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‘Frustration’ over banking van’s absence

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PLAID CYMRU County Councillor for Penparc, Clive Davies, has expressed his frustration following the failure of the NatWest mobile banking van to be present at Cardigan town centre on January 3.

Since the closure of the NatWest branch in Cardigan in May 2018, customers have been serviced by a weekly mobile bank every Thursday at the Fairfield Car Park between 11:10 and 11:55.

However, on the evening of Wednesday 3, Cllr Davies was informed the mobile bank would not be present at the town on following day due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ – with the bank suggesting on social media that customers could use the banking services located at the local post office instead.

Cllr Davies said: “Simply put, the absence of NatWest banking van from Cardigan is completely unacceptable. Access to banking services had already been reduced due to the Christmas period, and Natwest’s cancellation last week was frustrating for many small businesses and customers looking to take advantage of the banking facilities available.

“The suggestion by NatWest that customers should rather use banking services at the local post office, is both and incorrect misleading with many services unavailable at the post office or may take a longer time to be processed.

“Frustratingly, many customers like myself were rather faced with a lengthy journey to Carmarthen or Aberystwyth as to partake in their banking duties – rather than the ability to do so locally, as should be the case.”

The mobile bank was also absent from Newcastle Emlyn on Thursday 3rd of January 2019, with local customers expressing frustration at a lack of prior notice to such absence.

Ben Lake MP, who has tabled a bill in Parliament aiming to enhance access to banking services in rural areas, added: “Customers across Ceredigion have been in contact to share problems they have encountered with the mobile banking service, and by far the most common complaint is the brief window of time that the van has at every stop. The loss of 5-day-a-week access with the closure of so many branches, and the transition to a slot of less than an hour each week is difficult enough, without last-minute cancellations such as these.

“There is no doubt that the way in which we bank is undergoing a transformation. Despite successive assurances and promises by high street banks that they are committed to serving our communities, the service that we receive in rural areas is greatly reduced. Whilst a mobile banking service is better than complete abandonment, it simply cannot offer the service that so many customers and businesses require. As such, I am pushing in my parliamentary bill for banks to co-locate in areas that they would otherwise vacate completely – to establish banking ‘hubs’ that would ensure rural areas can access the services that they need, throughout the week.”

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Ben Lake MP joins push to encourage more accessible rail journeys in Ceredigion

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Ben Lake MP has joined forces with the rail industry to encourage more disabled people in Ceredigion to travel by train using the Disabled Persons Railcard, which offers a third off journeys.

Ben Lake attended a parliamentary event on accessibility and inclusion in rail, hosted by the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail. The event showcased the work the rail industry is doing to change and improve the network to make it more accessible. This includes enabling disabled people to make more discounted journeys with the Disabled Persons Railcard.

Last year 2969 journeys starting from Ceredigion were made using the Railcard, up from 2401 in 2015. This compares to a 43% increase across the country as a whole, with Disabled Persons Railcard journeys rising from 5 million in 2015 to 7 million in 2019.

The Disabled Persons Railcard offers a third off adult rail fares at any time on the National Rail network for people with a disability, plus a companion. On average, passengers with the Disabled Persons Railcard save £108 a year, even after the £20 cost of the card is factored in.

The rise in accessible journeys reflects the work rail companies are doing to make services more accessible. The industry recently launched a new interactive ‘Access Map’ to make it easier for passengers to find out at a glance how accessible their local station is. The industry is also working together to improve passenger assistance bookings, with new technology currently being rolled out for staff and a customer app launching next summer to make bookings easier.

Since 2006, the rail industry has delivered £500million of improvements at stations including making them more accessible, with £300 million of additional funding from government to make 73 more stations accessible by 2024.

Ben Lake MP said: “Everyone in Ceredigion should have the opportunity to travel by train and today’s event shows the rail industry is working hard to improve accessibility across the country and make the railway easier for everyone to use. I’m pleased to work with the rail companies to raise awareness of the discounts offered by the Disabled Persons Railcard and hope more people will benefit from big savings that can be made.”

Jac Starr, chief operating officer at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies and Network Rail, said:

“We’re working hard to improve the railway, making more stations step-free and adding thousands of new and refurbished carriages which are more accessible. While record numbers of people are saving money with the Disabled Persons Railcard, we want everyone to benefit from the improvements we’re making which is why we’re encouraging eligible disabled people to sign up for a card and save on their journeys.”

Transport Accessibility Minster Nusrat Ghani said: “We are absolutely committed to improving the experience of disabled passengers across our network.

“Working alongside the Rail Delivery Group and Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, we are currently reviewing the eligibility criteria of the Disabled Persons Railcard, looking at how we can improve provisions for carers or companions.

“We also recently announced the 73 stations receiving a share of £300m of Access for All funding, as we work towards an entirely accessible transport network by 2030 with assistance if physical infrastructure remains a barrier.”

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Ceredigion County Council commits to be a net zero carbon council by 2030

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CEREDIGION councillors have supported a motion to make Ceredigion County Council a net zero carbon local authority by 2030. The councillors supported the motion in a meeting on 20 June 2019.

The agreed motion was based on Councillor Mark Strong’s initial motion which raised concerns about a Climate Crisis. An amendment was made to commit the council to an ambitious and specific target. Councillors also agreed that a clear plan should be developed within 12 months to achieve the net zero carbon status.

Councillors also called on Welsh and UK Governments to provide the support needed to achieve effective carbon reductions.

The motion was proposed by Councillor Mark Strong. He said, “Faced with a Climate Crisis, I am pleased that my fellow councillors have agreed that we need to take drastic action to reduce our emissions. The council has already reduced carbon emissions a great deal, but we must go much further.”

Earlier in the month, the council’s Cabinet approved its third Carbon Management Plan. The ambitious new plan is targeting a 15% reduction in emissions by 2023. The previous plans have achieved a 45% reduction of CO2 since 2007/8, a reduction of over 7,000 tons of CO2.

The new Carbon Management Plan includes a number of projects to achieve the emissions reduction target. They include investing in a new more energy efficient fleet of council vehicles and improving heating systems in Ceredigion schools.

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Cered organises a Thai food cooking evening

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Cered: Menter Iaith Ceredigion officers organised several nights of activities with the ‘Ffynnon’ youth club in Llandysul to provide new opportunities through the medium of Welsh for the older members in the club.

The nature of the collaboration was holding a training evening to cook Thai food and then the following week, use their newly found skills by hosting a Thai food evening for the community. The older youth members of ‘Ffynnon’ were given the opportunity to entertain local people through the medium of welsh and encourage those who were learners of the language to socialise in Welsh.

Llinos, Cered Development Officer, said, “This work was a great opportunity for Cered to work with ‘Ffynnon’, the young people in the club and the community. They learned all sorts of new skills such as cooking Thai food, planning every element of the evening from the food preparation, the decorating of the room, serving food and so on. It was lovely to see the young people eagerly engaged in the tasks and raising confidence in practical work and all this through the medium of Welsh.”

The evening was a sheer success, and the money raised will go towards humanitarian projects which will include a possible trip abroad to Zambia to volunteer in a children’s orphanage.

Steffan from ‘Ffynnon’ said, “In Y Ffynnon, we are eager to give opportunities not only to hear the love of God, but also to show that through serving the local community in Llandysul. The Thai night was a great experience and hopefully a start on what we hope will be a great year.”

Both nights were run by Sian Davies and Noi Francis. Siân Davies said, “It was wonderful to have the opportunity to work with Cered and Ffynnon to teach new skills to the young people, whilst also supporting them to raise money for their future plans. It was a pleasure to work with everyone, and they worked really hard to make the evening very successful.”

For more information about Cered: Menter Iaith Ceredigion events and activities, visit their website, cered.cymru or their Facebook page, @ceredmenteriaith. Or, get in touch by calling 01545 572 358.

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