I am honoured to be have just been confirmed as leader of your County Council for another year, together with deputy leader Cllr Paul Griffiths. I very conscious of my responsibilities to serve the people of Monmouthshire and of the trust placed in me and my colleagues.

At the annual meeting I spoke of some of our achievements so far. Despite the huge challenges, we have continued to deliver, putting equality, fairness and the environment at the centre of all our decisions.

We have done our best to support people hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis, strengthened services for people with dementia and reduced the number of unmet care hours. We have recruited foster carers and are doing more to help families and to avoid care proceedings.

More people are using our leisure centres and enjoying events that bring people into our towns.

In education, we have strengthened services for the most disadvantaged children and those with additional needs, and protected school budgets. With funds from the Welsh Government we have invested £5.5m in walking and cycling routes, and despite a crisis in bus services, we have kept services running.

We are investing in social housing and reducing the numbers of homeless people in bed and breakfast accommodation. Two years in, we have achieved a lot but there is a great deal more to do.

The AGM was also when we elect a new Chair and Vice-Chair of Council. Cllr Meirion Howells from Usk has been an excellent chair, and is now succeeded this year by Cllr Su McConnell, the Croesonen, Abergavenny, ward member and Cllr Peter Strong of Rogiet is the new vice chair. We also appointed councillors to the various committees and organisations where the council has representation. Every councillor not only serves their ward, but also serves in other roles, either in the cabinet or in the committees. Most are also involved with local schools, charities and attend their community council meetings.

Especially when elections are called, the council chamber is filled with party political rivalry, which I see as a vital part of democracy. I shall be working to help elect my colleague, Cllr Catherine Fookes, as the next Monmouthshire MP.

But underneath it all, councillors from all parties are working for their residents, and we try to agree on essentials and work together. Every day I see staff and councillors, living the values of the council, which are Openness, Fairness, Flexibility, Teamwork and Kindness.