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RCT Libraries Update

Important Customer Notice in response to COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. The following restrictions return to all RCT Libraries:

Social distancing of 2m between all library users
One-way systems whilst in library building.
Quarantining of returned library materials (Items to be placed in green recycling bins at entrance of library for 72 hours).

We remind library users that you must wear a face covering when in the library unless medically exempt and that you must sanitise your hands on entry.

Limited numbers will be allowed in the premises at any one time and please be aware you may be asked to wait to enter the building by a member of library staff.

Please note that the ‘Order & Collect’ system is still operational.

Any changes to these new rules will be advertised in our libraries and on the Council’s social media accounts and website www.rctcbc.gov.uk/libraries

Pupils Say Farewell To Their 'Lollipop Lady'

School Crossing Patrol Officer Carol Evans has hung up her high-viz jacket and her patrol sign for the final time and has retired after an amazing 35-year career at Pontrhondda Primary School.

Mrs Evans, 65, of Llwynypia, Rhondda, has helped generations of children safely across the road to and from school each day, in all kinds of weather, all year around. Married to Anthony for 47 years, she now plans to enjoy her retirement with her family, which includes her two children and three grandchildren.

Having worked as both a school lunchtime assistant as well as school crossing patrol, known to many as the ‘Lollipop Lady,’ Mrs Evans says she will miss all the staff, the children and their parents – many of whom she helped cross the road when they were once children themselves!

Councillor Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Cabinet Member for Education and Inclusion Services, said:

“I would like to thank Carol for her amazing long service at Pontrhondda Primary School. I know everyone involved with the school is going to miss her greatly.

“On today’s busy roads, it takes special qualities to step out and stop traffic calmly, at the same time keeping the attention of the children until they have crossed the road safely, whatever the weather. We wish Carol Evans a very happy, healthy and well-deserved retirement.”

Carol Evans said:

“I have such wonderful memories of my time at Pontrhondda Primary School. It is going to leave a huge hole in my life, but I have enjoyed all of my time working there,” said Mrs Evans.

“I have absolutely loved it. Being the school crossing patrol officer meant the world to me, teaching young children how to cross the road carefully and safely and showing respect to motorists. These are skills they will hopefully carry with them for the rest of their lives”

On her last day at work, Mrs Evans received lots of gifts, cards and flowers from well-wishers, including many from grateful parents, who themselves were once escorted across the road safely by her during their time at Pontrhondda Primary.

Alyson James, Head at Pontrhondda Primary School, said:

“For three decades Carol has played a vital role in ensuring the children and parents at Pontrhondda Primary get to and from school safely, rain or shine.

“She has been a popular figure in the local community, greeting everyone with a guaranteed smile and a wave each day. Carol has loved her job and will be missed by us all. We wish her well and a happy, safe and long retirement.”

Carol Evans is one of around 50 School Crossing Patrol Officers employed by the Council, helping children and other pedestrians cross the road safely while they are walking to and from school at a designated point and between specified times during term time.

The Council’s School Crossing Patrol Service (SCP) provides a vital role in ensuring the safety of adults and children whilst travelling on their journeys to and from school. The SCP is a dedicated member of the Council’s Road Safety Team and all within the team also wish Mrs Evans a healthy and happy retirement.


New arrangements for Llanharan Railway Footbridge removal

The Council has worked closely with Network Rail to rearrange the removal of the Llanharan Railway Footbridge – and advanced notice is now being given for the work, taking place across two night shifts later this month.

The footbridge adjacent to A473 Bridgend Road is in very poor condition, and as part of the replacement process the existing structure was scheduled to be removed on Boxing Day – taking advantage of Network Rail’s line closure over the festive period. However, a mechanical failure of a contractor’s crane on the day of the work prevented the removal from going ahead as planned.

The work has now been rearranged to take place over two nights, to minimise disruption to rail services and the community. Site activity will take place on:

Thursday, January 20 (evening) – the crane will be constructed in its previous position, with no road closure required for this activity.

Saturday, January 22 (evening) to Sunday, January 23 (7am) – the footbridge will be removed. This requires the closure of the A473 at this location (midnight to 7am), mirroring the planned closure on Boxing Day but for a shorter duration of time (details below).

An alternative route for motorists is via A473 Bridgend Road, A473 New Road, Pen-y-Bont Roundabout, Brynna Road and Hillside Avenue – or this route taken in reverse order

Pedestrians should use the adjacent footbridge during the closure period – with the alternative route via Llanharan Railway Station Access Road, Llanharan Station Footbridge and Chapel Road, in both directions.

Local residents will shortly receive a letter outlining the new arrangements.

We would like to thank residents and commuters for their cooperation during the upcoming work, which is part of the Council’s commitment to replacing the damaged structure at the earliest opportunity. Once the demolition work is completed, focus can then turn to the construction of the new footbridge which is due to commence on site early February 2022. Further details about this will be communicated by the Council in due course.


RCT Virtual Careers Fair 2022

In partnership with Vfairs, the Council will be hosting its third FREE Virtual Careers Fair on Wednesday, February 9, 2022 (10am to 5pm) following its success in its two previous Virtual Careers Fairs in 2021.

The event will coincide with National Apprenticeship Week and attending organisations will have a range of apprenticeship and graduate posts available alongside live employment vacancies.

Anyone wishing to take part in the online RCT Virtual Careers Fair on Wednesday, February 9, 2022, will need to register their details prior to the event at www.rctcareers.vfairs.com

Over the last few years, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Virtual Careers Fairs have grown in popularity. During the previous Virtual Careers Fair, held in September 2021, over 2000 people registered to attend the event which hosted over 1000 job vacancies.

Once again this year, the Council is inviting the public to join and take part online and view the exciting new apprenticeship, graduate and employment opportunities on offer across Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and further afield. Online visitors will be able to engage with employers and find out more information from the comfort of their own home.

For the first time, the Careers Fair can also be accessed for free via the new Vfairs mobile event app, available for Apple and Android users. The app will act as an extension to the existing immersive virtual platform and seamless navigation. Attendees will have access to exhibitor booths within the app, plus the option to contact booth reps, browse documents, and more.

The Virtual Careers Fair will also feature a number of pre-recorded webinars which will provide insight and information on some of the organisations and the opportunities available, along with Webinars that support application form writing and interview techniques.

RCT Council's Virtual Careers Fair will offer attendees the opportunity to:

Explore employer information and opportunities to find your best career fit.
Learn and interact with organisations about their available roles.
Gain a competitive advantage by learning more about the participating organisations from recruiters.
View and apply for jobs from companies.
Engage with recruiters through one-on-one text and audio/video-based conversations during the recruiter session.

There are a huge range of local and national employers already signed up for the event, such as EE, Welsh Pantry, South Wales Fire & Rescue Service, South Wales Police, Office for National Statistics, Willmott Dixon, many more, all of which are actively recruiting.

Councillor Maureen Webber, Deputy Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, said: “I am delighted that the Council will once again be hosting its Virtual Careers Fair, providing opportunities for job-seekers to speak to so many company representatives about their latest vacancies.

“During these uncertain times, an online event is the safest option, and I am pleased the Council is able to deliver its Careers Fair via an online platform following its success in 2021.

“RCT Council remains committed to attracting high-quality jobs to the local area and helping our residents into sustainable, reliable and well-paid employment, and our Virtual Careers Fair is one way in which we are all working to accomplish this.

“Residents will once again have the chance to interact with businesses, discover vocations they may not have considered, and potentially get themselves an interview.

“I would encourage anyone who is actively seeking employment in 2022, considering a career change or returning to work to register to take part in our latest Virtual Careers Fair.”

The event will be live for one day only on Wednesday February 9 (10am-5pm). However, the event will be available to view on demand for 30 days following the event until March 10, 2022.
To take part in the RCT Virtual Careers Fair 2022, please register online in advance at: www.rctcareersfair.vfair.com


Construction work to start to deliver the Porth Transport Hub

Work will shortly begin to construct the Porth Transport Hub and deliver a modern integrated bus and rail interchange for the town.

Located at the existing railway station, the development consists of a modern and attractive transport hub at the heart of the Town Centre, which will provide seamless travel across bus and rail. The project also includes EV charging points, a taxi rank, cycle stores and local Active Travel network upgrades.

The Council has recently secured £3.5m from the UK Government towards the hub’s delivery, announced in the Levelling Up Fund during October 2021.

The appointed contractor to deliver the scheme is Encon Construction Ltd, and the construction phase will begin from Monday, January 17 – starting with initial site setup. The contractor has advised that all site activity will be undertaken from 8am to 6pm on weekdays, and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays. The construction phase is scheduled to be completed during spring 2023.

Site traffic will gain access along Porth Street and Station Street, and there will be a significant presence of construction workers and machinery at the site – which will accept regular delivery of materials. This will result in an increase in construction traffic travelling through Porth Town Centre.

Operations at the existing railway platform will continue as normal, but the footbridge across to the southbound platform will be closed for the duration of the development. Train station users should follow signposted directions. The contractor will be writing to local residents and businesses shortly to introduce themselves, explain the project and provide contact details for the site.

Councillor Robert Bevan, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Enterprise, Development and Housing, said: “These are very exciting times for the delivery of the modern Porth Transport Hub – with the start of the construction phase now confirmed, following on very quickly from the Council securing £3.5m funding for the project and the appointment of a contractor.

“The transport hub is the central project for the wider Porth Regeneration Strategy. It will use the town’s position as a gateway to the Rhondda Fach and Rhondda Fawr, while also taking advantage of the increased frequency of train services which will be delivered by the South Wales Metro from 2024. By bringing together rail and bus services, an improved public transport provision will help residents access local services, employment and housing functions.

“The wider Regeneration Strategy has brought together a number of important local projects – from converting the Porth Plaza into a Community Hub, extending the Park and Ride provision, delivering public realm upgrades, helping landlords and businesses carry out shop-front enhancements through the Town Centre Maintenance Grant, and providing free public-access Wi-Fi.

“I’m pleased that construction of the Porth Transport Hub will start next week, with site setup beginning on Monday. The Council will work closely with its contractor to minimise disruption to the community – including the likelihood for increased construction traffic through the town centre – while we deliver significant public transport improvements to benefit the town into the future.”

Cabinet Members approved the proposals for the Porth Transport Hub in 2019 following an extensive consultation process, and full planning permission was received in March 2021. Three buildings (Alec Jones Day Centre, Barclays Bank and Porth Farm Surgery) have been demolished to prepare the site.


Pupils delighted as legendary 19th Century crocodile put on display

A 120-year-old crocodile has been put on display at a Rhondda primary school for everyone to enjoy – having been meticulously conserved after it was remarkably discovered underneath the floorboards of a classroom.

Pupils at Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Bodringallt in Pentre arrived at school on Wednesday to see the giant saltwater crocodile, which was discovered by workmen in June 2019 when delivering a series of school improvements. The Council has worked with Pure Conservation, a Welsh company with expertise in conservation for heritage collections, to help safely restore the crocodile.

There was no information accompanying the workmen’s finding, but a story about a crocodile being associated with the school has been told across many generations. The tale describes a local person who served in the First World War bringing back the body of a crocodile as a souvenir for the school. It is thought that the crocodile was then put on display, and was hidden beneath the floorboards to protect it during later times of conflict. An inspection of the crocodile’s bones by Pure Conservation dates it back to before the 1900s.

Pure Conservation carried out its work from September 2019 to December 2021, thanks to the dedicated work of conservator Doctor Victoria Purewal and artist Annette Marie Townsend, who specialises in Natural History.

The crocodile had suffered significant damage having been left unprotected for potentially 100 years. Its entire underside was missing, along with its feet and the base of its tail, while its teeth had fallen out and its general condition was very poor. The entire body was initially frozen to remove pests and was tested for dangerous materials, before the crocodile was then wet cleaned.

The process has involved meticulously dry cleaning the crocodile’s entire body, with separate pieces vacuumed to remove frass, dirt, cobwebs and soil.

The bones were cleaned in a slow process taking several attempts, and the loose teeth were reconciled with the sockets. This was particularly difficult as the teeth were broken and some were lost, while there were also examples of original new and old teeth – as crocodiles constantly replace their teeth.

The body was soft brushed and vacuumed to remove a thick layer of soil and cobwebs, and a wet clean removed ingrained dirt. Damaged scales were loose, brittle and very difficult to reattach. Categorised by size and colour, they were arranged to replace missing sections of the body. It was agreed that a supporting mould was needed to define the crocodile’s overall body shape.

The crocodile and its supporting mould were completed just before Christmas, and were put on display at the school on Tuesday, January 11, in the evening. It is being displayed with a box holding several sections of loose materials and three bones, which were not able to be used within the crocodile’s main body.

Councillor Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Inclusion Services, said: “The story of the crocodile at Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Bodringallt is absolutely incredible – it was the last thing workmen thought they’d find underneath a classroom! I’m delighted its conservation is now complete, and that the legendary crocodile which was rumoured to have been associated with the school is now proudly on display.

“I’d like to thank Pure Conservation for their dedicated work in restoring the crocodile, and for making it safe for the school to keep. Their thorough analysis dates the crocodile back to the 19th Century – and its condition when discovered in 2019 is consistent with it being potentially untouched for up to a century! I’d like to thank Doctor Victoria Purewal and Annette Marie Townsend for their dedication and close working with the Council.

“It was fantastic to see the excited look on pupils’ faces when they saw the crocodile on display. I’m sure it will become a cherished part of the school going forward – representing a one-of-a-kind, real piece of local history which can be enjoyed by pupils and staff members for generations to come.”


Have your say on Phase Four of the Tylorstown Landslip project

The next phase of the Tylorstown Landslip project proposes to remediate the remaining tip on the hillside – and residents can now access more details and have their say on this upcoming work in a public consultation.

The landslip occurred on the Llanwonno hillside during the unprecedented weather of Storm Dennis in February 2020. Around 60,000 cubic metres of spoil material slipped – blocking the river valley, damaging a foul sewer, covering a strategic water main and covering a shared footpath/cycle path.

Significant progress has since been made towards a four-phase Remediation Plan, including initial emergency drainage and clearance work (Phase One), embankment scour repairs (Phase Two, by June 2021), moving material to the receptor sites and reinstatement of paths (Phase Three, by June 2021).

Additional work to stabilise the slope, which focused on the north-east valley mountain side above the remaining closed path, followed Phase Three. It started on site in summer 2021 and was completed by the end of the year.

Phase Four consultation – making the hillside safe

Phase Four proposes to move the majority of tip material to a flat area of land on the top of the mountain where the material will be spread out and landscaped. Remaining material on the hillside will then be regraded, with a drainage system put in place to manage water flows. The work will safely restore the hillside and re-establish vegetation on the receptor site, which will be carefully managed in the future.

An engagement exercise is now open for residents to have their say on the proposals, and it will run until Wednesday, February 2. Residents can now view the latest plans and supporting material for Phase Four and access a survey, with all feedback helping to shape the Council's planning submission.

Virtual consultation meetings hosted by project officers are also proposed to take place on Monday, January 17. Details on the timings for these events, and how to register your interest, is included on the consultation homepage.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways and Transportation, said: “It has now been almost two years since Storm Dennis brought severe and unprecedented weather to Rhondda Cynon Taf, causing the major landslip in Tylorstown. Rectifying the damage, as well as working towards making the area safe for the future, remains a priority for the Council.

“Over the past two years significant progress has been made at the site – from initial drainage and clearance work in the weeks following the landslip to removing all slipped material from the valley floor, realigning the river at this location, and reinstating two of the paths that run through the area. The most recent activity, which was completed before Christmas, saw an additional phase of work to stabilise the slope above the one remaining closed footpath.

“Residents can now have their say on the next phase of work, concerning the removal of the remaining spoil material from the hillside. The Council is now hosting a Pre Application Consultation to inform its planning application, which will be formally submitted for consideration. Residents are welcome to view the plans in detail, have their say via a survey, or register interest for public events which are proposed to be held virtually due to the latest position in the pandemic.

“I’d urge interested residents to find out more about Phase Four, and have their say before the consultation deadline on Wednesday
February 2.”

Preparing for Rhondda Cynon Taf to host the National Eisteddfod

Cabinet has received an update on the work currently being undertaken in preparation for Rhondda Cynon Taf to host the National Eisteddfod in 2024, with focus being placed on community engagement.

A report to the Cabinet meeting on Monday, December 13, has outlined the approach being adopted and the activities being planned within local communities to ensure the Eisteddfod is successful – not only before and during the festival, but also to ensure a significant positive legacy.

The Council appointed a project officer in 2019, to work closely with National Eisteddfod Officers in promoting the festival and engaging with communities. National Eisteddfod Officers have been successful in applying for funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a project that will pilot a community engagement strategy in RCT. The strategy will focus upon the themes of culture, language and heritage to bring people together via the Eisteddfod – while showcasing the unique history of Rhondda Cynon Taf. The project, which includes the appointment of a Community Development Officer, will develop a series of community events and activities to engage local people.

Phase 1 of the project will target young people aged 16-25, making the Welsh language and the Eisteddfod relevant outside of the classroom, while older people will also be engaged. Five events celebrating our heritage, language and culture will be held during the first half of 2022.

Phase 2 will see the delivery of five more events later in the year, feeding into the Eisteddfod’s new national Community Strategy.

Further activity to date has included the establishment of a community forum, with its inaugural meeting held on November 3, 2021.

Presentations by the National Eisteddfod’s Chief Executive Officer and staff to the Council’s Welsh Language Steering Group and the Strategic Arts and Culture Committee have also been well-received. There was a clear commitment by those involved to work with a wide range of officers, Elected Members, and organisations to ensure engagement with different communities and groups.

Partnership working between the Council’s Eisteddfod Officer and National Eisteddfod Officers to date has included researching and sharing information on community groups, and working with the Youth Engagement and Participation Service (YEPS) on how best to engage young people.

The Officers have also organised meetings with Council services over a wide range of considerations (including an Infrastructure Group, which has its first meeting in December 2021), linking with community members who are keen to promote the Eisteddfod, and contacting Officers in other Local Authorities (such as Monmouthshire) to learn from their experience of hosting the festival.

Councillor Rhys Lewis, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, Well-being and Cultural Services, said: “Cabinet received an important progress update on Monday in relation to the current work going on behind the scenes, as we make the best preparations for hosting the 2024 National Eisteddfod here in Rhondda Cynon Taf – as we aim to reach as many people as possible before, during and after the festival.

“One of the key elements of our approach is community engagement, and while progress has been disrupted in engaging directly with communities due to social distancing restrictions, key preparatory work and discussions have continued. If restrictions continue to allow, five community events celebrating Rhondda Cynon Taf’s heritage will be held by April 2022, forming the first phase of the National Eisteddfod’s National Lottery Heritage Fund project.

“The Cabinet report also discussed the aim to create a lasting legacy in Rhondda Cynon Taf, focusing on several key themes. It aims to create a community legacy by encouraging more Welsh and bilingual events locally, a cultural legacy by promoting the Rhondda Cynon Taf’s story on a national platform, and a linguistic legacy with more people choosing to learn Welsh. There is also an inclusivity legacy to strive for, with people of all backgrounds – and whether they speak Welsh or not – feeling more confident about the Welsh language and culture, which belongs to everyone.

“I’m immensely proud that we are hosting the National Eisteddfod in 2024, bringing the celebration of culture and the Welsh language to the County Borough for everyone to enjoy. Cabinet will receive several progress updates in the coming months over a range of subjects in relation to hosting the Eisteddfod, and I’m looking forward to seeing further progress made.”

National Eisteddfod Chief Executive, Betsan Moses, added, “We’re delighted to be working in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area, and are very much enjoying getting to know local people and finding out the type of events they want to see happening in the community in the run-up to the National Eisteddfod.

“The pandemic has forced us to postpone the festival twice, but the great news is that we’re back, and looking forward to working with everyone to create a memorable and amazing Eisteddfod in Rhondda Cynon Taf in 2024.”


Rhondda care homes on “war footing” because of Covid crisis

Care homes in Rhondda Cynon Taf are on a “war footing” because of desperate staff shortages caused by the skyrocketing Covid infection rate.

According to Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, the sector is facing its worst ever crisis with reports that 75 per cent of staff were off work in some homes, either because they had contracted Coronavirus or they were self-isolating.

The situation is so bad that as a last resort homes were introducing “firebreaks” to temporarily restrict visiting as the highly infectious Omicron variant tore across Wales.

Domiciliary care companies were also struggling badly and were often unable to provide the usual level of care.

Mr Kreft warned that the situation was only going to get worse before things got better.

So much so, that some care homes were likely to be forced to declare an NHS-style “critical incident” because they were unable to cope.

But he feared reinforcements might not be available because statutory organisations like local health boards and councils were also short of staff.

Mr Kreft said: “The scale of the challenge is one we have never faced before. It’s really, really tough out there.

“The First Minister reminded us in 2020 that the social care sector was in a fragile state before the pandemic because of its precarious finances and the shortage of staff.

“After two year of this, the pressures have been building up and now we’re facing a completely different challenge because the Omicron strain of Covid is so prevalent and so transmissible.

“As a result, we’re seeing problems we’ve not encountered before.

“Care Forum Wales members have been reporting being down by up to 75 per cent in terms of staffing shifts. We’re on a war footing.

“The social care workforce has been heroic right through this pandemic. It’s taken a pandemic for people to realise how essential these workers are – just in the same way as the NHS and other services.

“They are rising to the challenge but it’s incredibly difficult and it’s probably going to get much worse before it gets better.

“It’s quite possible that some care homes will have to call on the statutory services. There are plans in place and we have been working with Welsh Government and our colleagues in health boards and local government.

“We may have to declare what the NHS would call a critical incident and in that case the only place you can go is the statutory agencies.

“The trouble is that we all know they are suffering like everybody else at the moment so whether there would be people available to alleviate the crisis, I don’t know.

“What we are talking about is making sure that people are as comfortable and as safe as they can be.

“This also applies to our domiciliary care workers who are facing similar challenges, so the visits to people’s homes may not be as long or as often as they might have been until we get through this.

“Nobody understands the importance of care home visiting better than those that run and work in care homes. It’s essential to people’s wellbeing and we’ve had decades of open house visiting without any appointments.

“The last two years have been incredibly challenging and I think people need to understand that safe visiting currently also requires a staffing input which makes it even more difficult if you are short of staff and don’t have the capacity to ensure safe visiting.

“I don’t think there have been any situations where people haven’t been allowed to visit for people in very extreme circumstances.

“I think what we’ll see is firebreaks or temporary pauses in terms of visiting individual care homes.

“The responsibility is clearly with the registered manager and the organisation running each setting.

“All the registered providers have legal responsibilities towards their residents and they also have responsibility for the health and safety of their own staff.

“I think what we’ll see – and we’re starting to see it already - is that visiting will be restricted for a period of days or a week or so because quite simply there will not be the staff to ensure safe visiting.

“The other added complication is that care homes are now unable to secure insurance against Covid-related claims so they really cannot afford to take any risks.

“But as soon as we and ensure safe visiting again, we will revert to that. That’s what people have been doing over Christmas and New Year. All I would ask from people is understanding because it is such a difficult time.”

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