Leader Outlines Progress Made on Manifesto Commitments

The Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has provided Elected Members with an update on the delivery of the core manifesto commitments made by the RCT Labour Group last year.

In the annual Leader’s Debate, held at the meeting of Full Council on Wednesday, November 28, Councillors were provided with a comprehensive update on the Council’s finances, as well as service updates from areas including Education, Highways, Transport, Town Centres, Regeneration, Leisure, Social Care and Community Hubs.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Labour’s Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said: “The Council is continuing to demonstrate a positive and ambitious approach to its capital spending priorities, and we are delivering over and above on all of our key commitments despite austerity continuing for a ninth consecutive year.

“As the Council is legally bound to set a balanced budget, we are committed to making vital efficiency savings – with an ambitious £6m target achieved last year alone. This approach allows us to avoid transferring the worst of the cuts to our valued frontline services, where possible.

“Like every other Local Authority in Wales, we are proposing that Council Tax will be subject to a small increase in Rhondda Cynon Taf to further bridge our projected budget gap of £5.9m, and allow us to protect our vital services. However, this Council set the lowest rises in Wales for 2018/19, and also the lowest local increases in the previous two financial years. We plan to do the same in next year’s budget, with Council Tax in Rhondda Cynon Taf currently the sixth-lowest in Wales, based on what residents actually pay on average per dwelling.

“We are currently in very exciting times for Education in Rhondda Cynon Taf, as the Council delivers 21st Century facilities for more and more pupils. Brand new schools were formed in our £160m Band A joint investment with the Welsh Government – with the brand new £7.2m Cwmaman Primary School, the £12m Porth Community School, the primary phase of the £44m Tonyrefail Community School and the £13.5m Ysgol Nantgwyn all opening in September 2018.

“Significant multi-million pound investment has also been made across the Rhondda for the start of the 2018/19 academic year – at Ferndale Community School, Treorchy Comprehensive, YGG Llwyncelyn and Cymmer Primary. Alongside this, a total £8m investment has allowed us to carry out capital works to reduce our backlog of maintenance and repairs.

“Looking forward to 2022, the Council’s strategic business case for a further £168m of Band B joint investment, again delivered in partnership with the Welsh Government, has been approved. The Council is currently consulting on new proposals for our 21st Century Schools Programme, to extend first-class facilities to pupils in the upper Cynon Valley and the wider Pontypridd areas. Meanwhile, the Council increased its Education budget by £2m in 2018/19, which is double our original commitment, and we are now consulting on a further multi-million-pound uplift as part of the wider 2019/20 budget consultation.

“With regard to our Highways network – the Council’s single biggest asset – Cabinet has recently agreed a £23.5m package to continue our accelerated funding approach over the next three years. This approach has seen the number of classified roads requiring attention drop from 7.2% to 4.8% in the last year, having been as high as 15.7% in 2011/12. During this period, 1,000 carriageways, 350 footways and 33 structures have been improved.

“In the past 12 months, Safer Routes to School schemes have been delivered in Porth, Tonypandy, Tonyrefail, Treorchy and Cwmaman – to complement our 21st Century Schools investment, for the benefit of pupils and parents. The Council has also undertaken a major £680,000 scheme, which was funded by the Welsh Government, to improve the Beddau Halt junction, and the Council also invested a further £180,000 through #RCTInvest in taking the opportunity to resurface a significant section of Gwaunmiskin Road.

“Our investment in Park and Ride facilities across RCT continues, in preparation to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the South Wales Metro by 2023. The Council has begun constructing 310 parking spaces at Abercynon Railway Station, while viability work to increase parking at Pontyclun Station is ongoing. Our commitment to Active Travel has seen walking and cycling provision included in our major schemes where possible, while the Llantrisant Community Route was completed last December. Feasibility studies are ongoing in Rhondda Fach and Rhondda Fawr to see how we can provide a joined-up Active Travel Route, while £250,000 funding is in place to carry out feasibility studies on the possibility of reopening the Rhondda and Abernant Tunnels, which have huge Active Travel potential.

“The Mountain Ash Cross Valley Link has hit significant milestones this year, in order to be completed by the winter of 2019/20. Cabinet has also recently committed an extra £1.5m to support the A4119 dualling at Coed Ely, which was progressed following Members’ approval in June. The funding will advance the purchase of third party land, preliminary design and ecological surveys. We are also looking at improving Nant Eirin and Trebanog roundabouts, north of Coed Ely.

“The Llanharan Bypass has benefitted from £500,000 to allow preliminary design of its final section, before a preferred route is identified by the end of next year. A £1m investment has been approved to support an extension of the Aberdare bypass to Croesbychan Roundabout. This vital new link has Welsh Government Ministerial support, and will align with the dualling of the A465. A £200,000 investment is supporting investigations for a new Treorchy-Gelli Link Road – which could be similar to the Cross Valley Link in Mountain Ash. The Council is not considering a larger Treorchy bypass at this time.

“The Council’s commitment to improving its Town Centres has seen a number of measures undertaken – including the major £1m remodelling scheme in Tonypandy to remove the pedestrian-only area of Dunraven Street. The scheme included new short-stay bays on Dunraven Street to improve access to local shops, as well as a new bus stop and street furniture. A confirmed investment of £136,000 will see Tonypandy Library improved next year.

“Exciting opportunities are also being explored in Porth and Mountain Ash town centres. Consultation is currently underway for the Porth plans, which would see a new Transport Hub and Station Quarter established to improve connectivity. The strategy outlines additional Town Centre parking, extending the Park and Ride provision, street scene improvements and redevelopment of the former Porth Junior School.

“In Mountain Ash, a Regeneration Framework is being developed to co-ordinate investment projects, including the Guto Square redevelopment, and new Extra Care and Integrated Primary Care facilities. In Aberdare, Gadlys Pit Car Park was reopened to improve parking provision, while the Council has developed a Business Improvement District feasibility study for Aberdare and Treorchy, utilising Welsh Government funding. We are also in the process of improving the public toilets near Treorchy Library.

“The Town Centre Maintenance Grant started in October 2017 to help business owners in Mountain Ash and Tonypandy improve property fronts. It has been a huge success, with 97 applications in total. In July, the scheme was extended into Treorchy. I’m pleased to confirm that Cabinet will shortly be considering a report proposing that the scheme will grow further next year, to include Aberdare, Porth and Ferndale.

“The Council has secured EU funding for similar schemes in Robertstown (£5.4m) and Coed Ely (£3.9m), to bring derelict land back into use as modern business units. Meanwhile, the new Headquarters for both the Department of Work and Pensions and Welsh Revenue Authority will be in Treforest, and the major £48m Taff Vale Development in Pontypridd is also making excellent progress. The site will continue to transform over the coming weeks and months, and will bring hundreds of jobs to the area, as the home of Transport for Wales.

“We have continued our significant investment in Leisure during 2018/19. The £350,000 refurbishment at Llantrisant Leisure Centre was completed earlier this year, while changing rooms have been improved at Bronwydd Pool, Rhondda Sports Centre and Abercynon Sports Centre – an investment which totals £800,000. We are also continuing to develop Rhondda Fach Sports Centre, where we have installed the Council’s first indoor 3G sports pitch.

“Outdoor 3G pitches, which are suitable for all-weather use, have been delivered in Abercynon, Church Village, Porth and Ferndale, in a combined £2m investment. In total, 11 facilities have now been delivered across the County Borough, with the 12th and 13th pitches being constructed in Penywaun and Beddau, with an athletics track also included as part of the Beddau scheme.  We are also exploring opportunities to develop a 3G facility at the top of the upper Rhondda Fawr area to continue our ambitious target of providing a 3G pitch within three miles for every RCT resident, no matter where they live

“The Council has recently opened the £3m Ron Jones Stadium in Aberdare, providing state-of-the-art athletics facilities as part of the wider £67m Sobell Redevelopment, while it has also committed to undertaking feasibility studies to explore the potential for improving the King George V athletics facility in Clydach Vale. Meanwhile, 27 outdoor play areas will be improved by April 2019, bringing the number of facilities refurbished since the scheme started in 2015 to 98. The represents more than half the total number of play area improvements across the whole of Wales during this period.

“Following the Council’s £50m commitment to providing 300 new Extra Care spaces in Rhondda Cynon Taf, the first of five new schemes is progressing in Aberaman. It will see 40 modern apartments created for older people on the former Maesyffynnon Residential Care Home site, helping residents to live as independently as possible, receiving care for assessed needs. Construction has begun on this project, and will be completed in 2019. In the New Year, the Council will be consulting on proposals to modernise our residential care and day care provision for older people, by utilising the Extra Care schemes.

“We are also committed to developing Community Hubs as a sustainable and inclusive way of delivering services. More than £500,000 has been secured for a new Hub in Ferndale, while residents and service users have been consulted over similar plans in Mountain Ash. A new Community Hub in Porth is part of the wider town regeneration strategy. In Aberdare, a 99-year lease has been signed to transfer St Mair’s Day Centre to Age Connects Morgannwg, which has secured £1.1m to develop improved facilities and resources.

“Over the next 12 months, we will continue to be ambitious in delivering on our core commitments, building on the excellent momentum achieved to date.”