IT'S budget time again in the Assembly and it’s of little surprise that Monmouthshire, once again, faces one of the worst local government funding settlements in Wales.

I will continue to bang the drum for reform of the local government funding formula that currently short-changes the local authority.

We need a fairer formula that better recognises the increasing costs of delivering local services across large rural areas.

On a brighter financial note, I was delighted to join staff and supporters of Chepstow and District Mencap at a recent lunch at Bulwark’s Burnt Barn Social.

The atmosphere was electric as supporters of Chepstow and District Mencap were told that their bid for £500,000 of Big Lottery funding to refurbish Chepstow’s Old Board School, their new home, had been successful.

Chepstow Mencap have been part of the fabric of the community of Chepstow and the surrounding area for 40 years and have grown in strength ever since those first hardworking volunteers set up a fledgling support network for people with learning disabilities and their families.

This represents a new phase in their development.

The Old Board School will serve as a community hub, providing a meeting place for local organisations and a space for local people to hold their own events.

The Big Lottery has clearly seen the potential of the project for Mencap and the wider community.

I look forward to working with Chepstow Mencap to help make this particular dream become an exciting reality.

An even older Monmouthshire building than the Old Board School is to be found just outside Raglan.

I am, of course, referring to Raglan Castle where it was a pleasure to take Zimbabwe’s Chief Chinamhora on one of the final visits of his UK tour, organised by Abergavenny’s ever-enthusiastic Love Zimbabwe.

It was a pleasure to spend time rediscovering the castle in the company of our guest.

This was also an opportunity for me to try out my new CADW Monument Pass, which allows the holder unlimited entry to a nominated historic site over a three year period for just £6.

Whilst I will continue to campaign for better pedestrian access across the A40 to Raglan Castle, I welcome any schemes designed to increase public access to Wales’ multitude of sites of historic interest.

If you’re interested in applying for your own pass, details of the scheme can be found on the CADW website at