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Police helicopter is ‘slow’ to reach incidents

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A REPORT has claimed that a police helicopter takes almost an hour to respond to incidents in the Dyfed-Powys area.

Dyfed-Powys Police pay £891,000 for air support from bases in north and south east Wales, as well as bases in England. A base in Carmarthenshire was shut down due to cuts by the National Police Air Service in January 2016.

The response time – over 50 minutes on average – is the second worst in both Wales and England.

However, a Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson has said that the helicopter service was a ‘valuable asset’. With 349 hours of air support, the force has paid £2,553 for every hour of flights over the last year.

Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said: “The HMICFRS report on the provision of police air support clearly demonstrates that Dyfed-Powys Police has benefited financially from the efficiencies of being a partner in this national service.

“There is a reduction in the cost of police air support available across the Dyfed-Powys Police area alongside the ability to access a 24/7 service, a capability not available to us prior to the new arrangements. It is important to note that the deployment of resources is now consistently based on an agreed threat, risk and harm assessment.

“As a result of this new assessment criteria the use of the helicopter has reduced within the Dyfed-Powys area.

“As an NPAS strategic board member I ensure that rural police forces such as Dyfed-Powys are not forgotten and during my time on the board we have seen significant financial savings being realised for Dyfed-Powys Police.

“The board has also been assured that the new fixed wing capability will be distributed more widely than initially proposed and a fixed wing asset will be available in Wales in due course to compliment the helicopter.”

A spokesperson for the police force added:  “Dyfed-Powys Police is provided with an air support service from NPAS as part of the national collaboration, before which we had our own helicopter which was undoubtedly a more limited capability.

“The effectiveness of the service now provided by NPAS is regularly reviewed by senior leaders from Dyfed-Powys Police in conjunction with representatives from NPAS and the outcomes from these reviews are used to influence the service provided by NPAS.

“This is a valuable operational resource for us as a rural area, and we will continue to work with NPAS colleagues to get the best service for our communities using this valuable asset when circumstances are appropriate, and this will include seeking greater coverage from future developments.”

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Council tax reduction supports people on low incomes

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A COUNCIL Tax Reduction Scheme is in place to help people who are on a low income. The council administers the scheme on behalf of the Welsh Government for people who are liable to pay Council Tax and who live in Ceredigion. With the recent decision to raise Council Tax by 7%, residents on low incomes are being urged to find out if they are entitled to some help towards paying their Council Tax.

People can be eligible for the reduction if they are on a low income, working or unemployed, cannot work because of illness, retired or are caring for someone. The amount of the reduction depends on a person’s circumstances and how much Council Tax they need to pay.

Councillor Gareth Lloyd is the Cabinet member responsible for Financial Services. He said, “We made the difficult decision to raise Council Tax by 7% to reduce the amount of cuts we have to make to council services. The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising.”

“We want to urge anyone who is on a low income to consider if they are eligible for Council Tax Reduction. Tax increases can add pressure onto people’s budgets, and although this increase is vital to keep quality services in Ceredigion, we want to make sure that anyone who is eligible for help gets it.”

For more information on eligibility and how to claim council tax reduction, email revenues@ceredigion.gov.uk or call 01970 633 252.

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7% council tax increase to protect education funding

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THE COUNCIL TAX in Ceredigion for 2019-2020 will increase by 7%. The increase was agreed by councillors to reduce the impact of cuts to the Council’s budget and, in particular, to protect education spending. The decision was made in a Council meeting on 21 February 2019.

2% of the 7% increase will be used to protect education spending. Schools budgets have been under severe stress after years of needing to make savings. Costs have increased yet again following the agreement of new teachers’ salary increases together with increased pension contributions. This extra 2% uplift will enable school budgets to be kept flat.

The council tax rate increase is set by three key components, the County Council’s tax, the precept of Town and Community Councils and the Police precept. Increases set by the Police and Town and Community Councils result in a combined increase of 7.56%.

Councillor Ellen ap Leader of the Council, said, “We had no option but to ask Council to increase Council Tax by 7% in order to reduce the impact of the cuts we have had to make across council budgets. A successful Ceredigion in the future needs well-funded and well run schools. We want to invest in the future of our children and our county.”

“The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising. The uplift of teachers’ salaries and pensions has not been fully funded by Welsh Government to date. If council tax had not increased, we would have to make deeper cuts.”

In 2018-2019, the average Council Tax Band D property was £1,226.48. The increase means that the same property will pay £1,312.33 in 2019-2020. The council’s budget has been cut by £39m or 25% in the last seven years. The Council will still need to save another £6m in the coming financial year.

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Information management policies updated to improve security

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THREE key information management policies have been updated by Ceredigion County Council. The policies were updated because of new laws and the need make sure that they are effective in a changing technological environment.

The updated policies were approved by the council’s Cabinet in a meeting on 19 February 2019.

The three policies that have been reviewed are:

· Data Protection/GDPR Policy
· Information Security Policy
· Information and Records Management Policy

The Deputy Leader of Ceredigion County Council and Cabinet member responsible for Governance, Councillor Ray Quant MBE said, “The council needs to keep information and data to carry out the many service we provide. Because of this we have to make sure we’re up to date on data and information protections laws. This decision means that we have approved the hard work done to update the policies and make sure that they are fit for use.”

The policies are essential to manage digital and paper records of the council.

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