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Businesses encouraged to enter deaf friendly awards

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ORGANISATIONS in Ceredigion that go above and beyond to create workspaces and services that support the one in six people in Wales who are deaf or hard of hearing are being encouraged to enter Wales’ only deaf friendly awards.

The Action on Hearing Loss Cymru Excellence Wales awards, which have been running since 2015, recognise businesses that take steps to make their services accessible to the 575,500 people in Wales who are deaf or have hearing loss.

Action on Hearing Loss, formerly RNID, has been supporting deaf people and people with hearing loss and tinnitus since 1911. The charity launched the Excellence Wales awards to celebrate organisations who excel in making their services and workspaces truly accessible to those affected by hearing loss.

The 2019 Excellence Wales awards are open to all public services, social enterprises, private companies and voluntary organisations providing services in Wales. There are eight award categories including Excellence in Health services, Excellence in the Art and Entertainment Industry and overall Excellent Employer.

Entries will be judged by a panel of people who are deaf or have hearing loss and the awards will be presented to the country’s eight most outstanding organisations at a ceremony at St David’s Hotel, Cardiff Bay, on Friday 17th May. ITV Wales correspondent, Carole Green, will be hosting the awards, while AOHL volunteer, donors and previous award winners will also be attendance. Western Power Distribution, winners of last year’s overall Excellence in Service award, will be supporting this year’s event.

A special award will also be presented to an organisation in Wales which is taking positive steps to improve and develop their services for people who are deaf or have hearing loss. The People’s Choice award will be voted for by the public and awarded to an organisation which provides outstanding assistance to people who are deaf or have hearing loss.

Daisy Cole, Director for Wales at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “The awards are a key event in the charity’s calendar and we always enjoy reading through the nominations we receive detailing the work of some of Wales’ most outstanding organisations. The changes they make to their workplaces and customer facing environments to make sure their services are accessible to the 20 percent of the Welsh public that are deaf or hard of hearing are amazing to see. Since launching the honours five years ago, we have presented Excellence Awards to over 20 Welsh companies from across Wales and we can’t wait to see what this year’s competition holds.

“Deafness and hearing loss is on the rise and our research shows that by 2035, one-fifth of all people in Wales will be affected, often with a devastating impact to their daily lives. By placing a spotlight on excellence in supporting people with hearing loss as customers and employers we can change lives and provide inspiration to other employers to follow suit.”

Nominations for the awards are now open and the headline for entries is Sunday 17th March 2019. Organisations can submit nominations via the Action on Hearing Loss website (https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/about-us/our-work-across-the-uk/wales/the-excellence-wales-awards/entry-form/) or by emailing excellencewales@hearingloss.org.uk or calling 02920 333034. Tickets to the awards ceremony can by booked by visiting https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/excellence-wales-awards-tickets-55332789864.

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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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