The Leader reported that last week Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services, announced that Bridgend County Borough is going to move out of the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board area, and will become part of Cwm Taf University Health Board by April 2019.
The most immediate impact will of course be on service areas where we are currently working on a Western Bay footprint, i.e. Social Services and early help services such as Families First and Youth Offending. He confirmed that for the most part, we will expect to work more closely with Cwm Taf, RCT and Merthyr Tydfil instead of ABMU, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.
However, in cases where it makes sense to work at that larger scale, there will undoubtedly be examples where we may see collaboration across both health board areas, too. It is also likely that some existing arrangements with ABMU and Western Bay colleagues may take a little longer to migrate than April 2019.
As Members were aware, the Council has long made the case to Welsh Government that viewing Bridgend County Borough as part of South East Wales for services such as education and the economy, but as part of South West Wales for services like health and social care, is really quite difficult to sustain in the face of ever-increasing regionalisation.
Expecting us to work in a way that is fundamentally different to all other Council areas in Wales risked short-changing our communities, but despite this, we have built up an enviable track record of effective collaboration. The Leader was sure that Members will be pleased to see that Welsh Government has recognised the problem. The Minister’s statement makes it clear that the move is intended to align all of our economic, education, health and social services partnership arrangements firmly within the Cardiff Capital Region. As to how this is going to affect our current working partnerships, we hope to have greater clarity very soon. Together with our partners in both health board areas, we are committed towards making the transition as smoothly and effectively as possible, and are keeping a firm focus on ensuring the best possible outcomes for our communities and residents.
The Leader announced that he was delighted to see that in addition to Maesteg’s new Sunday service, the town is to be serviced by four trains an hour. This is going to be a vital link in helping people get access to jobs and training, and will make it much easier to travel between the Llynfi Valley and Bridgend, Cardiff and beyond.
Anyone who has visited Bridgend Railway Station recently will have seen for themselves the results of its recent £1.5m refurbishment. It now boasts an improved concourse area with a new information desk, ticket office and seating, refurbished passenger toilets and new baby changing facilities, a new waiting shelter and customer pathways, improved security and new CCTV, and new signage and passenger information displays. Bridgend is the fifth busiest railway station in all of Wales, so Councillor Young and the Leader were particularly pleased to meet with Cabinet Minister for Economy and Transport Ken Skates, to discuss the implications of the new metro system. Upgrading work is underway so that tri-mode trains capable of switching between battery, electric and diesel can be brought into use, and the County Borough is set to benefit from a fast, efficient link to Cardiff airport.
Enhanced connectivity and modern facilities are essential for the enhanced prosperity of the area, and the Leader was looking forward to seeing how these latest developments will help to bring communities closer together, offer greater opportunities for employment, leisure and tourism, and provide support for the economy.
Next week will see the Festival of Learning taking place in Bridgend County Borough where it will showcase some of the new and innovative learning and teaching methods that are being used at local schools. Over the course of the week, more than 800 pupils, teachers, educators, trainers and employers will participate with 100 school-based workshops where they will experience how modern classroom developments are benefiting local children alongside traditional numeracy and literacy techniques.
Some of the new techniques on display will include using virtual reality technology in the classroom, Lego therapy and outdoor ‘mountain’ schools.
A symposium event at Bridgend College will focus on how the health and well-being of pupils can be developed, maintained and improved, and a Learners’ Day at Bridgend Life Centre will provide children with an opportunity to set up stalls and offer displays and practical demonstrations before receiving an address from Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales.
The Festival is going to be a fantastic opportunity to share knowledge and develop new ways of supporting children, and the Leader hoped that it will grow so that other parts of Wales can benefit from the insights and developments that it promises to deliver.
Finally, the Leader reported that more than £1.5 million has been invested in the Pencoed area over recent years as part of the Safe Routes in Communities programme, and he was impressed to note the innovation that has been displayed in the most recent development. A 300 metre-long pathway has been installed through woodlands between Brook Vale and Llwyn Gwern as part of a safe route linking to Pencoed Comprehensive and Croesty Primary. What makes this path so different is that it glows in the dark thanks to a photo-luminescent resin surface which harnesses UV light gathered during the day.
This was a first for the County Borough, and is sure to help guide walkers and cyclists during the winter months. It also coincides with news that funding has been approved to extend the existing off-road route from Coychurch, and this was further good news the Leader concluded.