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Father and son protest RNLI ‘taking vital equipment away’

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FATHER and son, Huw (43) and Steffan Williams (9), can be seen today (Jan 10) walking half-dressed and barefoot to the RNLI stand at the London Boat Show, at the ExCel exhibition centre, in a symbolic protest against the RNLI ‘taking vital equipment away’ from their lifeboat station in west Wales.

The pair travelled over two hundred and fifty miles to the capital to raise awareness of the RNLI’s plan to remove the only all-weather lifeboat from the county of Ceredigion in 2020, creating what has been dubbed the ‘Drowning Gap’ by the Ceredigion Lifeboat Campaign.

The ‘Drowning Gap’ is the sea area in Cardigan Bay which is currently served by an all-weather lifeboat at New Quay. Under the RNLI’s current plans, when this boat is withdrawn at the end of its operational life, there will be a gap of over 70 miles of coastline between the nearest all-weather lifeboat stations in Barmouth and Fishguard.

There has been an all-weather lifeboat in New Quay for over one hundred and fifty years but, while the RNLI are rolling out state-of-the-art Shannon class all-weather lifeboats around the coast of the UK and Ireland, New Quay has been chosen as one of the first stations to lose all-weather lifeboat capability in the RNLI’s recent Coast Review.

Whilst the RNLI has refused to publish its Coast Review report, it is clear that the decision to downgrade lifesaving provision will result in cost savings running into millions of pounds. However, a report published by the Ceredigion Lifeboat Campaign claims that 25% of rescues carried out by New Quay’s all-weather lifeboat could not have been achieved by the inshore lifeboat that the RNLI plan to station in New Quay.

Speaking at the show Huw Williams, a volunteer RNLI crewman and spokesperson for the Ceredigion Lifeboat Campaign said: “The Ceredigion coast is busy with passenger boats, leisure craft, and commercial fishing activity. Boats can sink and people can get swept out to sea in seconds. It is well documented that hypothermia is a killer after 30 minutes, and that means that every second counts. Whilst inshore lifeboats are good at what they do, they cannot launch in severe weather, meaning a wait of up to 90 minutes for a lifeboat to arrive.

“The introduction of new, faster lifeboats was supposed to improve rescue capability but, in Ceredigion, we will see a return to response times not seen since the 1970s and 80s. This puts lives at risk unnecessarily. As lifeboat crew members, we are happy to give our time voluntarily; all we ask for is the right equipment for the job.”

Joining Huw in London is his son, Steffan. Last summer, at only eight years old, Steffan made headlines across the world after twice rescuing people cut off by the tide. Steffan is passionate about the water, and particularly lifeboats. As well as being a keen RNLI fundraiser, he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lifeboat crewman.

Steffan commented: “I am very upset that the RNLI are not replacing our lifeboat with a new Shannon. I want to join the crew when I am 17 years old and hope they will change their minds. The sea can be dangerous and we need the right boat to help people when it’s stormy. One day, I hope to be the coxswain.” Unless the RNLI change their minds, Steffan’s ambition now seems to be out of the question.”

Huw added: “The RNLI’s ‘Plans and Purpose’ states: “We aim to ensure our crews can reach at least 90% of all casualties within 10 nautical miles of the coast, within 30 minutes of a lifeboat launch – in any weather.” Under the RNLI’s current plans, this will be unachievable in Ceredigion from 2020. Why are we being treated differently?”

To find out more about the campaign to save New Quay’s all-weather lifeboat, visit www.ceredigionlifeboatcampaign.org.uk.

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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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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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