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Fire safety plea as dry weather puts countryside on high alert

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WEEKS of unusually dry weather have put the UK countryside at high risk of fires which could be started by careless visitors, warns NFU Mutual.

The leading rural insurer is making a plea for people visiting the countryside not to use disposable barbecues, and to take care to avoid starting fires by accidentally dropping matches in such arid conditions.

Following an exceptionally dry spring, many parts of the UK countryside are at high risk of fires started by barbecues and cigarette ends, the insurer warns. These fires can put people, farm animals and wildlife at risk, as well as destroying natural habitats.

Over the past two months, firefighters have tackled grassland fires across the UK – including in South West England, Scotland and Wales.

In late March, a gorse fire on Dartmoor led to the closure of the busy A386 as the fire sent clouds of smoke across the carriageway.

In Wales, an early April grassfire near Stormy Down, Bridgend, caused damage to an area equal to about 25 football pitches.

On Salisbury Plain, a grassfire fire in early May which destroyed a plantation of trees was traced to a fire pit which had been used as a barbecue.

Scotland too has suffered a number of fires including one near Dumbarton in late April which required 20 firefighters to bring it under control.

Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, said: “After a very dry spring, a dropped match or smouldering barbecue is all that’s needed to start a serious fire in our fields and forests.

“With more hot weather forecast, as many people are heading to the countryside, we’re urging visitors to take care to avoid starting a fire. All too often, disposable barbecues, which seem to have gone out, smoulder for hours and start fires which can engulf acres of growing crops and wildlife habitats.”

NFU Mutual claims statistics reveal the cost of farm fires totalled £69m in 2020 – a 40% rise from 2019.

NFU Mutual Countryside Fire Prevention Guide

Don’t drop used matches or cigarettes – they can smoulder and start a fire
Don’t use disposable barbecues on grass or moorland
Call 999 if you spot a grassland or moorland fire while out in the countryside
Avoid parking in country lanes where emergency services vehicle access could be blocked
Don’t drop litter – discarded bottles can focus sunlight and start a fire
Keep to footpaths when walking in the countryside
More information about safety in the countryside is available from NFU Mutual’s website: www.nfumutual.co.uk

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Ceredigion public transport services arrangements challenging

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WORK is ongoing to provide sustainable and affordable travel opportunities by bus.

A procurement process is currently underway to secure statutory learner transport requirements as well as opportunities for the general public to travel by bus on a number of routes in Ceredigion.

With the current arrangements coming to an end on 31 December 2022, tenders received for local bus routes are being evaluated. There is particular focus on their affordability taking into account the significant increases in tendered prices.

Unfortunately, no tender has been received for operating the 585 service, Aberystwyth-Tregaron-Lampeter. Unless a last minute contract can be negotiated, the non-school journeys on this route will not operate as of January 2023.

Opportunities for the general public to travel on some learner travel services will continue from January 2023 onwards. This is due to the integrated nature of the bus network in Ceredigion.

Councillor Keith Henson, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Transport Services said, “It is a very difficult time for the bus industry with spiralling costs, a lack of qualified Public Service Vehicle (PSV) drivers, uncertainty around future funding arrangements and low passenger numbers. The number of people using buses in Wales has been in decline for a number of years. This has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to the amount of public funding required to subsidise local bus services rising dramatically on already stretched public finance budgets.

The Council will continue in its efforts to work with key stakeholders including local bus operators, Welsh Government and Transport for Wales to provide sustainable and affordable travel opportunities by bus. However, in the short term at least, it has to be recognised that the outlook is very challenging.”

Further updates will be provided in due course while officers focus their attention on providing the best level of travel opportunities possible.

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Flood warnings issued in parts of Ceredigion

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FLOOD warnings have been issued in Borth, Borth River Leri and the tidal area at Aberystwyth seafront.

The high tide is expected at 8:15pm on Thursday 24 November 2022 at Borth. Wave overtopping at the seafront is expected to occur between 7:15pm and 9:45pm. The properties closest to the sea front are most at risk.

If you are worried or experiencing flooding, call Floodline on 0345 988 1188.

You can visit Natural Resources Wales website to see the current flood warnings in force, check the river and sea levels or keep an eye on the 5-day flood risk forecast: https://naturalresources.wales/?lang=en

You can also follow Ceredigion County Council, Natural Resources Wales and the Met Office on social media for updates on the weather situation.

Any further details will be updated on this page: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/novemberfloodwarnings

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Winter Fuel Support Scheme open for applications

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ELIGIBLE households are reminded to apply to the Winter Fuel Support Scheme for support towards paying winter fuel bills.

Welsh Government has re-launched the Winter Fuel Support Scheme for 2022 – 2023 as part of a £90m support package to address immediate pressures on living costs.

To date, Ceredigion County Council has assisted over 5,000 households with these payments, and paid out in excess of £1million. So, if you are facing increased fuel bills and think that you may qualify, please submit your application as soon as possible. Eligible households can claim a one-off £200 payment to provide support towards paying their energy bills for their primary residence in Wales.

The scheme is open to households where the applicant or their partner is responsible for paying the energy bills and is in receipt of one of the following benefits (at any time between 1 September 2022 and 31 January 2023):

Income Support
Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
Income Related Employment & Support Allowance
Universal Credit
Working Tax Credits
Child Tax Credits
Pension Credit
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Carers Allowance
Contributory Based/New Style Job Seekers Allowance
Contributory Based/New Style Employment & Support Allowance
Armed Forces Independence Payment
Constant Attendance Allowance
War Pension Mobility Supplement

If the applicant or their partner who is liable for the fuel costs does not receive any of the above qualifying benefits then they may still be eligible for a payment if a qualifying person lives with them. A qualifying person must meet all the following:

occupy the applicant’s or partner’s home as their primary residence, and
is a dependent child or an adult living with the applicant or their partner, and
is in receipt of one of the following benefits (at any time between 1 September 2022 and 31 January 2023):
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Attendance Allowance
Armed Forces Independence Payment
Constant Attendance Allowance
War Pension Mobility Supplement

The payment will be available to all eligible households regardless of whether they pay for their energy on a pre-payment meter, by direct debit or by paying a bill quarterly. The fuel received can be on or off grid.

Councillor Gareth Davies, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Finance and Procurement Services, said: “I would encourage people facing higher fuel bills to check if they are eligible for the Winter Fuel Assistance Scheme to get invaluable help with fuel bills when it is most needed.”

Applications can be made up until 5pm on 28 February 2023 on the Council website: https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/benefits/winter-fuel-support-scheme/

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