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Rural communities ‘starved of essential services’

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RURAL communities are being starved of essential services, with people in rural areas increasingly left without access to banks and healthcare services, according to Plaid Cymru.

Plaid Cymru’s Rural Affairs spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, says rural communities are being let down by both the Welsh Government and Westminster, who have allowed banks – including those in which the public have a majority stake – to abandon rural towns across Wales.

Since 2011, 20 community post offices have closed across Wales, 15% of which were in Ceredigion; and 39 local banks have closed in 2017 alone. With rural Wales also suffering from some of the poorest provision of broadband and mobile data infrastructure, the combined effect is that residents and businesses are forced to travel a significant distance to access essential services, which is made all the more difficult due to the poor provision of public transport.

The Ceredigion MP has also highlighted the failure of the Welsh Government to ensure rural areas have adequate access to healthcare, resulting in people in rural areas being at higher risk due to the time required for emergency services to reach them, and to then reach the medical facility.

Mr Lake has called for both the Welsh Government and the Westminster Government to recognise the challenges being faced by rural communities and ensure that residents and businesses are able to access essential services in their own communities.

Commenting, the Plaid Cymru MP, Ben Lake, said: “Rural communities have been neglected for far too long by both the Welsh Government and the Westminster Government.

“Rural areas are being starved of essential services with post offices and banks disappearing at an alarming rate and healthcare services increasingly stretched.

“By now 84% of people in Wales are deprived of a local dental practice, and both banks and post offices are fast becoming just as hard to find. Both the Westminster Government and the Welsh Government are idle as these vital amenities are disappearing, and abandoning our rural towns and villages.

“The Labour Welsh Government has failed to protect local healthcare services, meaning those living in rural communities are forced to travel significant distances to access services. With our transport system in its current state, that is no simple task either. In this regard, residents of rural areas are disadvantaged for no other reason than the fact that they do not live in a city.

“Meanwhile, Westminster has allowed banks – in which the public hold a majority stake – to turn their backs on rural communities, despite the public bailing them out a decade ago.

“We cannot expect rural towns and villages to thrive if banks and post offices disappear, forcing residents and businesses to leave. The Welsh Government should consider creating a public bank, owned by the people and rooted in our communities.

“Both the Welsh Government and the Westminster government need to recognise these challenges, stop sitting on their hands, and start taking action to protect our rural communities.”

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A level results still high in Ceredigion

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THE ‘A’ level examination results published today by the WJEC (15 August) show that high standards are being achieved in Ceredigion schools once again. 97.9% of entries for WJEC examinations were graded A* to E, with 27.9% of the entries achieving the top ’A’ grades.

Ceredigion pupils continue to outperform the Welsh average. More pupils in Ceredigion achieve the top ’A’ grades and A* to E grades. The below table shows a comparison with average Welsh figures. These don’t include Welsh Baccalaureate results and those from examination bodies other than WJEC.

Wales 2019             Ceredigion 2019

Grade A* – A           27.92%                    27.0%

Grade A* – B           56.0%                      n/a

Grade A* – C          77.5%                        n/a

Grade A* – E          97.9%                       97.6%

Councillor Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services. She said, “I would like to extend my warmest congratulations once again to Ceredigion’s sixth form students for their successes in this year’s A Level and AS examinations.

These results are the culmination of a long journey through school life which has seen them nurture and develop the academic and interpersonal skills that will enable them to move confidently into higher education, training or employment in fields of their choice. I wish them good luck for the future and would like to sincerely thank all who have contributed to their school journey in any way.”

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MP Ben Lake calls for reform of police funding

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HAVING recently shadowed Dyfed Powys Police officers in Aberystwyth, the Ceredigion MP has again urged the UK Government to review the police funding formula for rural areas.

Mr Lake visited Aberystwyth police station as part of the #GiveADayToPolicing campaign, a scheme for Members of Parliament to better understand the challenges currently facing police forces across the UK.

During his visit Mr Lake had the opportunity to experience a variety of aspects of local policing – from spending time with the neighbourhood policing team, meeting officers from different departments, and discussing policing challenges with front-line police officers.

Mr Lake has challenged the UK Government on several occasions to reform the formula for police funding – highlighting the need for the funding formula to take into consideration the seasonal pressures on forces, particularly the significant increase to the population of coastal areas during the summer months.

Mr Lake said: “I am very grateful to the officers of Aberystwyth police station for their welcome, and for taking the time to speak with me. I now have a better understanding of the challenges our police officers face, as well as a deeper level of respect and admiration of their work and commitment to public safety.

“As I have previously stated, we cannot expect a one size fits all approach to work effectively across the whole of the UK, and as such, it is imperative that the criteria used to allocate the Home Office police grant are revised so that they reflect the increased demands and unique challenges facing rural forces in areas such as Ceredigion, especially during summer months.”

Mr Lake added: “It is widely acknowledged that Welsh police forces have suffered under the present funding formula, and so it is high time that the UK Government either amends the formula accordingly, or devolves the responsibility for policing to the Welsh Government so that they may do so themselves.”

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New waste trial launched in Aberystwyth

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A NEW trial has been launched in Aberystwyth as part of the Caru Aber campaign, to help keep the town centre clean on waste collection days.

Heavy duty sacks will be placed on Aberystwyth streets on Monday afternoons before the black bag collection on Tuesdays in the following streets; Portland Street, Portland Road, Queen Street, Corporation Street, Eastgate Street, New Street and Cambrian Place.

Black bags should be put in the sacks by 8am on Tuesday mornings for collection. The intention is that the sacks contain the waste until it is collected. The sacks will be retrieved after the waste has been collected to avoid clutter and obstruction on the streets.

Councillor Dafydd Edwards is the Cabinet member responsible for Highways and Environmental Services together with Housing. He said: “We see this trial as a practical and relatively cost effective way of responding to long standing issues relating to domestic waste presentation in Aberystwyth town centre. The sacks will also provide a visible reminder to residents in the town centre on what days to present their black bags.

“The trial forms part of the Caru Aber campaign, and the wider Caru Ceredigion campaign, where the council looks to work with local communities to address issues which are of concern or are important to them.

“This innovative approach is another example of positive proactive action the council is taking. We hope that the residents of the town centre will play their part by making good use of the sacks as this will be the critical factor in measuring the success of the scheme.”

Clean recycling and food waste should continue to be presented on a weekly basis in the containers that the council already provides through clear bags and food caddies.

Ensuring that the right waste is presented in the right way and on the right day will help to make sure that the town’s streets are kept clean and that the waste is contained, managed and treated in the most cost effective and environmentally friendly way as possible.

The sacks were first used in readiness for waste collections on Tuesday 6 August 2019. The initial feedback is positive as they have worked to contain the waste on the streets, which were noticeably cleaner.

This latest initiative is developing on feedback and experience from two other trials undertaken. The success of the trial will be monitored on an ongoing basis and reviewed to reflect the experience which will include looking at ways of engaging all residents.

For more information about the new scheme, please contact the Customer Services Contact Centre on 01545 570 881 or by e-mail on clic@ceredigion.gov.uk.

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