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£370m boost for Post Office welcomed

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THE GOVERNMENT t this week has announced £370m of funding for the Post Office for the period April 2018 to March 2021.  This will secure the future of the Post Office and enable it to continue to invest in its network, products and meeting the changing needs of customers.

The funding announcement comes as the Post Office reached the important milestone of having moved into profit in 2017, for the first time in 16 years.

This indicates that the Post Office is well on its way to becoming a sustainable and successful business and less reliant on government subsidies.

Ben Lake MP said: “This investment is welcome news for rural communities at a time where Post Office branches are becoming more and more important with the contraction of the bank branch network.”

But whilst the UK Government appears to be investing in the Post Office, Ceredigion pensioners using their local branches to collect pension payments have recently received correspondence from the Government’s Department of Work and Pensions asking them to alter their future payment arrangements so that their state pension is paid directly into their bank accounts rather than from the Post Office.

The Department of Work and Pensions is keen to encourage all pensions and benefit claimants who are able to open a bank account to do so and enjoy the greater transactional services these offer, such as direct debit facilities and the option to have a debit card or cheque book. But the DWP has recognised that certain groups remain unable to access such services. The Department has also confirmed that although payment into a bank, building society or credit union account is the preferred way pension and benefits are paid, it is not compulsory.

Elin Jones AM said: “It is not compulsory for pensioners to receive their pension payments directly to a bank account, and I would urge everyone who currently use their local Post Office branch to collect their pension to continue to do so if they wish.

“Local post offices form the heart of so many local communities, with many people relying on their local branch in order to access important services.

Ben Lake MP said: “Whilst the vast majority of pensions and benefits are paid directly into recipients’ bank accounts these days, many older pensioners continue to prefer to collect their pension over the counter at their local Post Office, and the Post Office Card Account enables them to do this. Offering these services at the Post Office also retains footfall and generates income for the local branches. It is regrettable that the Government are encouraging pensioners to abandon the services provided by the Post Office.”

In response the Post Office stated: “99 per cent of customers of UK banks can access their accounts at local Post Office branches.  The Post Office is reassuring customers that they will still be able to visit the branch for cash withdrawals with the added benefits of being able to undertake other transactions such as cash and cheque deposits. For those customers who are not able to open a bank account, Post Office Card Accounts will remain an option for them.”

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Ceredigion hometown heroes & lockdown legends sought for 2020 National Lottery Awards

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The National Lottery Awards 2019 winners on stage, including Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson from Wales, the first ever recipient of The National Lottery's Lifetime Achievement Award.

THE National Lottery is searching for your ‘hometown hero’ or ‘lockdown legend’ as part of the 2020 National Lottery Awards.

This year the annual search for the UK’s most popular National Lottery funded projects will, for the first time, honour individuals who have made an extraordinary impact in their community, especially those who have adapted during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

New figures reveal more than £2.8 million of National Lottery funding has been invested in good causes in Ceredigion in 2018/19 alone.

A total of 108 National Lottery grants were awarded in the region during the previous financial year, providing vital support to arts, sports, heritage and community projects.

From today, The National Lottery are calling for nominations of people who have done amazing things with the help of National Lottery funding and are an inspiration to us all.

Winners in each category will receive a £3,000 cash prize for their organisation and a coveted National Lottery Awards trophy.

Jonathan Tuchner from The National Lottery is encouraging the people of Ceredigion to make their nominations.

He said: “The National Lottery continues to have a positive impact on life across the UK. Thanks to National Lottery players thousands of projects are making an incredible difference to their local communities.

Now, more than ever, people have rallied together, and individuals are performing inspirational acts and extraordinary endeavours to help in cities, towns and villages up and down the country.

Thanks to National Lottery players, up to £600 million has been made available to support communities throughout the UK amid the coronavirus crisis. People have used National Lottery funding in amazing ways during these challenging times. We want to honour them as part of this year’s National Lottery Awards and recognise their selfless dedication and thank them for their fantastic work.”

Encompassing all aspects of National Lottery good causes funding, the 2020 National Lottery Awards are seeking to recognise outstanding individuals in the following sectors:

Arts
Education
Health
Environment
Sport
Heritage
Community / Charity

And there will be a special Young Hero Award for someone under the age of 18 who has gone that extra mile in their organisation. All nominees must work or act for a National Lottery funded organisation or have received National Lottery funding.

To make your nomination for this year’s National Lottery Awards, tweet @LottoGoodCauses with your suggestions or complete an entry form through our website www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards . Entries must be received by midnight on 19th August 2020.

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Chancellors economic update includes VAT cut for hospitality sector, and customer discounts

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The Chancellor had set out his coronavirus recovery package today.

Rishi Sunak set out the measures in his summer economic update in the House of Commons on Wednesday (Jun 8), as he faces pressure to assist those who are most vulnerable to the financial crisis.

The Chancellor said he will cut VAT from 20% to 5% for food if people eat out to help those businesses which he said had been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The chancellor announced discount to encourage people to eat out in August.

He says restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels as well as other attractions will be able to claim the money back within five days. It had been reported he was considering giving all UK adults a £500 voucher to spent with companies hit by coronavirus, but the Chancellor has decided not to go ahead with that proposal.

Instead Sunak announced a discount worth up to £10 per head for eating out in August. He said his final measure has never been tried in this country. It is an “eat out to help out scheme”, offering customers as discount worth up to £10 per head when they eat out from Monday to Wednesday in August.

Speaking in the Commons today, he said: “Our plan has clear goals, to protect, support and retain jobs.”

Regards furlough scheme, he said it must wind down, adding: “flexibly and gradually supporting people through to October” but that he is introducing a bonus for employers who bring staff back from furlough.

Employers who bring someone back from furlough and employ them through to January, paying them a minimum of £520 a month, will receive a £1,000 bonus.

He says that “in total we have provided £49bn to support public services since the pandemic began”.

He added: “No nationalist can ignore that this help has only been possible because we are a United Kingdom.”

Mr Sunak says the UK economy has already shrunk by 25% – the same amount it grew in the previous 18 years.

He also announced:

A £2bn kickstart scheme paying employers to take on unemployed 16 to 24 year olds for a minimum of 25 hours a week – he says the Treasury will pay those wages for six months plus a sum for overheads. He says there is no cap. This will apply in England and Wales.

VAT on food from restaurants, cafes, pubs and hotels will be cut until January 12 from 20% to 5%
Funding for apprenticeships and traineeships in England, there will be a separate announcement for Wales.

£1bn for the DWP to support millions of people back to work through Job Centres. A £2bn green homes grant in England to cover two thirds of the cost, up to £5,000, for energy efficient home improvements. Again the Welsh Government will have their own proposals on this given time.

A temporary cut to stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland.

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Safe zones in Ceredigion town centres

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Plans are being put into place to create safe zones for pedestrians in Ceredigion town centres.
Most of the county’s towns have a historic street layout with narrow footways and traffic running through them so as businesses re-open and visitors return to these areas there is insufficient space for people to keep a safe distance from one another.

Our towns will look different to how they did a few months ago but changes will mean businesses can re-open safely whilst also ensuring residents’ and visitors’ health and safety can be maintained.

The plans being developed by council officers include closing off roads to traffic during the day to create more space for shoppers to walk safely, particularly as large numbers of tourists and students return to the county. It’s also aimed at helping businesses too by creating more outdoor space for retailers and the hospitality sector to trade. It is important that the Council acts quickly to put arrangements in place as quickly as possible and these initial arrangements will be continually reviewed.

To do this, spaces for traders will be re-defined, some roads will be closed to traffic, pavements will be de-cluttered by removing street furniture (and other items), visitors will be asked to park away from the town centres for free and signage will be introduced to help visitors maintain safe distances.

These changes will protect the community and people’s health whilst ensuring businesses can still trade.

Further information on the safe zones will follow.

Keep Ceredigion safe.

Information related to the Coronavirus can be found on the Council’s website, www.ceredigion.gov.uk/Coronavirus

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