THE CAMPAIGNERS who are pushing to save Aberystwyth’s post office building are now threatening to boycott the town’s WH Smith branch.
According to campaigners, the firm is most likely to accept the franchise to become the new post office.
The Save Aberystwyth Post Office Campaign is calling on Post Office Ltd top brass to change its mind on closing the current post office on Great Darkgate Street.
The proposals are part of the Post Office’s UK wide program to modernise post office access in a climate of falling visitor numbers at Crown post offices. The move, according to the Post Office is a drive to bring the firm into profitability.
SAPOC has now written to the management of WH Smith, Spar, Tesco and Co-op with threats to ‘disrupt’ their operations ‘until they make a public commitment not to be a Post Office Limited franchise partner in the town.’
Tesco and Co-op has ruled out taking the franchise over in Aberystwyth, both saying that they have no plans to operate Post Office counters in the area, despite doing so successfully elsewhere in the UK.
A spokesperson for the campaign, Ms Jones, said: “Local people feel extremely strongly about this issue.”
The spokesperson added: “I’m pleased that the First Minister agreed with me that it would be a great loss if Aberystwyth were to see its Post Office downgraded and moved from its current location. The strength of feeling at the public meeting in the Morlan Centre was remarkable. People in the Aberystwyth area clearly won’t just accept this.”
Nationally the Communication Workers Union claims bosses at the company want to force a cost-cutting exercise, including the closure of Aberystwyth Post Office, through by the end of 2017/18 to net £10 million in profits.
Speaking to the Daily Express, Deputy general secretary Terry Pullingerm, said: “Tragically, this is yet another horrendous example of broken promises, irresponsible government and chronic mismanagement by the Post Office.
“The Post Office should never have been split from Royal Mail – natural synergies and public services have been sacrificed for greed and profit.”
CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey added: “This is devastating news for our members. It is death by a thousand cuts.
“The proposals disregard the wealth of expertise, experience and sense of pride in public duty which is shared by Crown post office employees.”
According to the CWU three branches – one in Barry, South Wales and two Northern Irish stores in Antrim and Shaftesbury Square, Belfast – are set to shut outright.
The rest of the under-fire branches will go out to tender for 28 days, after which the franchise offers will be reviewed and a public consultation will take place.
In a statement the Post Office admitted it is now breaking even, but insisted the branches on the list are not sustainable for various reasons.
Roger Gale, Post Office’s General Manager of the Crown network, told The Ceredigion Herald: “In some locations, directly-run Crown Post Office branches work well but in others there are alternatives, such as franchising, which can work better for the business and its customers, not just in terms of access to Post Office services but also in relation to long term viability.
“We need to continue to make changes to strengthen the Crown network and we have today announced that we are seeking suitable potential retail partners to work with us on providing franchised services for 39 branches and we are proposing to close three branches in areas where it is no longer viable to keep a Crown branch.”
Completing the Census will help improve the county’s services
As Census Day approaches, everyone is reminded of the benefits of taking part in this once every ten years survey.
The Census gives an accurate picture of the population and the needs of the people in the county, and affects the funding that is allocated to Ceredigion from Welsh Government annually and therefore the funding that’s available to provide critical services in the county. As a result, it is vitally important for everyone to take part in this year’s survey.
Every household in the county will receive a Census Pack in the coming weeks, which will include either a letter with a unique access code for online completion or a paper questionnaire. The Census Packs will include instructions on how to complete the questionnaire.
The last Census, which was held in 2011, showed that 75,922 people lived in Ceredigion, including 11,318 students. The most popular occupation for the county’s residents was farming, with 2,063 people identifying themselves as farmers, and 676 people noted they were nurses.
Data from Census 2011 supported the identification of Ceredigion (and three other local authorities in Wales) as target areas for the £2 million Arfor Innovation Fund Scheme.The data highlighted Ceredigion as a suitable area for the scheme, due to the county’s high proportion of Welsh speakers, and inflow of older people and outflow of younger people. Consequently, almost £500,000 has been made available by the Welsh Government to Ceredigion, to support Welsh language businesses and entrepreneurs in the area.
In addition to this, the data collated during Census 2011 helped to develop play and recreation areas at Llanddewi Brefi, Llanon, Ponterwyd and Cardigan. By using this data, it was possible to apply to the Welsh Government Rural Communities Development Fund (RCDF) and show how much these services are needed by local residents.
Information gathered as part of the Census enables local and national governments to plan services for various sectors, including healthcare, social care, schools and transport.
Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council, said: “Not only is the Census fascinating, but it also gives the best possible estimate of our population today. Over the years, we have been able to use this data to plan services, by tackling and prioritising the needs of our communities in Ceredigion. I urge everyone to complete this mandatory survey in order to gain a true picture of the county’s fabric. Who knows what the data from Census 2021 will bring? But one thing is certain, taking part will benefit the residents of our county.”
Census Day will be on 21 March 2021, but households will soon receive Census Packs in the post explaining how they can take part. The Census will include questions about your sex, age, work, health, education, household size and ethnicity. And, for the first time, there will be a question asking people whether they have served in the armed forces, as well as voluntary questions for those aged 16 and over on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In Wales, households will also be asked a specific question about their Welsh language skills. And those who wish to complete the Census in Welsh can do so both online and in paper form.
Because these things matter to us all, everyone needs to complete the Census. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) runs the Census in England and Wales and is independent from government. Your details are protected by law and information published is always anonymous.
For more information and to find out how you can access help, go to www.census.gov.uk or call the contact Centre on 0800 169 2021.
Elin Jones backs calls for business rates holiday extension for independent businesses
CEREDIGION’S Member of the Senedd, Elin Jones, has backed calls by the British Independent Retail Association for the extension of the current rates holiday for non-essential businesses in 2021/22.
Many local independent businesses have been closed for the best part of a year, and many will be in a more precarious situation now than when the initial rates holiday was announced last year. Many businesses will be looking forward to the easing of restrictions over the next few months, but Elin Jones warned that many would benefit from the continued business rates holiday.
Elin Jones said:
“Every effort must be made to secure the future of independent businesses in Ceredigion. They are such an important feature of life in Ceredigion, both as employers, and as a draw for people to our towns and villages.
“Normal trading will eventually resume, and these businesses will be able to flourish again, but local businesses owners know that this cannot be rushed. Therefore we must continue to sustain our businesses until they are once again back on an even keel.
“It will take a while for footfall to resume, and extending the business rates holiday is one way to help in this time of need.”
MP makes Budget case for support for self-employed and small businesses in Ceredigion
BEN LAKE MP has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the government’s financial support package for businesses and self-employed workers in next week’s Budget as many struggle to stay afloat during continued lockdown restrictions.
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is to set out the UK Government’s budget on Wednesday 3 March, almost a year since the last Budget on 11 March 2020.
To help businesses and our local high streets over coming months, the Ceredigion MP has called on the Chancellor to extend the lowered rate of VAT at 5% for hospitality and tourism for a year to March 2022 and to extend the business rates relief package.
Mr Lake also called on the Chancellor to retain the furlough scheme for the duration of pandemic restrictions, as recent figures show more than 178,000* in Wales are still receiving government help from the CJRS. He also urged the Chancellor to expand the existing eligibility criteria for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme in order to offer some help to the many individuals who have not received a penny in Government support thus far.
Ben Lake MP said: “For many businesses and self-employed workers, the financial support government has offered over the last 12 months has been a lifeline. Now, as we are finally starting to see light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, we cannot remove this lifeline prematurely. Extending this help for a little longer, and expanding the criteria to help those that have been excluded thus far, would offer small businesses the support they require to ‘bounce back’ from the pandemic.”
Many businesses who are still not open due to lockdown measures are also now expected to start repaying their Bounce Back Loans. This is despite their situation largely remaining unchanged since they took out the loan, or in some unfortunate instances, worsened as they have not yet been able to trade.
UKHospitality has estimated that the hospitality sector lost around £72 billion in sales in 2020 and faces, frankly, a debt mountain, including £4.2 billion in state-backed loans.
Mr Lake said: “It is important that businesses that took out bounce back loans and CBILS are required to pay only when they are in a position to do so – once they have ‘bounced back’ from the pandemic. Affording such a level of flexibility, and thus preventing avoidable business failures, would protect jobs, the taxpayer’s investment in the recovery, and the integrity of our financial system.
“We remain in the early stages of a vaccine-led recovery, and it is likely that we will have some form of restrictions for many months to come. Having done so much to protect the economy and the workforce, we must not withdraw support prematurely, as to do so would risk throwing away the investment taxpayers have made in the last year, and potentially our economic recovery.”
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