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Firefighters aim for Christmas number one

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FIREFIGHTERS from the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have launched their bid to reach the top of the chart and achieve a Christmas number one single.

The group, formed under the name ‘The Fire Tones’, was the vision of Welshpool Firefighter, Chris Birdsell-Jones, who dreamt of a band of firefighters reaching the top of the charts with the classic Christmas hit ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’.

The single is set to raise money for the Firefighters Charity and the Band-Aid Charity Trust.

Firefighter Chris Birdsell-Jones said: “It started when we were in a bar in Welshpool around this time last year – the first song that came on was ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’

“As we sat there, everyone in the bar was singing along or tapping the bar and it got me wondering if we could do something for charity.

“I said it out loud and everyone told me I was dreaming! But a couple of days later there was a film on called ‘Daddy’s Home 2’ and the song is on the soundtrack, so I took it as a sign and got to work.”

Chris set about widening the search for talent from other UK Fire and Rescue Services to contribute to the single.

Interest and momentum quickly gathered, leading to an offer of a recording session at the BIMM Music College, Birmingham, in the newly built recording studio. From across the UK, firefighters travelled to Birmingham to record the vocals in a hectic 12-hour recording session, masterminded by producer Steve Osborne and expert vocal arranger Louise Warren.

Chris added: “We wanted to honour the spirit of the original recording, so we wanted to get it all done in one day, just as they did with the original Live Aid single.

“I must admit, I was nervous on the day because you’ve put all this work in and you’re wondering things like ‘is that person going to turn up?’ and ‘is this actually going to work? But on the day, it was just incredible, they played it back to us in the studio and it was ‘wow’, this isn’t just a bit of fun, they can really sing.

“We are doing this to raise money for two fantastic causes. I’m over the moon to have worked with such a talented group of people, and I feel proud and honoured to have been involved with such a fantastic project, whatever we manage to raise.

“The Fire Tones boast over 40 Fire Service personnel within its ranks. During the recording, we had to move out of the studio and go on a stage to record the chorus parts.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Rob Quin, Mid and West Wales Fire Service said: “This is a wonderful initiative by our firefighters in Welshpool, which has snowballed across our Service and across to other Fire and Rescue Services.

“I’m extremely proud of Mid and West Wales firefighters as our Fire and Rescue Service is amongst the highest contributors to the Fire Fighters Charity. Our firefighters and support staff are constantly fundraising to this fantastic cause, be it through traditional methods, such of hosting car washes and selling cakes, or highly ambitious projects such as The Fire Tones.

“I can’t wait to hear the song, buy it and show my support to the Fire Tones, Fire Fighters Charity and Band-Aid.”

The Fire Tones’ single is available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music.

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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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