31/12/2012

Ceredigion keeps best records of homophobic bullying


Ceredigion Council is the best in Wales at recording homophobic bullying in schools. 

The Council have recorded 73 incidents since 2010. The next nearest was Conwy with 18 followed by Gwynedd and Bridgend with one each. The other 18 Councils in Wales did not keep central records.
The information was obtained by Plaid Cymru using the Freedom of Information Act. Lindsay Whittle, Plaid’s Shadow Equalities spokesperson and Assembly Member for South Wales East, said:
“This survey is worrying because it reveals that most local authorities are in the dark over the extent of homophobic bullying and, possibly, bullying generally.
“Some local authorities like Ceredigion and Conwy clearly have systems in place to record this information which is to be applauded. Knowing the extent of any problem is key to dealing with it, so something needs to change.  I will be raising this issue in the new year in the National Assembly.”  

Plaid Leader Leanne Wood also commented here on ITV.
Image source: Stars, Aberystwyth

27/12/2012

Tai Ceredigion warn of looming housing benefits crisis


Tai Ceredigion have warned that upcoming changes to housing benefit will mean serious financial problems for some people that could lead to increased homelessness in the county.

The not-for-profit housing association took over the County Council’s housing stock in 2009. Their Chief Executive, Steve Jones, now says,
“The Government’s 40% public sector capital cutbacks will inevitably reduce spending on housing and thereby compound the current desperate housing shortage. Whilst homelessness is often associated with cities, the rural situation is as bad, if not worse, because of the limited supply of accommodation available.

"There is a huge need for more social housing in Ceredigion to meet the needs of local people, many of whom are on very low incomes. These include working single persons and families who are going to be worst hit by the UK Government's changes to Housing Benefit for single persons under 35 years as well as the Bedroom Tax to be introduced in April 2013.

"The Bedroom Tax will affect working age tenants in homes where they do not use all bedrooms. There is widespread talk of people in their 40s and 50s ‘under occupying’  three-bedroom houses and that they should move to smaller one or two-bedroom accommodation - but in rural areas like Ceredigion, where are these properties? They simply do not exist and the UK 40% capital spending cut means there is a lot less Social Housing Grant available to build new smaller homes” . 

The Association has produced data and modelling to highlight the effect of the Westminster Government's Bedroom Tax on over 300 of Tai Ceredigion's tenants. They say this will mean the loss of around £180,000 per annum in Housing Benefit income for Tai Ceredigion tenants and therefore the local economy.

The planned cap on increases in benefits over the next three years contained in the Government’s recent spending announcement will also mean further reductions in income for tenants (including private sector tenants) for the next three years.

“This is going to lead to increased rent arrears and an increase in evictions and homelessness at a time when homelessness and numbers on the Social Housing Register is already increasing sharply,” says Steve Jones.

“Last year Tai Ceredigion more than doubled the number of properties made available to the Council for use as temporary accommodation, from 20 to over 40, but there is a real danger that the Council will be forced to put families with young children back into bed and breakfast accommodation.

"This housing crisis is going from bad to worse and we have specialist staff currently advising all of our affected tenants on benefits, so that we can prepare them as best as possible for these major cuts to their already low incomes."

Tai Ceredigion has 2227 rented homes and 137 leasehold dwellings in the county. Its charitable status ensures that income can be ploughed back into improving tenants’ homes and running the housing service.

24/12/2012

18/12/2012

The Welsh language census results for Ceredigion


The census figures for 2011, recently announced by the Office for National Statistics showed the percentage of Welsh speakers in Ceredigion down 4.68 per cent - 2,954 in hard numbers - compared to the last census in 2001.

A percentage drop of some kind was generally expected, although not necessarily this much, because it’s well-known that there is significant net migration into the county. The figure has gone from 51% down to  47.35%. However the big shock is that 2,954 fewer people in the county recorded themselves as speaking Welsh compared to 2001. People have been asking how this can be, given the increase in Welsh language education, and it’s worth starting the process of unpicking what has gone on. The first place to start is to look at the figures for Welsh speakers in the different age groups in Ceredigion compared to the 2001 census. The figures below are provided by the superb Syniadau blog:

The age group is followed by the number of Ceredigion Welsh speakers up or down and then the percentage up or down.

Age 3-4:  Up 15 / Up 2.35% 
Age 5-9:  Down 599 / Up 2.02%    
Age 10-14: Down 387 / Up 1.6%   
Age 15-19:  Down 219 / Down 11.65%   
Age 20–24:  Up 433 / Up 1.01%  
Age 25-39:  Down 1039 / Down 2.19%  
Age 40-49:  Down 433 / Down 3%
Age 50-59:  Down 664 / Down 2.54%
Age 60-64:  Up 144 / Down 8.27%
Age 65-74:  Down 40 / Down 8.58% 
Age 75+:  Down 165 / Down 6.27%

Remember, these figures are but one snapshot in time last year compared to another snapshot in time ten years ago.

The first thing to state is the positive point that the percentages of Welsh speakers for all ages up to 14 in the county are up, undoubtedly due to the steadily improving Welsh-language provision in the County’s schools. There also seem to be more Welsh-speaking students at Ceredigion's two universities. It’s just that, despite the good work being done, there are simply far fewer children in the county now, and the good effect of these is being outweighed by other factors. There are huge age-related demographic changes at work here that health professionals have been warning about for years.

The key factor in the lower numbers isn’t older Welsh-speakers dying, as might be expected. By far the biggest drop is amongst the 25-39 age group. This is echoed by the total population changes shown below compared to 2001 where, again, the biggest change is in the 25-39 age group (although I recognise the age groupings given aren’t equal).

Age 3-4      Down 32
Age 5-9      Down 838
Age 10-14  Down 548
Age 15-19  Up 970
Age 20-24  Up 1154
Age 25-39  Down 1603
Age 40-49  Down 338
Age 50-59  Down 909
Age 60-64  Up 1270
Age 65-74  Up 1409
Age 75+     Up 518

So the key overall population factors for Ceredigion are that children are down, students are up, those in both early and late middle age are down and all ages over 60 are up. The net total shows there are now 73,847 people over the age of three in Ceredigion compared to 72,884 ten years ago.

Although the number of people over 60 moving to the County seems, according to the figures, to be cutting the percentage of Welsh speakers, I’m not convinced this makes the crucial difference to the vitality of the language. The key factor for Ceredigion is the devastating loss of 1603 people - 1039 Welsh speakers - between the ages of 25-39. As a comparison, it’s worth recording that, in Cardiff, there was an increase of 9,800 in this age group compared to 2001 and this included 1,162 more Welsh speakers. The losses in Ceredigion continue up to age 59. Losing so many economically active people represents a crisis for the local economy as well as for the Welsh language.

More census details will be released next year, including the figures for those living in the rest of the UK recording their first language as Welsh. However there was no provision in the census to record those Welsh speakers outside Wales not stipulating Welsh as their first language, so we’ll never know the total number. This is a regular and serious omission in all censuses and implies that Welsh is not taken seriously as a ‘British’ language. According to Syniadau, anything between 52,000 and 89,000 Welsh speakers are now estimated to move out of Wales over a ten-year period.

Talking with friends in the pub last night, we all knew of people once very active in the Welsh-speaking community who had moved to England. All of these were highly intelligent people who had moved with the greatest reluctance but had really been left with no other career option. Some will be back. I suspect the majority will not, unless we can start to turn the economy around.

Last week Ceredigion Council heard that their application to turn Ysgol Gynradd Aberteifi into a Welsh-medium primary school had been successful. Focussing in this way on the young people that we have, coupled with providing the good jobs, housing and prospects that bright, career-minded local people need, must be the future of the Welsh language in Ceredigion. How we can do this in the current climate is the big question.

05/12/2012

Ceredigion Council Leader wins Local Politician of the Year Award

Whilst we're on the subject of awards, Ceredigion's Council Leader Ellen ap Gwynn (right) has tonight won the ITV Wales Local Politician of the Year Award. The award was given to her for showing strong leadership when floods hit North Ceredigion in June, after just a month in office. 

Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood won the Campaigner of the Year Award for her successful party leadership campaign.

All parties were represented on the judging panel. The photo shows Ellen with a framed cartoon presented by former Assembly Member Nerys Evans.

Aberystwyth Town Hall wins Building Commendation Award



It’s been more than a little controversial at times, but the conversion of Aberystwyth’s Old Town Hall in Queens Road, by an in-house Council team, into the Town Library, County Archive and Day Centre has been awarded the 2012 Commendation Award by CLAW, the Consortium of Local Authorities in Wales.

CLAW’s annual report says,
“The scheme is a very effective project putting to good modern use an iconic structure in the heart of Aberystwyth Conservation Area. The judges considered the design team had a particularly difficult challenge to achieve a modern open-plan layout within a former cellular plan building. It was good to see the building retained for community use within the town.”

The CLAW Building of the Year Award was given to the REGAIN Building at The Works in Ebbw Vale.

The Library had it's official opening as Canolfan Alun R. Edwards in September. The Day Centre is holding an open day on Saturday 8th December between 10am and 12.30.