NEWPORT’s city centre needs all the help it can get at the moment.

Everyone knows the recession did for the original shopping centre redevelopment and the result has been a steady series of big name stores either closing or moving out of town.

The revived Friars Walk development is still some years away and, in the meantime, traders that remain in the city centre are facing a constant struggle to keep their heads above water.

So the news this week that gas mains works in the area will not be finished until a few days before Christmas is hugely unwelcome.

The work was originally due to be completed this month.

Traders are furious, particularly because they claim there are often only three Wales and West Utilities workmen on site.

And let’s not forget it was this company that managed to puncture a water main in the city centre in the summer.

My sympathies lie entirely with city centre retailers and business owners. They are fighting for their livelihoods and they need more help than they are getting from the powers-that-be.

The fact of the matter is the delay to these works is simply not good enough.

Wales and West need to divert resources to get more people on the job and Newport council needs to use its influence and powers to put pressure on the company to complete the work closer to its original deadline.

Finishing the work in the middle of the Christmas shopping season is unacceptable and could be the difference between survival and collapse for some traders. There has been talk of urgent meetings and postponed meetings. Frankly, this is not the time for talking. This is the time for action. The alternative is a further decline in a retail centre that is already teetering on the edge.

Join the Argus and help County kids

THERE’S an opportunity to lend a helping hand to some of Newport’s most promising young footballers tonight with a fundraising auction.

The auction, in aid of Newport County Junior Academy, takes place at Bar Amber at Spytty Park and there are a host of great football-related items going under the hammer.

The academy runs teams from under-12 to under-16 – some of whom will hopefully progress to the first team.

County manager Justin Edinburgh and some of his first team squad will be in attendance.

I’ll also be there and offering up the chance for one lucky bidder to become an Argus football reporter for the day at a County home match of their choice. The winning bidder will have their reports published in the paper and online.

Share your headlines

WRITING headlines is often not as easy as you might think.

There was lengthy debate in the newsroom on Tuesday evening as we attempted to come up with something suitable for the story of the naked swimmer rescued from the Usk in Newport.

The funniest potential headlines were also completely unprintable, and we ended up with ‘Muddy Idiot’.

If you can come up with something better let me know by e-mail – – and we’ll print the best in next week’s column.

Keep them clean, though.