Leader's blog

Cllr Dave Poole is the Leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council.

He began his political career in 2004, where he represents the community of Pengam.

He served as Cabinet Member for Performance Management between 2004 and 2006 and Cabinet Member for the Environment and Housing between 2006 and 2008, before enjoying a second term as Cabinet Member for Community and Leisure Services and latterly Deputy Leader with responsibility for Housing between 2012 and 2017.

Dave became Leader of the Council following the May 2017 local government elections.

Keep up to date with all the latest news in the Leader’s monthly blog. 

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I’d like to start by saying I hope readers had an enjoyable summer. Although as I write this, I’m told there are only 84 sleeps until Christmas – where has the year gone?!

At a meeting of Cabinet later today, my colleagues and I will look at a series of options to help tackle the much publicised air pollution problems at Hafodyrynys. Earlier this year, we carried out a feasibility study to improve the standard of air quality in that area in the shortest possible time. We’ve put together and submitted an initial plan to Welsh Government, which includes an appraisal of potential options to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels. There are six options that will receive further consideration at the next phase.

I’m sure residents will welcome the news that positive progress is being made to help tackle the air quality problems at Hafodyrynys. If our initial plan is approved by Welsh Government, the next phase of work will include traffic and air quality modelling, to determine whether the options are effective in reducing air pollution. We’ll keep residents fully informed as this work progresses further.

On another note, I was delighted to hear that five of our county borough’s Welsh medium primary schools are to benefit from over £6 million in Welsh Government funding, to further support growth in Welsh medium education across the area.

The funding will be used to increase Welsh medium capacity at the schools, provide enhanced childcare provision, enhanced classroom facilities and allow for the removal of demountable classrooms from many of the sites. As well as the physical improvements, the funding will allow us to create an additional 200 Welsh medium school places for our young people to benefit from, so we warmly welcome this funding announcement.

It’s important to stress that these improvements will take place across a five year programme, but now that the funding has been approved we can consider the scheduling for this programme of works in earnest.

Finally, the subject of food allergies and allergens is currently very topical, and we’re proud to have partnered with the Food Standards Agency to help promote their ‘easy to ASK allergy campaign’.

The campaign aims to encourage food businesses to ask customers outright whether they have any allergies or intolerances, to increase their understanding of the importance of complying with allergen regulations. It also focuses on our younger residents, encouraging them to feel comfortable in speaking out about any food allergies or intolerances that they have.

This excellent campaign, will, I hope, help provide people with allergies and intolerances with the knowledge they need to be able to eat out with confidence.


Leader's Blog
With the summer holidays in full swing, I hope families will enjoy the opportunity over the coming weeks to get out and enjoy all that the great outdoors have to offer.

Six of our sites - Morgan Jones Park, Ystrad Mynach Park, Brithdir Cemetery, Waunfawr Park, Parc Cwm Darran and Cwmcarn Forest have recently been awarded with the prestigious Green Flag status – the international mark of a quality park or green space. We’re very fortunate to have such high quality facilities on our doorstep.

On the subject of green spaces, I was so saddened to see the recent spate of grass fires at Twmbarlwm, Cwmcarn, Fochriw and Wattsville that our local fire crews had to tackle during the recent spell of hot weather.

The work of our colleagues at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service was recognised at a recent meeting of Council, with all councillors unanimously wishing for their thanks to be passed on. The diligence, professionalism and efforts of the fire crews to limit damage on our outstanding natural environment and habitats are, I know, shared and very much appreciated by our residents.

Onto other matters, I’m really pleased that the council’s Cabinet recently agreed to allocate £530,000 of savings to providing up to 23 apprenticeship opportunities across a range of council services. Apprenticeships are crucial in enabling people to obtain key skills and experience which can be used to secure long term employment and therefore help boost our economy. This scheme will also go some way to helping ensure that skills shortages are addressed to meet the future needs of the council.

I’m looking forward to seeing this programme come to fruition over the coming weeks and months.

Finally, residents may have spotted that the council headquarters Penallta House and Blackwood Miners’ Institute ‘turned yellow’ last week as a small token of our support and congratulations to recent Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas. It’s wonderful to see such sporting success for Wales, and I hope his successes will really help in further boosting both interest and participation in cycling as a sport across our area.

Readers in Caerphilly county borough will shortly get the chance to have their say and help shape the future of sport and active recreation across our area for the next 10 years.

The council’s Cabinet recently gave the green light to a major public consultation on our draft Sport and Active Recreation Strategy, which sets out the council’s long term vision for the next decade. The consultation will take place over a 10 week period starting on Monday (16th July).

I would really encourage as many people as possible to have their say and help us shape the way we deliver sport and active recreation in our area over the coming years. Full details of how residents can take part in the consultation will be widely publicised over the next few days.

I’m also very pleased that the green light has been given for over £650,000 over environmental improvements to take place in communities across Caerphilly county borough. The council has approved the projects as part of our Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) programme. The projects include funding to support a replacement skate park in Ty Sign in Risca, improvements at the Maes Mabon estate in Nelson and a number of environmental improvements in Phillipstown, New Tredegar.

Our WHQS programme will see around £220 million invested into bringing our tenants’ homes and the areas they live in up to specific Welsh Government set standards by 2020. It’s wonderful to see that as well as transforming our tenants’ homes, we’re also helping transform local communities through the environmental element of the programme.

These projects have been developed in partnership with the communities themselves, and we’ll continue to work with tenants between now and 2020 to develop and deliver plans for further environmental improvements in communities throughout the county borough.

Finally, following on from some very successful events in Bargoed, Blackwood and Risca, the finale of our summer events calendar, the annual Big Cheese Festival will return to Caerphilly later this month. Taking place between Friday 27th July and Sunday 29th July, the must-see event will be celebrating its 21st year in 2018, and promises fun for all the family. Over 80,000 people from all over the country are expected to attend this year’s event, which really helps to place Caerphilly county borough on the map as a key destination for tourism. 

I wish all readers an enjoyable summer and hope they’ll be able to spend some quality time with their family and friends. 

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Readers may be aware from the council’s recently published Corporate Plan, that my Cabinet colleagues and I have agreed a set of key commitments that we want to make to Caerphilly county borough residents. 

These are a series of standards that residents can expect from us, and are how we want to be held to account. These new commitments set out seven key pledges that will help us shape the way we deliver services in the future. This is a bold move, and we are aware that we must be fully accountable by living up to these commitments, but my Cabinet colleagues and I are fully on board and we are committed to leading this authority from the front.

I believe this approach is unique, in that no other Cabinet in Caerphilly county borough’s history has ever done anything similar to this, in terms of making such a public declaration of its priorities and accountability.

Our commitments are around protecting jobs and services within the current financial climate, building on the council’s reputation as a high performing, innovative local authority, ensuring we have a motivated workforce, striving to ensure we deliver value for money, protecting the vulnerable, welcoming feedback and considering the views of residents and being open, honest and transparent in everything we do.

I hope readers will welcome this bold move; it’s important that they know what they can expect from the council’s political leadership, and this set of commitments are how we want to be held to account over the coming years.

I was also pleased recently to gain the support of my council colleagues in calling for the UK Government to reconsider relocating the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) office from Caerphilly town centre. While I appreciate that the DWP, like local government, are seeking to make changes to their operations in response to ever increasing financial pressures placed on them from austerity measures imposed by central Government, relocating 225 jobs out of Caerphilly town could have real implications on the sustainability of the town centre.

I was therefore very pleased that colleagues unanimously supported my Notice of Motion at a meeting of Council recently, where it was agreed that we would write to the UK Government to request they reconsider their decision.

Finally, at that same meeting, Councillors also voted unanimously to support a Motion put forward by my colleague Cllr Eluned Stenner, to support the national campaign Lucy’s Law, in an effort to ban and outlaw third party puppy farming. It’s so important that we demonstrate our support for this important campaign and proactively highlight it to our residents. We are fully committed to looking after the welfare of animals and will simply not tolerate third party puppy farming.