Earlier this week, Welsh Government announced an additional £85M worth of capital investment across Wales into infrastructure, public transport and schools to name a few. Rhondda Cynon Taf’s share of this funding will support us to continue delivering locally in areas, which when speaking with residents in Rhondda Cynon Taf, are the matters most important to everyone – which are visible and make a difference day in, day out.
The Council last month approved additional funding, worth £5.8M, to support the plans of the Cabinet to support the delivery of key projects across the County. I have previously referenced the strategic importance of dualling the A4119 for the Rhondda Valleys and Tonyrefail – to resolve the congestion which is caused between Tonyrefail and Ynysmaerdy most mornings and evenings. In turn, this causes tailbacks as far back as Williamstown, impacting on commuting and general traffic flows for businesses and residents. The funding made available (£1M) will support this scheme to move to the next phase of development following preliminary ground works in recent months. For the same reasons, delivering the Mountain Ash Cross Valley Link has been a priority, with the progress to date meaning this important highway project is now near completion and brings total investment to over £15M so far.
It is also important to mention the Council’s commitment to Active Travel, having had its integrated network map of the projects to be delivered in the next 15 years approved by Welsh Government. All of our major highway schemes, such as the A4119 dualling and the Mountain Ash Cross Valley Link, will have dedicated off-road cycle routes delivered as part of each project.
The wider £5.8m funding package will also support further investigatory works to deliver a solution to alleviate traffic congestion in and around Stag Square in Treorchy, and strategically across the County over half a million pounds has been identified to tackle congestion at peak travel periods and improve road safety.
The funding approved includes £1m for Extra Care, as part of the Council’s ongoing commitment to modernise accommodation options and meet the future aspirations and requirements of older generations. The Extra Care programme includes the delivery of state-of-the-art facilities in Aberaman, Pontypridd, Porth, Mountain Ash and Treorchy – with the construction of two of these projects now underway on site.
A further £1M will be invested to future-proof our highways structures – which are often investment and improvements which go unnoticed, but they are vitally important to maintain carriageway, bridges, retaining walls and culverts. The Council is responsible for maintaining and repairing around 1,500 of these structures across Rhondda Cynon Taf.
A £1m funding allocation for the future Eco Park scheme at the Bryn Pica Waste Management Facility in Llwydcoed will also be supported by this funding. This is an exciting project which is the first of its kind in Wales – to help the Council turn more of our own waste into a resource. The Eco Park will collect and re-use waste materials produced on site, including heat and electrical energy, supporting the significant announcement I made last week for the Council to strive toward becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
This is a 20-year reduction on the target recently put forward as part of the Council’s future Corporate Plan. This is a global issue, but one we all have a role to play in if we are going to make a difference. We have set an ambitious target, but we need to be ambitious in relation to climate change, and for me bringing the carbon neutral target date closer makes the need for change more relevant – not just for the Council as an organisation, but also for residents and communities who have a key role to play. For me, this was one of the key reasons why I have sought community representation for the new steering group I have established to deliver this change. I am also keen to ensure we provide a voice for young people on this matter, which is the most important for future generations.
The value of local government, for me, is the ability it provides to deliver a difference at a local level, in the areas that matter to residents and for the services most people rely upon day in day out – from schools to social services, leisure facilities and parks.
Funding, of course, plays a crucial role in our ability to make a difference, and on that note, the Council will shortly begin consulting upon its 2020/21 budget strategy – a process which always begins as Christmas and winter approaches.