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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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Police issue warning to community over ‘fake beggars’

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POLICE in Aberystwyth are warning the community about a fraudulent group who have been travelling to the area to beg.

Many residents and visitors have donated cash believing members of the group are genuinely in need.

PC Phil Woodland: “I’m proud to work in a town where people want to help each other, but in this case, their kindness is being exploited.

“We’ve tried working with the group to ensure they have the support they need, and through this effort it’s become clear they are not genuinely homeless. We are using legal powers where possible and necessary to deal with the issue.

“Giving money to someone who is begging is a personal choice, however, on this occasion the community is being misled. At the end of the day, these people are returning to their homes – they are essentially scamming people.”

Those involved are described as men and women of Romanian descent, aged between 30 and 50. Police say they visit Aberystwyth on the train or bus, and return home to Cardiff at the end of the day.

The situation is being monitored by the neighbourhood policing team, and anyone with information is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police online: http://bit.ly/dppReportOnline, by email: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

If you are concerned about someone you believe is sleeping rough, StreetLink exists to help connect them with the local services that can provide support: https://www.streetlink.org.uk/

Shelter Cymru offers practical advice on how to help someone who is begging, or you believe is homeless, on their website: https://sheltercymru.org.uk/7-ways/

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Community

RNLI in Wales urges people to stay safe as Storm Brendan hits

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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is urging people to stay safe near the Welsh coast as severe weather could make our seas and coastlines particularly dangerous.

Lifesaving charity, the RNLI, is encouraging people to exercise extreme caution if visiting the shoreline, especially along exposed cliffs, seafronts and piers.

The expected strong winds and severe gales pose a severe safety risk to those visiting the coast.

Named Storm Brendan by Met Eireann, it swept eastwards across Ireland before making its way through the rest of the UK this morning with yellow wind warning in place for most of the Welsh coast.

Chris Cousens, RNLI Regional Water Safety Lead for Wales said:

‘This rough weather could make visiting parts of the Welsh coastline treacherous and bring very dangerous sea conditions.

‘Sadly, around 150 people lose their lives on British and Irish coasts each year and over half of these people didn’t plan on ever entering the water. Slips, trips and falls can be a major factor in these kinds of incidents.’

If you see someone else in danger in the water, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. If you have something that floats that they can hold on to, throw it to them. Don’t go in the water yourself – too many people drown trying to save others.

The charity, which provides a search and rescue service around the UK and Ireland, is facing its own Perfect Storm as demand for its services has increased but it is facing a shortfall in funds. This past year, the RNLI has been busier than ever, and stormy conditions can mean additional call outs for the already extremely busy volunteer crews. Whatever the weather, RNLI volunteers will still be on call to rescue those at difficulty at sea.

The RNLI’s major new fundraising appeal, The Perfect Storm, which aims to help the charity get back to living within its means, is running throughout November and December. To find out more or to donate visit RNLI.org/ThePerfect Storm.

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Community

Are you missing out on a Council Tax reduction?

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IF YOU’RE struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, then help could be available for you through the Welsh Government’s flagship Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS).

The scheme, which will continue to support vulnerable households in 2020-21, currently benefits one in five of all households in Wales. In the last year almost 280,000 low-income households have received help from the scheme, with 220,000 paying no council tax at all. Many more receive other discounts or exemptions.

You may be entitled to pay less council tax if:

• you believe you live on a low income
• you live alone, or with people/children who do not pay council tax
• you are a student
• you are disabled
• you are severely mentally impaired

Understanding why there are still vulnerable households not benefitting from the help they are entitled to is a priority for the Welsh Government. Last year we commissioned research to understand the circumstances of households in Wales and the effects of the UK Government’s Universal Credit on the CTRS.

The interim report out today shows that for many households, the move to Universal Credit can have a significant impact on council tax reduction awards. Whilst many households currently receiving a 100% reduction will continue to do so, for others, the move to Universal Credit is shown to have an adverse impact, particularly for employed households, self-employed households, and working households in receipt of a Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

Full findings of the interim report are available on the Welsh Government website. These findings will now be considered in more detail to inform the next stages of the research and policy development in this area.

Encouraging people to make sure they are not missing out on help they could be entitled to, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said:

“Ensuring every household in Wales receives the council tax support they are entitled to is an important part of our commitment to making council tax fairer.

“Our scheme is already helping hundreds of thousands of households across Wales, but we know that there are still many missing out on the discounts, reductions and exemptions they are entitled to. I encourage everyone to check the Welsh Government website to find out if they could be paying less.”

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