Cllr Sherelle Jago advised Council that since the Education Minister’s announcement about pupils returning to school, MTCBC has been working hard with Head Teachers to consider a coordinated approach to managing the process. There is apprehension amongst teachers and there is Union involvement as to how the return to school is going to be managed going forward. Welsh Government will be issuing guidance w/c 15th June, and then MTCBC will provide a full briefing paper on how the return will work in schools across Merthyr. The priority will be the safety of all in managing the spread of COVID-19. It will not be a typical school day; this is an opportunity for pupils to check-in and catch-up with their teachers to prepare for September. There will be small cohorts of children in one classroom with one teacher during their time in the school building. No parent will be reprimanded for not sending their child into school.
Cllr Jago advised that the Early Year Settings in Bedlinog and Trelewis are currently struggling financially, and that she is working with them to identify any grants that are available to support them.
The Cabinet at MTCBC held a test ‘Microsoft Teams’ meeting last week to identify any issues with running Council meetings virtually going forward. A meeting of the Police and Crime Commission was used as a test for the local authority to learn from running virtual, public meetings. Most Council meetings will be held virtually for some time to come.
The LA is managing high call volumes at the moment via their Call Centre and Lifeline services – the calls are mostly requirements from residents within the County Borough that are currently shielding. 1140 food parcels are being delivered to those on the shielding list. Cllr Jago is arranging food parcels for any resident in Bedlinog and Trelewis who has not received a shielding letter but is shielding because they believe they need to.
There has been a change to the guidance in respect of care homes from Public Health Wales – care homes will no longer take any residents unless they have been free from COVID for 28 days.
From 15th June, there will be weekly testing of staff who work in care homes to help monitor the spread of the disease.
The approach of MTCBC is to work towards the ‘new normal’ – we are not in the recovery stage yet and medical advice is that we are in this position for the long haul. Social Services will look to start re-opening some of the day services in consultation with the families that use them. Ty Cwm has opened on a trial basis – numbers of service users will be limited, and staff will clean the unit before and after use. Temperatures of service users will be monitored, and families are providing their own transport.
Neighbourhood Services are continuing to experience high volumes of recycling – the current levels are more than what they experience at Christmas periods. Car parking of vehicles is an issue and residents are being asked to park sensibly to allow the recycling lorries to access streets.
Cllr Jago attended the meeting for the Crime and Commissioners Panel – in terms of figures in relation to South Wales Police staff, 16 officers are currently shielding and between 23rd March – 18th May, SWP issued 229 sanctions for breaches of COVID restrictions. Fines totalled 179 and there were 50 arrests for breaches. There have been 245 members of staff within the Police force tested for COVID and 37 were positive. One area of concern raised was that in April 2020, there were 54% fewer crimes against children reported compared with April 2019 because children are being unseen by teachers and other practitioners during the pandemic. SWP want the message out there that any safeguarding concerns must be reported.
Cllr Jago referred to two areas of concern – the first being transport. There have been lots of complaints from residents in Bedlinog regarding the bus service – in April the service was reduced to a two-hourly bus as a result of the pandemic, and from 1st June, only a maximum of 11 people can be on a bus in order to maintain social distancing. This is a problem for Bedlinog residents as the bus is often ‘full’ and is driving past them as they wait at bus stops. As a rural area, residents are not in walking distance of work and supermarkets and they have no access to train links. Cllr Jago has written to Stagecoach and Dawn Bowden MS. Cllr Searl proposed that the Community Council should also write to our MS, Stagecoach and Gerald Jones MP to express concern. This was seconded by Cllr Jago and Council resolve to proceed with the letters of concern/complaint.
The second area of concern that Cllr Jago raised was in relation to rats – many residents of Bedlinog and Trelewis are complaining about rats in their gardens, and some even in their properties. MTCBC are not currently providing a pest control service. Cllr Jago proposed that the Community Council could engage with a private pest control company and cover the cost of the first visit to residents (up to a maximum of £50) to carry out the investigatory work and advise residents what treatment may be required and how to reduce the risk of a re-occurrence. Cllr Searl seconded the proposal and Council resolved to proceed.
County Cllr Malcolm Colbran was contacted prior to the meeting and asked to provide a Councillors Report but no response has been received.
ACTION: RJ to draft letters to Stagecoach, Dawn Bowden MS and Gerlad Jones MP.
ACTION: RJ to engage with Pest Control company to offer service to residents.
ACTION: RJ to send date of next meeting to Cllr Malcolm Colran and request Councillors Report.