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Roads Maintenance Revenue Grant allocation to Rhondda Cynon Taf

The Council has welcomed new funding of more than £750,000 from Welsh Government, towards road maintenance across the County Borough.

The significant contribution, from the Local Government Roads Maintenance Revenue Grant 2020/21, was awarded on March 15. Funding was allocated to all Local Authorities in Wales as part of the Grant, and the exact funding of £756,621 to Rhondda Cynon Taf will complement the Council’s own important road maintenance investment within its annual Highways Capital Programme.

This year’s Programme (for 2020/21) contained a £7.6m Highways Investment Programme, including £6.3m for roads and £1.3m for footways – within an overall investment of £25.02m for the Highways and Transportation service.

Sustained investment in this area has reduced the percentage of roads in Rhondda Cynon Taf requiring maintenance, comparing favourably to other Local Authorities. Figures from last year showed 4.7% of local ‘A’ Roads requiring investment compared to 16.2% nine years ago – while a similar trend is seen in in ‘B’ Roads (15.2% to 6.2%) and ‘C’ Roads (15.3% to 3.5%).

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways and Transportation, said: “I’m pleased that the Council has received important additional support from Welsh Government, contributing to the maintenance and future-proofing of local roads – which remains a priority area of investment for this Council.

“Officers will continue to pursue external funding for road maintenance and strategic transportation projects, to complement our significant Highways Capital Programme. At their meeting in March 2021, Cabinet Members will consider the latest Programme, which proposes a total £25.025m investment across the Highways and Transportation service for the next financial year, 2021/22.

“This latest Welsh Government support follows a £4.4m allocation last month – coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Storm Dennis – to help the Council’s ongoing efforts to repair infrastructure following the most significant flooding since the 1970s which saw almost 1,500 properties flooded.”


Flood Risk Management activity in Pentre following Storm Dennis

The Council has provided an update on its Flood Risk Management response and continuing work in Pentre – as the village was one of the worst-hit areas during Storm Dennis and other subsequent storm events last year.

In February 2020, Storm Dennis saw record rainfall and caused record river levels and flows as Rhondda Cynon Taf saw its most significant flooding since the 1970s – with 1,476 properties internally flooded across the County Borough. It was one of four storms which took place in quick succession up to March 1, which also included Storm Ciara, an unnamed storm (February 21-24) and Storm Jorge.

On the one-year anniversary of Storm Dennis, Welsh Government announced £4.4m extra funding for Rhondda Cynon Taf, to help with the continued and ongoing effort to fix highways, bridges, culverts and retaining walls. Pentre was one of the worst-hit areas, and below is a summary of the Council’s significant activity in the village, including its response throughout the year and ongoing work today.

Responded to 18 individual storm events, providing additional resources on each occasion to support residents, including through the proactive delivery of sandbags. Two standby pumps were provided for use over the winter, pre-empting poor weather at that time of year.

Investigated around 380 reports of flooding, which were among approximately 2,500 reports from across Rhondda Cynon Taf last year.

Surveyed around 3.2km of ordinary watercourses and 5.5km of surface water drainage infrastructure. This has been mapped and reviewed, resulting in targeted cleansing and repairs. Around 600 tonnes of debris have since been cleared from assets following Storm Dennis.

Continuing significant work at the Pentre Road inlet – this major work started on site in September 2020. It is installing a new culvert inlet, debris basin and multi overflow system following storm damage, to significantly reduce the local flood risk.

Continuing a flood routing scheme at Pleasant Street – on site works continue to upgrade the culverted ordinary watercourse infrastructure in the adjacent park by constructing a large catchpit manhole, to reduce the risk of debris blocking the culvert.

Completed overflow works at Lewis Street, which have constructed a high-level overflow to increase the capacity of the highway drainage infrastructure in collaboration with Dwr Cymru Welsh Water.

Completed repairs to existing ordinary watercourse manholes at several locations, following the identification of storm damage.

Progressing a future scheme to improve the Volunteer Street pumping station, with design work ongoing. The scheme will improve the efficiency of the system, with construction approved for 2021/22.

Progressing the future Nant y Pentre scheme, which is being designed to facilitate an Overland Flow control route. This will mitigate flows generated by ordinary watercourse manholes within the Lower Pentre area, with construction proposed again for 2021/22.

Progressing a business case for the Pentre Flood Alleviation Scheme, which would mitigate flood risk in the community, working closely with Natural Resources Wales and Dwr Cymru Welsh Water to fully understand and address the risks.

Progressing a business case for the Upper Rhondda Strategic Flood Risk Area, which will include a pilot project to identify and complete a number of further ‘quick win’ schemes to manage the local flood risk.

Continuing to develop a pilot study for Property Flood Resilience within the Upper Rhondda Fawr, which aims to better understand the full benefit of flood risk measures and suitable delivery mechanisms.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways and Transportation, said: “On the anniversary of Storm Dennis on February 16, the Council provided an update on its significant response and huge continuing efforts to repair infrastructure damage across the County Borough – and this second update focuses on Pentre, which had multiple flooding incidents across several storm events throughout 2020. As a result, works activity in key locations including Pentre have been prioritised.

“Major work at Pentre Road to install a new culvert system and remote monitoring equipment is continuing. Also, an important flood routing scheme continues at Pleasant Street, with overflow works delivered at Lewis Street. In 2021/22, four future schemes will be progressed – including the replacement of the pumping station at Volunteer Street.

“Of the 2,500 reports of flooding the Council received last year, more than 380 of them were in Pentre alone – with Council Officers investigating each one. The update also confirms that 600 tonnes of debris has been removed from local assets in Pentre since Storm Dennis, identified through inspections of almost 9km across watercourses and surface water drainage infrastructure.

“The Council has made it clear that the effects of Storm Dennis would be felt for years to come, and it remains committed to seeking funding for, and carrying out, infrastructure repairs in communities. It is also committed to making sure we are all better prepared for future storm events by working towards implementing the 11 recommendations agreed by Cabinet in September 2020.

“Key actions have been carried out as a result, including a Flood Risk Management consultation so we can better understand the historical patterns of flooding in our communities, and the setting up of a dedicated multi-partner control room for use during future storms to monitor and react quickly.


We’re not out of the woods over Covid yet, warns social care leader

A social care leader has warned the public in Rhondda Cynon Taf not to become complacent and to "remain vigilant” as the number of Covid deaths in care homes continues to fall.

Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, said new, more contagious and potentially more dangerous mutant strains of the virus could still throw a spanner in the works.

It was vitally important, he stressed, the people adhered to sensible safeguards like social distancing, wearing masks and sanitising properly.

The importance of doing the right thing was underlined by the catastrophic death toll in care homes since the onset of the pandemic.

The latest figures show that a total of 8.043 adult care home residents had died since March 1 last year – that was 43 per cent higher than the same period two years ago.

Thankfully, the rollout of the vaccine had led to a significant decrease in the number of Covid deaths in care homes .

According to Care Inspectorate Wales, there had been a 16.5 per cent decrease – down from 238 to 173 - in the number of cases involving residents and staff in the previous 20 days.

Following a peak of 20 care homes deaths per day on January 21, there were now around three deaths per day, which was similar to the number observed at the beginning of November.

Mr Kreft said: “It is excellent news that the number of deaths in care homes is now decreasing and it is a clear indication that the vaccine rollout is having a major impact in helping to protect residents and staff from this deadly disease but we are not out of the woods yet, far from it.

“However, emerging mutant strains of Covid are a real cause for concern because they are more contagious and it’s feared the new variant from Brazil may be more resistant to the vaccine, posing a real risk to elderly, frail and vulnerable people.

“It is vitally important that we do not become complacent. We must remain hugely vigilant and I would appeal to people to adhere to all the sensible safeguards like social distancing, wearing masks and sanitising properly.

“Our first and most important priority is ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of our residents and staff so we need to adopt a cautious approach to care home visiting.

“Thanks to the availability of the vaccines, there is now light at the end of this very dark tunnel. This is hopefully the beginning of the end of this nightmare and it would be a tragedy if we blew it when we are so close to the finish line.

“Another level of protection would be provided if care homes in Wales were allowed to refuse to hire staff who have not had a Covid jab unless they have a legitimate medical reason because it only takes one person to bring one of the new strains of the virus into vulnerable people.”

“The statistics are also a stark illustration of the scale of the Covid catastrophe and the tragic toll the pandemic has taken on residents, despite the heroic efforts of front line staff, managers and care home owners. The number of deaths in care homes since March 1 last year is 43 per cent higher than the same period two years ago.

“While the success of the vaccine rollout is a real positive, we must never forget those we have lost and we must honour their memory by doing everything in our power to protect the vulnerable people for whom we have pledged to provide care.”


Make Covid jabs mandatory for new care home recruits in the Rhondda

Care homes in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board area should be allowed to refuse to hire staff who have not had a Covid jab unless they have a legitimate medical reason, say social care leaders.

Care Forum Wales, which represents nearly 500 independent providers, says it’s vitally important to protect vulnerable residents who are particularly at risk because they are mostly elderly and frail with serious underlying health conditions.

The latest figures show that since March 1 last year there have been 1,709 care home resident deaths in Wales with suspected or confirmed Covid-19.

According to chair Mario Kreft MBE, care homes were duty bound to do everything in their power to protect their residents and staff.

New evidence reportedly shows that a single dose of the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines cuts transmission by two thirds.

It’s believed around 20 per cent of care home staff in Wales have not had a jab yet and Mr Kreft said care home owners and managers were rightly encouraging existing staff to have the vaccine.

But he believed more needed to be done to ensure a higher percentage of staff was vaccinated because it was clear there were some who were reluctant to get the jab.

Mr Kreft said: “I think there are general concerns about this right across Wales. Some homes are doing incredibly well, we’ve heard stories of 100% take up but others are struggling.

“It only takes one person to bring one of the new strains of the virus into vulnerable people.

“We know the more contagious Kent variant is now the dominant strain in Wales and there is also some evidence that it is also more lethal. We are also having to contend with the dangers posed by other mutant strains.

“I think everybody who works in social care should, unless there's a very good reason otherwise, get the jab and importantly be ready for a culture where we might have to have this each year for some years to come.

“Care Forum was ahead of the curve at the beginning of the pandemic in calling on care homes to lock down long before this was required by the Welsh and UK governments.

“We believe we now need to be proactive again so that we can continue to protect our residents and staff from this deadly virus.

“It is clearly sensible that care homes should be allowed to refuse to recruit anybody who has not been vaccinated.

“It is clear that, quite understandably, the families of residents will want assurances that the staff looking after their loved ones are vaccinated so that they are less likely to be able pass on the infection.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Care Forum Wales Council member Sanjiv Joshi.

He said: “If you’re working in a care home, your mission is to care and protect your residents – that’s your solemn promise.

“The science is very clear that the vaccine reduces serious symptoms and the number of deaths.

“Not only are you protecting the residents, but you are also protecting yourself and your family.

“Why would you not have the vaccine if it reduces the chances of you having a serious illness or dying.

“If we were dealing with smallpox nobody would be arguing about the need to have a jab – let’s not forget in UK, we have already had 25,000 deaths related to Covid-19 in care homes.

“Unless you have a legitimate reason like a medical issue or a religious objection, you should be rushing to be vaccinated .

“If one of your relatives is going to be in a care home, you would be more comfortable if the residents and staff were vaccinated.”


Spring into Green Waste Recycling

Turn over a new leaf and recycle your green waste this Spring.

After a cold and wet winter, residents may be hoping for some early spring sunshine to help their gardens blossom.

Many residents will now start to head into their gardens for the first time in a few months to offer some much-needed tender loving care – but what do you do with the clippings, grass cutting and debris?

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is reminding its residents that the Council’s Streetcare team will collect all your green waste at the kerbside as part of its summer weekly recycling collection, which will re-start from Monday 15th March.

From cuttings to shrubs, flowers to twigs, residents can now recycle all of their gardening debris. All they need to do is place the green waste into the normal clear recycling bags and leave it at the kerbside on their normal collection day.

Please ensure that you remove all earth/soil from your green waste as we are currently unable to recycle these as part of your kerbside green waste collection. All the Council asks is that the green waste is kept separate from normal recycling as it is recycled differently and collected separately.

Green waste is collected by a separate vehicle, but still takes place on the same day as food and dry recycling collections – but this may not be at the same time of day. During periods of high demand, there could be a delay in collections, please leave at the collection point and it will be collected as soon as possible.

Councillor Ann Crimmings, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, said:

“More and more residents of Rhondda Cynon Taf are taking advantage of our fantastic weekly kerbside recycling collection service. It is great that so many of our residents are enthusiastic about our environment.

“I urge all our residents who are not currently recycling to make the change to your habits and join your neighbours and friends and take your recycling efforts into your garden by recycling your green waste.”

Please note: The Council are unable to collect old or damaged sheds and patio sets. However, these along with other garden waste, including soil and earth, can be taken to one of the Community Recycling Centres, which will be soon be operating under their spring/summer opening times (8am - 7.30pm) from March 29th. Current winter opening times remain at 8am – 5.30pm until this date.

For further information on green waste visit www.rctcbc.gov.uk/GreenWaste or for information on Community Recycling Centres visit www.rctcbc.gov.uk/communityrecyclingcentres.


Creative Writing Anthology 2021

Local writers and poets are invited to submit their original works for inclusion into a brand-new anthology of poems and short stories.

The creative writing competition, run by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Library Service, is open to all ages and residents of the County Borough. There is no restriction on the subject matter, although all short stories should be no longer than 2,000 words.

All entries should be submitted in an electronic format, if possible, as all poems and short stories will be reproduced as they are submitted. Entries can be in either English or Welsh, or in both languages. The closing date for entries is Monday, May 31.

The Council’s planned Creative Writing Anthology last year was postponed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, but all entries received last year will be eligible for inclusion in the 2021 edition.

Councillor Rhys Lewis, Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, Well-Being and Cultural Services, with responsibility for Libraries, said: “I am delighted that the Creative Writing Anthology is able to return this year as it is a wonderful platform for our writers and poets to show off their talents to a wider audience.

“We have a wealth of talent in our County Borough and have produced many successful writers over the years, one the most high profile of course being the late Elaine Morgan OBE.

“Despite the difficult circumstances, I am pleased to see that the Council is able to provide opportunities for grassroots writers to get their works published and I look forward to seeing the entries being submitted for the 2021 anthology.”

Elaine Morgan OBE, of Caegarw, Mountain Ash, was the author of several books on evolutionary anthropology, especially the aquatic ape hypothesis. Her books include The Descent of Woman (1972), The Aquatic Ape (1982), and The Naked Darwinist (2008).

Elaine Morgan OBE, who was granted the Freedom of Rhondda Cynon Taf in 2013, died three months later at the age of 92.

Would you like to be a part of the Council’s Creative Writing Anthology 2021? Email your entries to Richard.Reed@rctcbc.gov.uk Postal entries can also be sent to Richard Reed, Treorchy Library, Station Road, Treorchy, CF42 6UD.

The closing date for all entries is Monday, May 31, 2021. For details on all RCT Libraries services, please visit www.rctcbc.gov.uk/libraries


Apprentice Bethany's Bereavement Services Role

A willingness to keep learning new skills and take on more responsibility in challenging circumstances has helped Bethany Mason to develop into an “excellent bereavement services officer” as well as a finalist in the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2021.

Since joining Rhondda Cynon Taf Borough Council as an apprentice Data Entry Clerk in 2016, Bethany, aged 21, has risen to a series of difficult challenges, making a huge difference to the staff of Glyntaff Crematorium and the grieving families they work with.

Committed to personal development, Bethany has achieved a Foundation Apprenticeship and is now close to completing an NVQ level 3 in Business Administration, both delivered by Coleg y Cymoedd at the Nantgarw Campus.

Now Bethany has now been shortlisted for the Foundation Apprentice of the Year award at Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2021.

Councillor Maureen Webber, Deputy Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said: “I wish our apprentice Bethany all the very best at the forthcoming Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2021.

“The Council’s Apprenticeship and Graduate Schemes have been very successful over many years, helping people to gain the important skills and experience needed to fulfil their career ambitions.

“Like so many of our Council apprentices, Bethany is doing an amazing job during such challenging times within our Bereavement Services, working with families in the most difficult circumstances.”

The Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2021 is an annual celebration of outstanding achievement in training and apprenticeships will see 35 finalists compete in 12 categories for awards. The winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on April 29.

Highlight of the work-based learning calendar, the awards showcase businesses and individuals who have excelled on the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship and Traineeship Programmes and gone the extra mile to achieve success during these unprecedented times.

The awards are jointly organised by the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales. The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government, with support from the European Social Fund.

Working closely with her manager, Ceri Pritchard, Bethany has developed leadership skills and improved the smooth running of Glyntaff Crematorium by digitising and centralising burial records and cemetery plans for RCT Cemeteries.

She has also helped introduce a digital portal to access music for family cremation services, together with webcasts and visual tributes, which have been incredibly important for funerals held during the pandemic restrictions.

The measures have improved efficiency and helped funeral directors and people wishing to trace their family history.

Soon after being seconded to the bereavement services team at Llwydcoed Crematorium, two of Bethany’s colleagues became ill, leaving her to learn new skills quickly to both manage the complex workload with her manager, and maintain a good, family-friendly service.

Bethany Mason, of Llantrisant, said: “My apprenticeship has not only given me the skills to perform my role professionally and diligently, but has also allowed me to progress personally and develop my ability to deal with a variety of situations.

“My confidence, self-esteem and performance at work have grown enormously and I take pride in the quality of my work.”


Evie's Stay At Home Message

A Rhondda Cynon Taf student has won the Welsh Government’s Stay At Home poster competition, beating hundreds of other entries across Wales in the fight to keep everyone safe and promoting the key COVID-19 safety message.

Evie Barnett, aged 9, of Aberdare, entered the competition after being set the home schooling task by her class teacher Sharon Haughty at Aberdare Church In Wales Primary School.

Councillor Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Cabinet Member for Education and Inclusion Services, said: “Congratulations to Evie on flying the flag for our County Borough and our schools by winning such a prestigious competition.

“Evie’s award-winning poster will now be seen by millions of people across the country, indeed the world, as Wales continues with its vital Stay At Home Message at this time.”

Both Evie’s parents, key workers Rachael and Richard Barnett, contracted COVID-19 during the global pandemic and have made a full recovery. Rachael is a nursery owner and Richard is a supermarket home delivery driver. They are so proud at what Evie has achieved, having been announced as the poster competition winner by Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford.

Evie’s mother Rachael, said: “Evie loves being creative and really threw herself into this task as the Stay At Home message means so much to our family.

“Evie is a member of the Glamorgan Dance Academy so has been busy with her classes via Zoom. She also sees her teacher and class friends the same way but really misses seeing everyone in person, especially her older sister Sam and her niece Alice.

“But Evie realises that the Stay At Home message is so important to everyone if we are to stay safe and beat the virus in order to get some sort of normality back into all of our lives.”

Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford, announcing the winners, said: “Thank you very much to everyone who has taken part in our Stay At Home poster competition. We had a huge number of entries and we had the difficult job of choosing the winners.

“The English winner is Evie, with a beautifully clear poster showing all the elements so carefully put onto the page and leaving no doubt at all for anybody who sees it, what the message is.

“So Evie, thank you very much indeed for taking part. Thanks also, not just to the winners but everyone else who has taken part, helping us all on the journey we are all on together in Wales to keep everybody safe.”

Clare Werrett, head of Aberdare Town Church In Wales Primary School, said: “Everyone at our school and associated with our school is delighted and proud that Evie has won this Welsh Government poster competition. She has highlighted the very important message of staying home and staying safe.”

Wales currently remains at Alert Level 4 and further information on the guidance can be found at https://gov.wales/coronavirus

Members of the public are advised to self-isolate if they or anyone in their household has symptoms of COVID-19 and to book a test.

Evie Barnett, of Aberdare Town Church In Wales Primary School, won the English poster competition. Abigail, of Ysgol Garnedd Bangor, won the Welsh poster competition.

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