptoms at
https://bit.ly/3NGMs9Q, or for advice call NHS 111.
Please help us to make our service safer by sharing this information with friends and family.
Bus fares increase as transport costs spiral
Apr 24 – Newport Bus has announced a range of fare increases, the first on the network since January 2020.
The increase means that a single fare increase (as of yesterday) from £2 to £2.20. A Newport day ticket increases to £4.40 from £4. Weekly tickets increase to £18.70.
They say “This increase is a direct result of the rising costs of operating the business, including challenging fuel and electricity costs. We understand that fare increases are never popular and have worked hard to avoid them over the past three years. “
Public transport costs are spiralling despite the apparent desire from Government to reduce car use. Rail fares increased on 5 March by 5.9 per cent. The cheapest return fare from Newport to Cardiff is now £5.30, peak returns are £6.70 and an anytime single is £6.
Taxi fares for hackney carriages in Newport increased in September 2022 with average fares rising by more than 11 per cent and a 4 mile journey averaging over £10, according to BetterTaxi.com.
Car parking charges in the city centre were increased significantly in November 2022. Kingsway car parks charges went up from 50p to £1 for one hour and from £1 for 1-2 hours to £2.50 for 1-3 hours.
Newport restaurant escapes closure
Apr 24 – Newport’s Prezzo restaurant has escaped closure. The restaurant chain has announced the closure of 46 restaurants with 97 remaining in the UK. The Friars Walk outlet was not included.
Prezzo chief executive, Dean Challenger, said: ‘The last three years have been some of the hardest times I have ever seen for the high street and I’m extremely proud of the way our colleagues have retained Prezzo’s position as an appealing, trusted, great value food and drink experience.
‘But the reality is that the cost of living crisis, the changing face of the high street and soaring inflation has made it impossible to keep all our restaurants operating profitably.’
New city link footbridge to open on Monday
Apr 15 – The new £10.5 million footbridge in Newport is to finally open on Monday, several months later than planned. The 500-tonne bridge connects Queensway to Devon Place / Mill Street providing a much needed and safe link to the city centre and railway station replacing an existing subway.
Council leader Jane Mudd will officially open the bridge on Monday morning alongside Welsh Government deputy minister for climate change Lee Waters.
Crisis-hit police force faces new criticism
The police force covering the Newport area faced fresh criticism today. Gwent Police , still reeling from recent internal scandals, was found not to be dealing with calls from members of the public quickly enough.
An inspection report stated between 1 November 2021 and 30 September 2022 Gwent Police answered 77.8% of 999 calls within 10 seconds, below the target of 90% in 10 seconds.
The report states that the way that it responds to the public was graded as inadequate, and inspectors said how Gwent investigates crime and protects vulnerable people “requires improvement”.
The force currently has four officers suspended while independent investigators look into claims of misogyny, homophobia and racism. This follows the dismissal of three other officers over misconduct issues. Chief Constable Pam Kelly says there is an improvement plan in place.
Boost for City based semi-conductor firm
Apr 1 – Newport City Council’s leader Councillor Jane Mudd has welcomed the Welsh Government’s confirmation of its support for the expansion of Newport’s compound semiconductor cluster.
Economy minister Vaughan Gething made his comments following a successful trade mission to California’s Silicon Valley.
Last year, one of the city’s most prestigious businesses, SPTS Technologies – part of the US-based KLA group – was given planning permission by the council to expand its Welsh headquarters.
It is relocating from a site off Ringland Way to a new location in Imperial Park.
Flood warnings issued for City areas
Mar 23 – Natural Resources Wales has issued a number of flood warnings and a flood alert affecting the Newport area. These warnings will remain in place overnight and will be updated following the morning high tide.
Flood Warning – Usk Estuary at Caerleon:
Flood Warning – Usk Estuary at Crindau and Malpas Road area:
Flood Warning – Usk Estuary at Uskmouth and Old Town Docks:
Flood Alert – Coast from Aberthaw to Severn Bridge:
A flood alert for the Usk Estuary remains in place: Flood Alert – Usk Estuary:
Information about what the alerts means and advise about flooding is available from Natural Resources Wales.
Cost of living report fails to mention Council Tax increase impact!
Mar 23 – A report considered by the City Council’s Cabinet on the cost of living crisis has failed to mention the 8.5 per cent spike in Council Tax. The report cites external pressures on residents including food inflation and energy costs. However, for the vast majority of city residents not in receipt of a rebate Council Tax will increase by an average of £130 per annum before any precepts are added. Less than 25 per cent of residents receive a rebate on their Council Tax.
The reports notes the impact of the current crisis on children and families ‘Newport schools continue to see the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on pupils and families and are working closely to support families in need. A range of initiatives were outlined in last month’s report and additionally secondary schools are supporting a ‘nearly new’ uniform shop and are looking to link school- based food banks with those already existing across the city.’
Newport City Council and other organisations are again joining forces to offer residents advice and support to cope with cost-of-living challenges including energy costs, food inflation and the massive spike in Council Tax initiated by the Council itself!
As well as information on support the council offers, other bodies, including Newport Citizens Advice, Age Cymru Gwent, Melin Homes; Newport Credit Union, Newport Nappy Library – Wastesavers (10am-2pm) and Aneurin Bevan University Heatth Board will be at the event to advise residents.
Members of the public can drop into The Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre any time between 10am and 6pm on Wednesday 26 April.
It follows a similar successful event last November attended by hundreds of local people.
City to make major changes to refuse collections and recycling
Mar 18 – Newport City Council has announced that it plans to introduce changes to the way it collects household waste.
Household rubbish bins and garden waste bins will be collected once every three weeks. Currently these are collected once every two weeks.
The change has been brought in to help the council meet its recycling targets. Currently the council is recycling around 67 per cent of waste it collects. To meet Welsh government targets, this needs to increase to 70 per cent by 2024/25.
Small changes will be made to recycling containers which will help residents to recycle more of their waste, including:
- New blue bags for cardboard and paper. This will be bigger than the current blue box, which the bag will replace, giving residents more recycling capacity.
- Glass and electricals will be collected in the green box.
- Residents will be asked to bag textiles separately.
- Residents will also be able to order more recycling containers if needed.
These changes will be introduced before the move to three-weekly collections.
Analysis of waste collected in Newport shows that almost 40 per cent of what is currently going into household rubbish bins can be recycled at the kerbside.
A first phase of the new collection cycle will take place in the spring. This is designed to give us the best information possible about how the new arrangements work, ahead of the full rollout in the autumn.
The first phase will take place in around 12,100 households. A mix of streets and a mix of households has been selected from across the city.
Residents whose streets have been selected for the first phase will be notified directly as to when the changes will take place, and what to expect.
City Centre fire - resident in hospital
Mar 17 – A resident was taken to hospital following a fire in a flat above a city centre restaurant. The fire occurred in the flat above the Mama T Restaurant.
The Welsh Ambulance Service (WAS) confirmed that one person was taken to the Grange Hospital following the fire in Newport this morning.
A spokesperson for the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “At approximately 7.02am on Thursday, March 16, we received reports of a fire on Commercial Street in Newport.
“Multiple crews from fire stations across South Wales attended the scene alongside emergency service colleagues.
“Crews utilised specialist equipment, including breathing apparatus, hose reel jets and an aerial ladder platform, to extinguish the fire.
“Crews also assessed adjacent properties for fire spread. Fortunately, none was visible.
A48 tragedy leaves questions unanswered regarding police response
Mar 11 – Questions remain unanswered regarding the police response to A48 tragedy. As details became clear through this week police confirmed that the VW Tiguan involved in the incident had remained undiscovered for nearly 48 hours. Both police forces involved – Gwent and South Wales Police – have referred themselves to the Independent Office of Police Conduct.
Both forces confirmed on Tuesday that collision occurred during the early hours of Saturday – the exact time will be confirmed by the IOPC investigation.
They said a first missing person report was made to Gwent Police at 19:34 GMT on Saturday, with further missing person reports made at 19:43 GMT and 21:32 GMT on Saturday.
A further missing person report was made to South Wales Police at 17:37 GMT on Sunday.
The police helicopter was requested at 23:50 GMT on Sunday to search an area of eastern Cardiff, after which the vehicle was found, they said.
Snowfall causes minor disruption
Mar 8 – Aside from some schools most areas of Newport experienced minor disruption today despite a thick blanket of snow in many areas. Most Council services and public transport were unaffected as roads in the City were largely clear. Neighbouring Caerphilly and Torfaen faced much more disruption, including school closures, with the latter unable to provide refuse collection and recycling services due to snow covered surfaces. Newport bus services were unaffected by the weather The X24 Stagecoach bus service between Newport and Blaenavon was disrupted with services unable to reach Blaenavon terminating in Curwood.
In Newport six schools closed – Ysgol Gyfun Gwent Is Coed, The John Frost School, Bassaleg School, Newport High, Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd, Mount Pleasant Primary School. Malpas Court closed from 2pm.
The snow led to the postponement of the re-arranged rugby game between Newport and Carmarthen at Newport Stadium.
The snowfall was the first to affect Newport this winter and was the result of an Atlantic low pressure colliding with colder air from the north.
Tragedy as three found dead following crash
Mar 6 – Three young people have been found dead and two critically injured following what is believed by police to be a car crash in St. Mellons.
They were reported as missing until a member of the public discovered their VW Tiguan car off the side of the A48 between Newport and Cardiff in the early hours of this morning.
Sophie Russon, 20, Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, Rafel Jeanne, 24, and Shane Loughlin, 32, were last seen at about 02:00 GMT on Saturday in Llanedeyrn in Cardiff.
The women, all from Newport, had gone to The Muffler club in the Maesglas area of the city late on Friday.
They then travelled 36 miles to Trecco Bay, a caravan park in the seaside resort of Porthcawl with the two men, both from Cardiff.
Writing on Twitter, Hollie Smith said her cousin, Ms Russon, had been taken to hospital in a critical condition.
update- police confirm Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21 and Rafel Jeanne, 24, died in the accident.
First steps in transport improvements for City
Feb 25 – The first tentative steps in the improvement in transport for Newport city centre were made by Transport for Wales yesterday. They unveiled proposals for the Old Green Roundabout subject to a six week consultation period. The proposals will see the removal of the roundabout, new lights, bus, bike and pedestrian priority. Click on the top image on the left to see the video of the proposal.
Geoff Ogden, chief transport planning and development officer at Transport for Wales, said: “The proposals outlined in the consultation have the potential to significantly improve travel in Newport by providing better links between rail and bus and better routes for walking, wheeling and cycling.
This was a recommendation in the Burns Report instigated by Welsh Government following the scrapping of the M4 relief road. It also includes new railway stations at Llanwern, Newport East, West and St. Mellons, a 50 mph M4 speed limit and a Newport bike hire scheme with funding of £800 million.
the consultation is here
New Council facility set to re-open
Feb 24 – Newport City Council’s new city centre based customer service offering is set to open alongside museum and library facilities in John Frost Square. The facility originally closed in July 2022 to allow for reconfiguration of the building.
The normal opening times for the building are as follows:
- Central Library: Tuesday-Friday, 9am-5.30pm. Saturday 9am-4pm
- Museum, Art Gallery and Local Studies: Tuesday to Friday, 9.30am-5pm. Saturday 9.30am-4pm
- Customer Services: Monday 10am-4pm; Wednesday 12pm-6pm; Friday 8am-2pm.
- Housing: Monday-Friday, 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm
- Appointeeships: Monday and Friday 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm
Violent burglars receive long sentences
Feb 20 – Two burglars who threatened a 78 year old man during a break in at his home in a rural area of Newport have received long prison sentences. Career criminals Wayne Wren, 42, and Michael Anthony, 45, forced their way into David Westcott’s cottage while he was asleep.
The pair held Mr Westcott at knifepoint at his home near Newport demanding the PIN of his bank cards.
When Mr Westcott refused, Wren and Anthony said they would cut his fingers off one by one.
Prosecutor Abigail Jackson said: “They tied Mr Westcott’s wrists together and threatened to cut off his fingers before he gave them the PIN numbers to his debit and credit cards.”
Judge Shoman Khan told them: “You have committed a truly terrible crime. It’s like something you read about in a book or see on TV.
“You invaded a 78-year-old vulnerable man’s home and subjected him to a horrifying ordeal. The victim could barely comprehend this was happening to him. It was shameful, shameful behaviour.”
As well as a 12-year custodial sentence, the pair were given an extended term on licence of four years once they are released.
Council ignores cost of living pressures to put Council Tax up by 8.5 per cent
Feb 16 – Newport City Council’s Cabinet has opted to increase Council Tax for residents by 8.5 per cent in a stunning move that pays scant attention to the cost of living pressures being faced by most City households.
The increase was branded ‘outrageous’ by Opposition Leader Matthew Evans. If the police element increases by a similar amount it will mean an increase in average Council Tax on a Band C of £119 per annum or £2.28 per week. For a Band F the increase is £193 per annum or £3.71 per week. The inflation rate is currently 10.1 per cent and energy prices have more than doubled in the past eighteen months.
Jane Mudd, Leader of the council, said: “We have promised to be a listening council and I was pleased with the level of response this year. It has been one of the most challenging budgets we’ve had to set in recent years, and it was vitally important that everyone had their opportunity to contribute.”
900 Duffryn residents without heat and power for three days
Feb 14 – Nine hundred homes in Duffryn will be without heat or hot water for three days from midnight tonight. In one of the coldest months of the winter Newport City Homes and Welsh Water are undertaking essential repairs to the biomass facility that provides heating to the main housing estate in the area. Tenants will receive reimbursement of £20 per day for reasonable expenses due to the loss of heating and hot water. The social landlord is also providing portable heaters and blankets.
Budget position boosted but will Council take account of cost of living crisis?
Feb 14 – A better than expected out-turn for schools means that the Council’s budget has been boosted by an underspend in Education of £8.475 million. This will assist in their deliberations tomorrow ahead of a momentous decision on Council Tax, given the crippling impact of the cost of living crisis on city households. Disappointingly. The Budget Report considers modelled assumptions on Council Tax increases starting at 6 per cent! There is hardly any mention of the Council’s huge reserve other than reference to just over £2 million ear-marked to offset some of the budget pressures.
Deterioration in bus services exposed
Feb 14 – A 1992 bus timetable for sale on E-Bay has highlighted the huge changes and deterioration in Newport Bus timetabling.
The timetable for the Gaer bus service in 1992 details Newport bound services as follows – Monday to Friday 83 bus services starting at 0512 with a last service of 2307. The Saturday service comprised 73 services with the same start and end times. The Sunday service amounted to 24 bus services with a start time of 0647 and last service of 2237.
Today’s Gaer services is as follows – Monday to Friday 12 services with the first bus at 0650 and last service at 1750. 11 services on a Saturday starting at 0740 ending at 1750. 6 services on a Sunday starting at 0945 and ending at 1745.
Irrespective of the pandemic and working from home this is a huge reduction in service levels and clearly has had a detrimental impact on the city and its centre.
The recent review of services by Newport Bus claimed it was returning Sunday services to the City. However, key arterial routes still have no Sunday service including the length of Chepstow Road from the Coldra to Aberthaw Road.
The promised improvements in public transportation in the Newport area following the decision to shelve the M4 relief road and instead follow the recommendations of the Burns Report have not materialised.
Council budget position improves before critical Council Tax decision
Feb 7 – The Council’s budget position has improved significantly as a result of the Welsh Government’s Revenue Support Grant settlement in early December and savings from the education service. The position has exposed their budget consultation as mis-timed as the savings and proposals in that process were based upon the figures prior to this. At the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of the Council on February 3, Meirion Rushworth, the Head of Finance stated the funding gap of £16 million had now been reduced by £11.7 million by the Revenue Support Grant increase and there were further ‘school savings’ that he was unable to quantify. The Council’s Cabinet meets next week (on February 15) to agree a Council Tax increase for approval by the Council. As a result of the improvement the Council should be able to set a much lower level of Council Tax increase than the figure proposed in the budget consultation, 9.5 per cent. It currently has in excess of £130 million in its reserve and residents are struggling to deal with the cost of living crisis. Neighbouring Torfaen has agreed a 1.5 per cent increase.
The consultation process has now closed. The Committee was advised that it has attracted one of the largest responses of recent times. It is unfortunate it was based on a false premise and has attracted widespread negative publicity for the Council with more reports this week regarding the plan to turn off more street lights with consequent impact on the safety of residents.
Disturbance after football clash
Feb 6 – A huge police operation in Newport on Saturday contained most issues in the city centre resulting from the arrival of a thousand-plus Swindon fans. The fans were corralled near the Windsor Castle pub from 10am on the morning of the game. They could be heard ‘singing’ by shoppers as they waited, drinking at the Windsor Castle, for the 12.45 kick off. Elsewhere rugby supporters were on their way to Cardiff for the international match with Ireland.
corralledAfter the game which ended in a 2-1 victory for the Exiles there were reports of a disturbance near Bar Amber on High Street. Chairs and tables were thrown by rival supporters before police contained the incident. On the day there were five arrests for affray and public order offences. A police spokesperson told Wales Online that there was a disturbance but this was managed, no injuries or damage was reported and one person was arrested.
Schools set to close due to strike
Jan 30 – Most Newport schools will close on Wednesday as a result of the national teachers strike. The strike is taking place following the rejection of the employers 5 per cent pay offer by members of the National Education Union.
The main comprehensive schools are all closed. Schools currently open fully are Langstone, Malpas Court, Pillgwenlly, Mount Pleasant, St David’s RC, and Ysgol Gymraeg Ifor Hael. Some schools are yet to confirm their intentions.
Poll confirms regret at Brexit decision
Jan 30 – A new UK wide opinion poll has confirmed the public’s sense of regret at the referendum decision to leave the European Union in 2016. Opinion has moved dramatically in favour of closer ties with the EU with most polls indicating the public given the opportunity again would rejoin. The opinion poll by focal data indicates that 55 per cent agree it was wrong to leave with 28 per cent still in favour and 17 per cent not offering an opinion either way. In Newport East the figures were 51 per cent stating it was wrong with 30 per cent still in favour, in Newport West the figures were 54 per cent to 28. Only three parliamentary constituencies out of. 632 polled are still in favour of Brexit.
Openings boost for Friar’s Walk
Jan 27 – The Friar’s Walk shopping centre enjoys a much needed boost with two openings in the next month. Despite truly dreadful economic conditions two businesses are moving to the centre.
In the restaurant area Australian chain Karen’s Diner will open in the former Franky and Benny’s unit next to TGI Friday. They specialise in great burgers and rude service. In the shopping area discount retailer Poundland have taken over two units previously occupied by Mothercare and New Look for Men. The new store will be substantial including clothing brand Pep & Co with a total staff complement of 36. It will lead to the closure of the other stores in Kingsway and Commercial Street.
Man arrested after death of motorcyclist
Jan 26 – A motorist has been arrested after a 23 year old motorcyclist was killed in a crash in Bettws. A silver Vauxhall Vectra was involved in the crash with a motorbike on Monnow Way in Bettws, Newport, at around 15:40 GMT on Wednesday.
Police said the rider, a 23-year-old man from Newport, died at the scene. The 60-year-old driver of the car, also from Newport, was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving and remains in police custody, said Gwent Police.
A 50-year old man has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after the death of a well-known drag performer. Darren Moore was found dead in Windsor Place in Cardiff city centre at about 19:35 GMT on Sunday.The 39-year-old from Newport performed as CC Quinn and previously as Crystal Coutoure.
Royal Gwent evacuated due to fire emergency
Jan 25 – The Royal Gwent hospital was evacuated for over two hours this morning due to a fire emergency. The Health Board stated. The South Wales Fire and Rescue Service have now left the Royal Gwent Hospital site and the building has been made secure. Anyone with an appointment in the Main Outpaitients Department from 11am onwards today can attend their appointment as these will be running as planned. Sorry for any inconvenience caused. Thank you for everyone’s co-operation and to our staff and the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service for their quick response.”
It is thought the issue was caused by smoke from a motor
The Newport Ship returns home
Jan 19 – The final preserved timbers of the Newport Ship have returned to the City following restoration work by the Mary Rose Project in Portsmouth. There are now 2,500 pieces of timber that need to be assembled. Curator Toby Jones told the BBC “We have a massive, flat-pack ship that we need to reassemble and there are no instructions.” They hope to have reconstructed the 15th century ship by 2028. The City Council will undertake a feasibility study to establish the best location for the Ship. The former Debenhams’ department store has emerged as the early favourite.
The Ship was discovered in 2002 during the excavation work as part of the Riverfront Theatre development. It is thought to date from 1468 and was believed to be being repaired in Newport before resuming its trading role between Bristol and the Iberian Peninsula. It’s mooring broke and the Ship broke apart with a third of its remains covered by the mud and silt of the River Usk.
The Ship will be the only 15th century vessel on show anywhere in the world. Broadcaster Dan Snow said “The Mary Rose was a Tudor vessel, it feels like an early modern vessel, while the Newport Ship is a trading ship operating at the beginning of a revolution in European shipbuilding.
“It was at a time when those living along the Atlantic seaboard; the Welsh, people from Brittany, northern Spain, Portugal, Devon and Cornwall were starting to go to sea in bigger and stronger ships that would allow them to eventually cross the Atlantic and into the Indian Ocean.…This is something that’s going to be of global significance and interest. Tourists will be coming from all over the world.”
Tories slammed for overlooking City bid
Jan 19 – The UK Government’s controversial Levelling Up Fund was slammed today for overlooking Newport’s bid for support alongside those of many major cities in the country.
There was no official response from the City Council but Newport Labour Party issued a stinging response. They expressed ‘huge disappointment’ at the decision. They stated that the City Council has implemented savings of £90 million over the last 12 years. They went on to say ‘Newport’s bid equated to a small proportion of this…supporting the creation of a National Technology Institute….bringing more training and skills opportunities to our young people.’
A quarter of Newport’s wards are in the poorest 10 per cent of all Welsh neighbourhoods.
The scheme was criticised widely today including by the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street who said it was an example of why Whitehall’s ‘bidding and begging bowl culture is broken’ as he called for proper fiscal devolution.
Local government funding has been cut by £41 billion in the last 12 years, levelling up funding returns £2.1 billion to local authorities. There was no levelling up funding for Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Leicester or Liverpool. However, Rishi Sunak’s constituency received £19 million.
Chris Bryant, Rhondda MP stated “The operation of the levelling up fund is completely corrupt because it’s not based on need. … It’s rigged deliberately against the poorest communities in the land”
Welsh Economic Minister Vaughan Gething stated ‘Wales remains £1.1bn worse off on promised EU replacement funds, with less say over less money, and every Levelling Up funding decision has been taken in Whitehall. In Wales £50 million was granted to Cardiff for a train line covering the Bay to Cardiff Central, this is a miniscule project when compared to the transport / infrastructure needs of the Newport area. In addition, Torfaen was granted £7.6 million for a regeneration project in Pontypool town centre.
Newport legend, David Hando, dies aged 84
Jan 17 – Newport County AFC has announced the death of their Club Chairman, David Hando, aged 84.
The club stated on their website “Everyone involved with Newport County AFC is saddened to learn of the death of club president David Hando BEM following a period of illness at the age of 84. As all Exiles supporters will know, David was one of the key figures in the reform of the club in 1989 as Newport AFC. He was chairman of the reformed club for the first nine years of its existence and was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2015, the same year he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to football and the wider Newport community.”
Do UWE Bristol students outnumber USW graduates at City student village?
Jan 15 – It seems likely Newport is providing more student accommodation for Bristol students than it’s home university of University of South Wales (USW).The University of West of England (UWE) website states there are 220 rooms at the 400 bed privately run Newport Student Village available at a cost of between £5000 and £6000 for the academic year.
According to the BBC there are currently 127 UWE students living at the accommodation in Newport. Many of them only discovered they would have to live on the other side of the Bristol Channel once they accepted their places at UWE.
As part of a travel support package offered to students living in the Newport accommodation since 2019 UWE has agreed to cover the cost of a three year 16-25 railcard and to pay for taxi fares to and from the accommodation and the railway station in Newport. Students will need to contact the university for a reimbursement on their railcard. Students will not be charged for taxi journeys to and from the station, provided they are booked in advance (the night before) via Dragon Taxis.
Due to the increase in demand for on-campus living, UWE Bristol is building more accommodation on Frenchay Campus for an additional 2,250 students, with the first 900 rooms available from September 2023.
In 2012 there were 9,250 students at the two campuses of the former University of Wales Newport. Following the enforced merger with University of Glamorgan the status of the Newport sites has diminished with the loss of arts and humanities courses. Despite assurances to the contrary the Caerleon Campus was closed by USW with some of the funding from the sale pledged to improve the city centre offer as part of a new Knowledge Quarter linked to Coleg Gwent. This is yet to come to fruition but is proposed for a site adjacent to Kingsway. Details of students studying at the Newport City campus are not available although it is thought they add little to the city centre economy when compared to 2012. A University of South Wales spokesperson recently stated: “Just over 88 per cent of students who study at Newport Campus live at home and commute to USW to undertake their education.”
Police seek witnesses after Newport woman dies in A467 crash
Jan 14 – Police officers attended a road traffic collision on the A467, between Crumlin and Aberbeeg, at around 1.20pm on Friday 13 January, and are appealing for anyone with information or dashcam footage to assist with their enquiries.
“We’re appealing for witnesses after a road traffic collision on the A467 between Crumlin and Aberbeeg at around 1.20pm on Friday 13 January. Officers attended, along with personnel from the Welsh Ambulance Service, Welsh Air Ambulance Service and South Wales Fire and Rescue.”
The collision involved two cars, a black Ford Ka and a blue Citroen C1, and a lorry. The driver of the Ford Ka, a 59-year-old woman from the Newport area was taken to hospital where she later died. Her next of kin have been informed and are receiving support from specialist officers. Police are asking for any motorists with Dashcam footage that were using the A467 between 1pm and 2pm to contact them on 101.
Footpath collapses into river at Rogerstone
Jan 13 – A public footpath has collapsed in Rogerstone after days of heavy rain. Newport City Council stated the footpath between Jubilee Park and Rogerstone Welfare Ground had collapsed into the River Ebbw. The path is closed until further notice and must not be used under any circumstances. The City Council also stated ‘Barriers and closure signs are in place along both ends of the path. The conditions along the path are dangerous and represent a risk to life, and we urge residents to use alternative routes.’
There is no immediate respite to the very unsettled conditions. A yellow weather warning is forecast for an area spanning from Swansea in the west to Newport in the east and to Exeter in the south west of England from 10pm tonight until 12 noon tomorrow. The warning is of heavy rain likely to lead some to flooding and potential disruption to homes, businesses, transport and power supplies. The weather is expected to improve next week although temperatures will be much lower.
Elsewhere in Newport yesterday there were a number of businesses including a public house in the Caerleon area affected by ground water and disruption to bus services between Newport and Chepstow and train services to London Paddington due to flooding between Swindon and Bristol Parkway. Update January 14 – The Council stated “ Overnight rainfall has caused issues with surface water and flooding. The main areas currently affected are Malpas Road southbound, near the fire station junction; the Harlequin roundabout; and Upper Dock Street in the city centre. Restrictions are in place, please avoid.”
Major blow as Liberty Steel announces 'restructuring'
Jan 13 – Liberty Steel has put all 121 jobs at its Newport plant at risk as part of its plan to restructure its business. The company announced plants in Newport, West Bromwich and Tredegar will be made idle as part of the need to ‘refocus’ the business. Liberty stated it would restart production when the market and operating conditions allow. Jessica Morden MP described the news as ‘devastating’ and pledged to raise the matter with the UK Government.
The company stated it hoped to avoid redundancy for the workers involved by offering alternative employment.
Newport Council continues consultation on large Council Tax rise
Jan 10 – Despite a better than expected financial settlement from Welsh Government Newport City Council is continuing with its public consultation on controversial budget proposals for 2023/24 including reductions in the social care workforce and the closure of scaling down of some services most notably refuse collections. The premise of the consultation was also a potential 9.5 per cent increase in Council Tax levels in the City. The consultation has raised considerable anxiety about the long term future of some service provision particularly customer facing services and those aimed at vulnerable residents. The proposed budget cuts are a “devastating blow” to some of the city’s most vulnerable people, Newport’s Green Party councillor Lauren James has stated.
On December 14 2022 the Welsh Government provisionally announced an 8.7 per cent increase in funding to Newport amounting to funding of £289 million. At the time Andrew Morgan of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said: “The economic outlook remains bleak which means that councils will still have to take difficult decisions to meet spiralling budget gaps due to energy bills, inflation and pay costs.” The funding was only half of the sum required, he said, but better than expected.
Neighbouring Torfaen (receiving a 7.9 per cent increase) has committed itself to a Council Tax increase of only 1.95 per cent and claims it can now balance its books following earlier reports of a £12.5 million ‘black hole’. Newport will no doubt offer a similar analysis having raised undue alarms during the consultation process. The focus will then turn to the level of Council Tax increase in the City, this provides under 20 per cent of its total funding, but given the impact on residents due to the cost of living crisis any substantial increase will have a detrimental effect on the incomes of households struggling with inflation, energy and housing pressures. In 2021/22 the Council announced a 3.7 per cent increase having consulted on a figure of 5 per cent. In 2020/21 the increase was 6.95 per cent (the consultation figure 7.95 per cent). Although Newport has historically some of the lowest council tax levels in Wales this is often used as the justification for significant increases in the tax. It should be a situation it is proud of and wishes to maintain.
Some of the pressures facing local authorities like Newport are one-off issues like the hike in energy costs which begs the question – why not utilise some of the Council’s reserves?In July 2022 a South Wales Argus article revealed that the Council had amassed financial reserves of in excess of £130 million and that budgets had been underspent in 2021-22 by £18.4 million. A further £7.2 million was to be allocated to the reserve although the Council did announce new expenditure on parks, in social care and on temporary buildings for St. Andrews School. At the time Opposition Leader Matthew Evans expressed surprise at the lack of spending announcements. The 2022/23 budget consultation proposals amount to potential cuts of £3.75 million.