Long-serving councillor becomes Lord Mayor

Long-serving councillor becomes Lord Mayor

TWO of Swansea’s longest-serving councillors have become Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor at a special ceremony staged at Swansea’s Guildhall today (May 17)

Cllr Paxton Hood-Williams succeeds Councillor Graham Thomas, to become Lord Mayor for 2024/25 and his deputy will be Cllr Wendy Fitzgerald.

Cllr Hood-Williams, who has been the ward member for Fairwood since 2004, has taken up his post following an inauguration ceremony at the Council Chamber, The Guildhall.

As Lord Mayor Cllr Hood-Williams will have an important civic and ceremonial role as the city’s official ambassador. He will also be involved in raising money for local good causes.

Lord Mayor Cllr Paxton Hood-Williams represents Fairwood ward, which consists of Three Crosses, Upper Killay and surrounding areas.

Cllr Hood-Williams said: “It is a huge honour and privilege to be serving the communities of Swansea as their Lord Mayor in the coming year.”

“I am really looking forward to getting out and about among the people of this fantastic city, as well as representing Swansea to visitors and as an ambassador at a very exciting time for our communities.”

As part of their year in office Lord Mayors often choose charities to support through fundraising events. This year Cllr Hood-Williams has chosen two local charities -Friends of Stepping Stones and the Killay Forget Me Not club.

Cllr Hood-Williams was born and brought up in Upper Killay and moved to Three Crosses on getting married. He has been a Three Crosses (since the mid-1980s) and Upper Killay (since the early 2000’s) Community Councillor and is passionate about serving the community.

He worked at the Margam steelworks site, before retiring as a senior manager in engineering services in 2004. Since then he’s maintained his extensive involvement in serving his community as Chair of Three Crosses Community Council, a member of Upper Killay Community Council and governor at Crwys and Cila Primary Schools. He said: “I’m inordinately proud of the achievements of the staff, teachers and pupils of both schools.”

He added “We are so fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful areas of Wales which is just one of the reasons why I’m involved in a number of local organisations looking out for the interests of the Gower AONB.”

Cllr. Hood-Williams and his wife, Patricia, have a daughter, Laura, and two granddaughters, Felicite, currently studying biology and marine biology and Gwenllian, studying aerospace engineering. Their family home is in Berkshire, where Laura’s husband, Stephen, who is a world champion glider pilot, has his aeronautical business.

Cllr Hood-Williams has been a Swansea City fan since the 1950s, and is an armchair spectator of most sports. Additionally, he and wife enjoy getting out into the local environment and that of south and west Wales

Beaches in Swansea getting ready for Summer with Blue Flag awards

Beaches in Swansea getting ready for Summer with Blue Flag awards

Visitors to some of Swansea’s best loved beaches will know they are at some of the best in the country following the announcement of the latest Blue Flag awards.

Ahead of the summer, Keep Wales Tidy has confirmed all the Blue Flag beaches and marinas in Wales for 2024.

A total of 25 blue flags have been awarded across Wales and three of those have been given to three Swansea Council-managed beaches, including Caswell Bay, Langland Bay and Port Eynon. A fourth blue flag has once again been awarded to the city’s main marina as well.

The Blue Flag Award is a world-renowned eco-label trusted by millions around the globe because it means bathing water is of the highest possible quality.

Along with the Blue Flag awards, Bracelet Bay has also received one of 14 Green Coast Awards issued across Wales, in recognition of its untouched and rugged beauty.

The award replaces the Blue Flag award but visitors can be assured that the beach and the water quality at Bracelet Bay are still of Blue Flag quality.

Green Coast recognises ‘hidden gems’ with excellent water quality and unspoiled environment, but without the infrastructure and intensive management generally associated with traditional seaside resorts.

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “Our award-winning beaches are a real asset for the city and a huge draw for visitors and locals alike.

“Gaining and retaining blue flag status takes a lot of time and investment so locals and visitors can enjoy clean, safe and beautiful beaches all year-round. So we are delighted to once again fly the Blue Flags at some of our most iconic Gower beaches.”

Supporting Blue Flag recognition is all part of the council’s continuing commitment to the £500m-a-year tourism industry in Swansea that attracts millions of visitors every year.

Owen Derbyshire, Keep Wales Tidy Chief Executive, said: “We’re delighted to see another successful year of Coast Awards here in Wales, with 49 stunning locations recognised among the world’s best.

“Achieving these prestigious awards means meeting rigorous standards put in place to ensure the safe enjoyment of visitors now and in years to come. This success is testament to the hard work of all involved in maintaining and enhancing the natural beauty of our Welsh coastline.”

In recent weeks, the council has also rolled out a team of new seasonal cleansing operatives as well as the installation of barbecue bins at many popular beaches, encouraging visitors to help the Council keep tourist areas clean and litter free.

Extra money on the way for road improvements in Swansea

Extra money on the way for road improvements in Swansea

Roads in Swansea affected by cold and wet weather during the recent winter months are set to be improved.

Swansea Council has approved an additional investment of £600,000 to tackle repairs on even more roads across the city.

The extra funding will be split equally between the council’s current Small Resurfacing Scheme (SRS) and its main carriageway resurfacing programme.

In March this year, the Council’s approved annual budget included investment totalling £6.5 million for highways maintenance.

The additional investment will now mean more than £7 million will be spent repairing some of the 1,100km roads in the city, and will help to maintain the Council’s efforts to tackle the backlog of repairs to roads.

Andrew Stevens, Cabinet Member for Environment and Infrastructure, said: “In March, we approved a significant amount of our annual budget towards highway repairs for 2024/25.

“Roads earmarked for repairs during the next twelve months have been prioritised as part of our rolling five-year highway asset programme.

“The extra money we have now approved will take the investment for this year to more than £7 million and will ensure we can also deal with roads that have suffered the impact of a recent cold and wet winter period.”

During the previous year, more than nine kilometres of road were fully resurfaced, including Pentrepoeth Road, Morriston, and Gorwydd Road, Gowerton.

More than 6,500 potholes were also filled in 2023 with almost all of them repaired within the 48hr repair pledge made by the Council.

Some of the overall budget for 2024/25 has already been put to good use with a number of key routes in the city benefitting from full resurfacing work. Roads include Cockett Road, Llwynmawr Road – Tycoch and a section of the A483 Penllergaer.

Cllr Stevens, added: “Our highways maintenance teams are continuing to tackle the worst sections of road in the city, working through the night in most cases to reduce disruption to motorists.

“The reality of maintaining roads, not just in Swansea, but around the country, is there is never enough money to tackle everything that needs attention. That’s why we prioritise our maintenance work to tackle roads assessed as being in the worst condition.

“Motorists and residents in Swansea can also do their bit by reporting road defects to us so we can consider appropriate repairs. Our pledge to fill potholes within 48hrs is regularly above 95% and teams have done excellent work, responding to the requests by residents.”

Carers share their special moments for Foster Fortnight

Carers share their special moments for Foster Fortnight

Foster carers in Swansea have been talking about how fostering can make a hugely positive impact on the lives of young people as well as the foster families who care for them.

This week is Foster Fortnight which aims to raise the profile of fostering and show how foster care transforms lives.

The theme this year is #FosteringMoments and carers with Foster Wales Swansea, the council’s fostering service, have been sharing moments, big and small, that have left a lasting impression with them.

Holly Bowtell and her family have been fostering for just over a year and she says it’s the best decision they made.

Holly said: “My favourite fostering moment is probably taking the boy that we have with us on holiday. We went to France, and it was the first time he has ever been out of the country and just seeing his little face, his massive smile, and how excited he got when he saw the swimming pool for the first time, it was just so amazing, and it made the holiday just really special for all of us.”

Claire Hyett-Evans and her family have been fostering for six years. One of her favourite fostering moments happened recently: “The little boy that we care for has always had difficulties with his emotions – feeling his emotions, naming his emotions and being able to describe how he feels.

“We had a little one leave us recently, which naturally I got upset about. He was there and saw me cry. He came over to me and said ‘Claire, do you need a hug’.

When Mike, my husband, walked him to school, he told Mike that he was really worried about me because I was crying.

“Although Mike told him that I was going to be fine that day in school he asked his teacher if he could pick a prize from the prize box.

“He picked me a gummy bear ring and when he got home, he was so excited to give it to me.

“We had a cuddle on the sofa that evening. I told him how proud I was of him and thanked him for being so kind to me. I was just so proud at that moment to think that he’d done a 360 and had given us the love that we show him.”

Every foster carer will talk about the various rewards of fostering, often these are small moments or small wins where a child has done something for the first time.

But all too often, people who are interested in fostering don’t because they say that they could never give the children up.

Zoe Williams, a foster carer of 11 years who specialises in moving babies and young children on for adoption, said: “It does break our hearts every time a baby or child leaves us. The way I deal with it is by knowing that I have cared and loved each and every one of them for the time they’ve been with us, providing them with a good start and preparing them for their move back home or onto their adoptive family.”

Tracey Iturbe who has fostered in total for 13 years, said: “My top tip is, don’t wait, got for it, you won’t regret it.”

Suzanne and Paul, who have been foster carers for 20 years, said one their favourite fostering moments is when they had a phone call 10 years ago to take a little baby with down syndrome who then later became their own daughter.

Julie Nugent, a foster carer for 19 years, said: “My biggest fostering moment happened recently. I was asked to be godmother to a little one that moved on last year to their adoptive parents. It’s just absolutely amazing.”

Foster Wales Swansea are looking for people to be part of a community which encourages children in foster care to have high aspirations and reach for the stars.

Cllr Louise Gibbard, Cabinet Member for Care Services, said: “Foster care is a vital service for the children and families in our community. Foster care is at the heart of our community, and we’re proud of our wonderful foster carers who keep children near the people and places they know and love. Behind every successful foster child is a loving foster carer who believes in their potential.

“During Foster Care Fortnight, I encourage everyone to consider learning more about becoming a foster carer as we need more people who can provide loving home to local children. There is no such thing as an ideal foster carer and there are so many ways to foster, many of them are flexible and you could make a real difference to a child’s life.”

If you live in Swansea, you can find out more about fostering on Foster Wales Swansea’s website: www.swansea.fosterwales.gov.wales. If you would like to speak to a member of our experienced team for an informal chat, ring 0300 555 0111.

Legendary jazz festival is back and you can be part of it

Legendary jazz festival is back and you can be part of it

Swansea International Jazz Festival is set to return and celebrate 75 years of live jazz music in the city with a line-up packed with legendary musicians, special performances, and familiar favourites.

Swansea Council has once again joined forces with Swansea Jazz Club, now in its 75th year, to present this year’s jazz festival, which will be held at venues across Swansea’s Maritime Quarter from Thursday 13 to Monday 17 June 2024.

The festival opens with a special gala dinner at Morgans Hotel on the Thursday evening, which will start the celebrations for the 75th anniversary of Swansea Jazz Club and the 80th birthday of festival patron, Sir Karl Jenkins, who will be the guest of honour.

The celebrations continue Friday when the Laurence Cottle All-star 16-piece Big Band go ‘Back, Down the Road’ to play special arrangements of Sir Karl’s jazz music in two concerts. These will take place in the Festival Pavillion, outside the National Waterfront Museum at 6pm and 8.30pm, with an introduction at the start of each show by the composer himself.

The Festival Pavilion is the setting for the festival’s further five ticketed concerts, featuring Denny Illet’s Electric Lady Big Band playing funky jazz arrangements of Jimmy Hendrix’s music.

Swansea Council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, said: “We are delighted to be presenting Swansea International Jazz Festival once more, especially as it celebrates 75 years of live jazz music in the city and the incredible virtuosity of Sir Karl Jenkins in the year of his 80th birthday.

“The festival continues to attract some of the best musicians from the UK jazz scene playing a range of styles across the jazz music genre, which we’re sure will draw not only a local audience but also jazz lovers from further afield.

“Our thanks to Dave Cottle and Swansea Jazz Club for their input and support in programming the festival, which really has now become a popular and regular fixture in the city’s event calendar.”

Completing the line-up of ticketed gigs are the Power of Gower Festival Big Band, the Adrian Cox Quartet, Moscow Drug Club, and The Stacey Brothers’ Big Band Steely Dan project: The Royal Scammers who pay tribute to the iconic, multi award-winning American rock band Steely Dan.

This year’s festival also sees the return of a musical workshop for young instrumentalists, supported by Swansea Music and the National Music Service of Wales  and led by Pete Long and the Eddie Gripper Trio. Plus an engaging ‘First Steps’ musical workshop for children from 4-7 years old.

If that’s not enough jazz to keep your toes tapping, Swansea International Jazz Festival also features a stroller programme.  There’s no need to book tickets as the pubs and bars in the Maritime Quarter and surrounding areas will be packed with free smaller and intimate gigs, with some recognisable faces.

Swansea International Jazz Festival’s artistic advisor, Dave Cottle, said: “The festival presents an excellent and varied jazz programme again this year. There are great concerts to look forward to and some firm favourites are returning on the stroller programme – Swansea will be buzzing again to the sound of live jazz!”

People wishing to find out more or book tickets should go online and visit www.enjoyswanseabay.com.