Bridgend: Babies, Buses, Bro Ogwr & Bikes

(Pic: The Guardian)

Bridgend nurseries set for cuts?

As part of plans to save £36million over the next 3-4 years – the budget due to go before councillors within the next few weeks – Bridgend Council have drafted options to change nursery care provision in the county. BCBC aim to make £1.5million in savings.

At the moment, local authorities are legally-obliged to provide up to 10 hours of nursery care per week from a child’s third birthday until they start formal schooling aged 5.

The full proposals are available here (doc), but the four options are:

  • Option 1: Keep nursery services as they are currently. However, it would mean no savings would be made and they would have to be found elsewhere.
  • Options 2a/2b: Provide only the bare minimum (10 hours per week) for both 3 and 4 year olds, exclusively in school nurseries. If parents want extra cover they could need to pay a fee to schools. This would save £1.5million.
  • Option 3: Again, provide the bare minimum via school nurseries, but with supported provision for looked-after children, children receiving free school meals and those with special needs. With this extra provision, only £1million would be saved.
  • Option 4: Continue existing provision, but fund it from the primary and secondary schools budget, which could mean schools won’t have money to provide other services.

Judging by the language used, I suspect they’re “leaning on” Option 3, and that would be the one councillors are most likely to support (if cuts are unavoidable), and would match their stance on things like the free school bus transport– the decision there having been recently pushed back.

Obviously this could have a big impact on parents of young children generally and working single parents. The consultation closes on 24thFebruary (survey available here).

Sunday Bus Services for the chop?

In another round of financial squeezing, at tomorrow’s cabinet meeting, proposals will be put forward to cuts to supported bus services (doc).

They escaped cuts in last year’s budget, and are part-funded by both the SEWTA regional transport consortia and the Welsh Government. With cuts to both anticipated, BCBC want to save £50,000 in supported bus costs.

BCBC currently supports six Sunday services and these are the ones up for the chop. The report says withdrawing Sunday services is “more equitable and efficient” than applying cuts across all services, as many parts of the county aren’t served by buses on Sundays anyway.

The services that could have funding withdrawn are:

  • Nos. 1&2 – Bridgend to Cefn Glas
  • No. 14 – Bridgend to Blaengarw
  • No. 22 – Bridgend to Nantymoel
  • No. 36 – Bridgend to Cymmer
  • No. 62 – Bridgend to Pencoed
  • No. 63B – Bridgend to Porthcawl

BCBC say they have a provisional agreement with First Cymru to run four of these services on a commercial basis during daytime hours. The services that would be withdrawn completely are the Nos 1&2 (Cefn Glas) and No. 62 (Pencoed).

It’s estimated this would save BCBC just under £56,000 but it could affect 79,000 passengers.

That puts the scale of Carmarthenshire’s recent unlawful actions into perspective, as the sum of money troughed in pension payments and unlawful libel indemnity funding is similar. That’s before you add Pembrokeshire and Caerphilly to it.

These “little things” add up see, and can make people very angry.

Draft Bridgend Welsh-medium Education Plan

Some people might wonder if all that boring stuff I cover from the Assembly about Welsh laws etc. has any impact on the people of Bridgend. Here’s a more direct example.

As part of the School Standards and Organisation Act 2013, local authorities need a plan for Welsh-medium education, which were once non-binding but are now statutory. These plans will be subject to Welsh Government approval. BCBC launched their plan a few weeks ago (doc) and a formal consultation (available here), which closes on March 20th 2014.

Bridgend’s draft plan says BCBC wishes to support Welsh-medium education in order to promote linguistic and cultural diversity, create a sense of belonging and place and meet Welsh Government aspirations.

Currently, just under 10% of school pupils in Bridgend attend the four WM primaries and Ysgol Gyfun Llangynwyd. This is one of the lowest percentages in Wales, and no completely new WM primaries have opened for as long as I can remember (YGG Bro Ogwr was a direct replacement for the old Ysgol Penybont on Quarella Road).

There are some specific things from the draft report worth picking out:

  • There are currently 10 Mudiad Meithrin/Cylch Ti a Fi groups spread across the county. Some – like one in Pencoed – have had to expand due to demand. The numbers transferring to WM primaries in 2013 are scatty, ranging from 100% at Cynwyd Sant and Y Diwlith (both Maesteg) to 20% in Porthcawl and 0% in Bryncethin. Generally, the numbers are going up and BCBC aim for 100% transfer for those parents who request it by 2015 in all groups except Porthcawl.
  • It’s believed an expanded replacement for YGG Cwm Garw, along with temporary buildings at YGG Bro Ogwr and YGG Y Ferch O’r Sger, should meet demand for WM education in Bridgend for the foresseable future.
  • Transfer rates to Ysgol Gyfun Llangynwyd from the WM primaries is relatively high at 92%. BCBC are aiming for a 95% transfer rate, with a 100% staying-on rate for GCSEs at Llangynwyd (currently 95%).
  • Welsh first language benchmark performances at foundation phase (92%) and KS2 (93.4%) exceeded the Welsh average. The first cohort to sit Welsh first language GCSEs at Ysgol Llangynwyd achieved 68% A*-C pass rate compared to a target of 62%. This was lower than the Welsh average (72%).
  • The numbers achieving the expected standard at KS2 Welsh second language has increased by 28.2% between 2011-2013 to 60.6%. At KS3 it exceeds the national average (74.2% vs 73.3%).
  • The GCSE second language full course A*-C pass rate only lags behind the national average by 1.7% and the performance gap has closed significantly. 31% of GCSE students sat the full course.
  • The GCSE second language short course A*-C pass rate is above the Welsh average (58.3% v 50%). 51% of GCSE pupils sat the short course.

Getting Bridgend Active (Travelling)

If you want more examples of “boring stuff” I’ve covered in relation to the Assembly having a direct impact on Bridgend, here another one.

As a result of the Active Travel Act 2013, all local authorities in Wales now need to assess and plan their active travel routes (English: cycling, walking, wheelchairs etc.). They’ll need to draw up a map of current routes and proposed improvements, not only including things like new cycle lanes and upgraded pedestrian crossings, but things like cycle parking facilities.

This is in an attempt to get people across Wales to cycle and walk more in order to reduce traffic and improve overall health.

BCBC recently launched their survey in order to meet the requirements of the Act. There’s still time to respond, as the survey doesn’t close until February 10th.

The survey itself (available here) is incredibly comprehensive – my compliments to Ark Lab. You can recommend or rate new or current cycle/pedestrian routes down to street level!

So if you’re a regular walker or cyclist – whether you walk the dog or you/your kids cycle to school – and for whatever reason believe current facilities or routes in Bridgend and Pencoed aren’t up to scratch, then I recommend taking the time to fill out the survey. It takes around 10-15 minutes.

I’m sure Lee Waters and his former colleagues at Sustrans Cymru would be pleased with how Bridgend Council are going about this. The broader issue, of course, is whether there’ll be enough money to provide new facilities.

The map they use for the Bridgend area looks a little familiar too….

Owen