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Aber student fuels his future with fare splitting petrol app

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A YOUNG entrepreneur studying in Aberystwyth has designed a fare splitting app that solves the problem of dividing petrol costs between friends when one person is the ‘designated driver’.

Friendfare, the brainchild of Jack Thomson, 21, calculates the amount of petrol spent per journey based on car type and distance, making it easy for lift-sharing friends to fairly split the cost between them.

The software engineering student at Aberystwyth University came up with the idea with his cousin Tom and friend Rob after spending long journeys travelling to various mountain bike locations around Wales. Following their trips they were inevitably faced with the task of working out how much the designated driver was owed.

Applying his knowledge of software design to solving this common problem, Jack spent several months designing and perfecting Friendfare. And his efforts are now bearing fruit with the app set to launch next month on both iOS and Android platforms.

Speaking about the launch of Friendfare, Jack said: “I hope Friendfare will be a handy solution to the common conundrum of when friends are trying to work out how much they owe each other in petrol costs.

“It’s gone through several prototype stages and been heavily influenced by user feedback to ensure it’s easy and functional to use. It’s been a labour of love and I can’t wait for it to go live now!”

Despite the app not being available to the public just yet, Jack is already thinking of ways to develop the Friendfare concept further still, in order to help facilitate solutions to other problematic day-to-day finance issues, such as bill splitting at a restaurant.

And crucially Jack is also developing mobile payment functionality within the app’s range of services, so Friendfare can become a full service mobile application.

Jack continued: “I believe there are real opportunities to branch out beyond lift sharing and now I am comfortable with building and developing the app, I’m actively looking for ways to continue expanding and evolving Friendfare’s offering.”

Tony Orme, careers consultant at Aberystwyth University said: “Jack is a fantastic example of a student applying entrepreneurial thinking to their studies to start their own business. At Aberystwyth we encourage all our students to act upon their entrepreneurial flair to enhance their own experience at university and increase their employability when they graduate. We’re looking forward to seeing Jack’s app launch soon and wish him every success in the future.”

Jack created the Friendfare app with the support of Big Ideas Wales, the support service for young entrepreneurs aged 5 to 25. Big Ideas Wales, which forms part of the Welsh Government’s Business Wales Service, and is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, provides business support and mentoring for young people to enable them to kick start their business ideas.

Jack credits Big Ideas Wales with supporting his entrepreneurial ambitions, in particular his business advisor Sam Allen. Jack first heard about Big Ideas Wales through his university Entrepreneurship Society and soon after had his first meeting with Sam.

Sam was able to offer Jack advice on how to develop his business, as well as advising him about upcoming events hosted by Big Ideas Wales that could benefit him, including the annual ‘Bootcamp to Business’ event in Margam Discovery Centre.

The three-day residential workshop in November last year played host to fifty young entrepreneurs with the aim of equipping them with the essential skills they need to help get their business ready and grow their network of connections. It was here that Jack received advice from Big Ideas Wales mentors about his business plan, as well as meeting other likeminded young entrepreneurs.

Jack said: “Bootcamp was amazing. I left feeling so inspired and found myself constantly thinking of new business ideas. I’d encourage anyone with even the start of a business idea to think about attending the next Bootcamp event, as it will give you the information and tools you need to get it off the ground.”

The next Bootcamp to Business will be held at Rhyd-y-creuau, Betws y Coed, Conwy between 2nd – 4th March 2018. To apply for a place and for more information, visit www.bigideas.wales

The Welsh Government’s Big Ideas Wales programme encourages and supports young people aged between 5 and 25 to develop entrepreneurial skills and start a business. Part of the Business Wales Service, it is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund. For more information, and to access support, visit – www.bigideas.wales

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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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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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