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Welsh families risk ‘nasty hangover’ of Christmas debt

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screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-16-32-58MORE than four in 10 families in Wales (43%) plan to borrow money to cover the costs of Christmas this year, a survey by The Children’s Society has revealed.

The survey, which also found that – in England and Wales – one in 10 families borrowed over £500 for last year’s festivities, raises concerns about the number of families with children who may find themselves at risk of falling into a debt trap by New Year’s Day.

The costs of Christmas presents, food, drink, decorations, travel and other related activities see families spending an average of £700, according to the Opinium survey of 2,000 adults.

On average, parents spend £340 on presents alone, with one in five spending over £500 on gifts. To fund all these costs, almost on e in five (17%) will borrow on their credit cards this Christmas.

The challenges are even more sobering for families who have already found themselves in problem debt this year – more than half of them (54%) are planning to borrow more to cover the cost of Christmas, with almost a quarter counting on their credit card.

For families who are struggling, borrowing can have a number of unintended consequences. In the worst cases, where credit repayments take up a larger proportion of income, parents can find themselves in a debt trap from which it can be hard to escape.

The risk is that parents with children may find themselves cutting back on essentials to meet debt repayments. The survey shows that over half of families in problem debt in the last year cut down on their heating in the weeks after Christmas in an attempt to rebalance their finances after the festive period.

Problem debt can damage children’s physical and mental health. In September, The Children’s Society revealed that children in living in families with problem debt are five times more likely to have low well-being than those that are not.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society, said: “All parents – particularly those who are struggling – need to be aware how difficult it can be to shake off Christmas debt. No-one wants children to miss out on the fun and excitement of Christmas, but neither would anyone wish parents to wake up on New Year’s Day with a nasty hangover of debt.

“We know the damage problem debt can cause to children, who often pay the price with their mental and physical health, and that’s why we’re calling on government to give families the time and space they need to get their finances back on track.”

The Children’s Society, as part of its Debt Trap campaign, is calling for better support for families with children who fall behind on bills and repayments. It is urging the government to introduce a 12-month ‘breathing space’ scheme to give struggling parents a period of protection to put their finances in order and get back on their feet.

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Police advise ‘hang up on suspicious callers’

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A NATIONAL telephone scam, aiming to steal money, has reached residents living within the Dyfed-Powys area.

Paul Callard, of Dyfed-Powys Police’s Financial Crime Team, said: “Action Fraud has today  made us aware three people living in Dyfed-Powys have been contacted by fraudsters claiming to be from BT, in the past four days. While three people have reported, we suspect many more have been targeted.

“Victims receive a telephone call from someone pretending to be from BT who is calling due to a problem with the victim’s internet connection speed. During the call the victim is asked to open their online banking, eBay, Tesco and other accounts. The scammer then tries to gain remote access to the victim’s computer to empty the victim’s bank account.

“BT will never ask for remote access to your computer or access to your online bank account. We urge anyone who receives unsolicited/cold calls from any company hang up immediately. Do not enter into conversation with them, provide them with any personal details or send them any money. You should only phone the company back using a trusted phone number.”

If you have been the victim of fraud, attempted fraud, or cyber crime, or have received a potential scam message or computer virus but no money has been lost or you haven’t responded to it, report it to Action Fraud either online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

For further advice and information on how to avoid being scammed visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.

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Four arrested as man remains in ‘critical condition’

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FOUR men have been arrested after a man was hospitalised in the early hours of Sunday morning (Jan 14).

19-year-old Ifan Richards Owen is in hospital in critical condition after the attack.

The incident took place in High Street, Aberystwyth, at approximately 2:20am.

Four men, aged 19, 20, 23 and 25 have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent.

They are in police custody.

Police are now appealing for witnesses to contact them as a matter of urgency.

DCI Anthony Evans, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We are issuing a fresh appeal for witnesses to the assault on Ifan Richards Owens, aged 19, which occurred on High Street, Aberystwyth at around 2.20am on Sunday, January 14.

“In particular we would like to speak to anyone who gave first aid to Mr Owens before emergency services arrived.

“Mr Owens remains in hospital in a critical condition.

“We would urge anyone with any information that could assist in our investigation any witnesses to the incident or anyone who may have any CCTV or video footage of the incident to contact police on 101, quoting incident number 402 of January 14. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

“Four men, aged 25, 23, 20 and 19, have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent and remain in police custody at this time.”

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£750,000 funding for highway improvements

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CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL has recently been awarded almost £750,000 of additional grant funding from the Welsh Government’s Local Transport Fund and Road Safety Capital Grant to carry out further highways improvement schemes in the County.

£596,000 has been allocated from the Local Transport Fund for various schemes across the county which will include removing the pinch point on the C1010 at Gogerddan, near Penrhyncoch. £249,000 of funding is allocated for active travel improvements in Aberystwyth to create an improved shared use path along Boulevard St Brieuc which will continue along the side of the Police Station and up Park Avenue towards Glyndwr Road. A pedestrian crossing on Boulevard St Brieuc will be upgraded to a new toucan crossing, which cyclists can also use alongside pedestrians. This will be the first of its kind in Ceredigion.

The funding will also purchase a new scooter shelter at Plascrug Primary School. Head Teacher Menna Sweeney said: “This is great news because the shelter purchased just 16 months ago following grant funded works on the Avenue cannot cope with current demand due to the amount of children scooting and cycling to the school every day. This is really helping to alleviate the traffic congestion problems previously experienced in the area”.

Two new public cycle repair stands with integrated cycle pumps will be installed in Aberystwyth. One will be placed outside Plascrug Leisure Centre and the other on Aberystwyth University Penglais Campus.

Councillor Alun Williams, Cabinet Member for Transport said: “I’m delighted that we’ve managed to obtain funding to further improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. The work will complement the new Parc Kronberg Skate Park and improve the look of this important gateway into Aberystwyth by increasing the number of trees and spreading them wider along Park Avenue as well as renewing the currently uneven section of pavement on the street.”

Additional funding has been allocated to the Cardigan Active Travel Area Year 2 Scheme,  which earlier this year saw a new 20mph zone with traffic calming outside Cardigan Secondary School and a new footway link and pedestrian refuge crossing on Aberystwyth Road. The extra funding will fund footway widening on Pontycleifion Road and the provision of new dropped kerbs to assist mobility and pushchair users to improve the link between the Town Centre and Parc Teifi Industrial Estate.

Deputy Leader of the Council Cllr Ray Quant MBE and Cabinet Member for Technical Services said: “I’m delighted that Ceredigion residents will benefit from a further three quarters of a million pounds funding from the Welsh Government for transport schemes throughout the County and I look forward to seeing the improvements which should be completed by the end of March 2018.”

A Road Safety Capital Grant of £149,963 will fund the replacement of 15 Vehicle Activated Signs. These signs alert drivers exceeding the speed limit to slow down at locations with a history of personal injury collisions.

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