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Swansea sets council tax at 2.99% spending extra £22m on services in next year

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One of the lowest council tax rises in Wales has been agreed by Swansea Council for the coming year alongside ‘record-levels of investment in community services’

Full council last night agreed budget proposals for an extra £22m of investment in services across the board next year, and a further £60m over the next four years.

Swansea Council Leader, Rob Stewart

Swansea Council Leader Rob Stewart said: “The last 12 months have been difficult, challenging and traumatic for many in our community. The council has transformed the way it operates to be here for the people of Swansea, supporting them through the pandemic.

“Thanks to the vaccination programme and the efforts of so many people in abiding by the rules, there is clear progress being made.

“This is a budget to help local businesses recover from Covid, to support families and residents who are struggling and to protect and create jobs and opportunities. It will invest heavily in services people rely on every day that have been even more critical this past year.”

Among the budget highlights:

  • Schools will get an extra £6.85m direct into classrooms, with £7.1m for new IT kit that has been such a help to schooling-at-home recently. Parents will see school meal prices frozen for the year.
  • Social care services which have borne the challenge of Covid-19 in supporting the vulnerable will get £7.7m more. Plus there’ll be £5.5m on top to absorb any further pandemic pressures.
  • For the environment there will be an extra £6.1m and new teams to deal with litter, street cleaning and extending pothole repair services. There will be a new rapid response team to deal with flood problems.
  • There will be more cash for better sports, park and community facilities, including £100,000 for improved public toilets, new free public wi-fi services and investment in planting thousands of new trees and developing more green space.
  • £50m for better council homes and £7.5m to build new ones, helping create new apprenticeships. £4m will be given to prevent and reduce homelessness with £330,000 targeted at continuing the ‘always a bed’ campaign for rough sleepers after the pandemic
  • Capital investment will see the completion of the new arena, plans for the greening of Castle Square garden, the introduction of new business and community services’ hubs in the city centre and other work designed to create thousands of new jobs and extra footfall to benefit business.

Cllr Stewart said that the 2.99% council tax rise was the equivalent to 63p a week for a typical Band B property.

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He said that thanks to strict financial management of resources the council has set a level of council tax which is fair but also reflects the additional pressures residents and families will be under following the pandemic.

He said: “The last 12 months have been very tough, traumatic times for many families. It is still early days but there are signs of recovery and, thanks to extra funding and support we’ve had from Welsh Government, Swansea will emerge from the pandemic with renewed optimism, vigour and ambition.”

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No redundancies are expected this year thanks to efforts made by the council to protect and invest jobs and services.

 The commitment to ensure the costs of the major city developments remain fully funded and do not fall to residents are maintained, with zero cost this year or for at least the next five years.

 Cllr Stewart said: “We are investing in community priorities that affect our lives and every penny will go directly to education, school social care, child-care or community priorities.

 “It is the equivalent of £4,000 for every family in Swansea, which represents record investment in the services that people rely on every day.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Arts and Entertainment

Swansea summer of fun set to follow airshow success

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Swansea’s amazing summer of fun is set to continue in the coming weeks following the high-flying success of the Wales Airshow.

The two-day Wales Airshow is the biggest free annual event in Wales and at the weekend tens of thousands were at the city’s prom to enjoy it.

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Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said it was nice to see the much-loved show that took a two-year break due to the pandemic back this year. It’s due to return on July 1 and 2 in 2023.

Last weekend’s show was just a curtain-raiser for an unprecedented year of high-flying entertainment and sports events taking place across the city this year.

Cllr Francis-Davies said: “We’ve got an incredible array of other events still to come, including major music acts like Nile Rodgers and Chic, Paul Weller and Anne-Marie, all of whom will be performing at Singleton Park this summer.

“And that’s on top of rock legend Elton John who made the Swansea.com Stadium his own last week as part of his farewell world tour.

“There will also be free international spectator events like IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea, Volvo 2022 World Triathlon Para Series Swansea and the Para Sport Festival, all of which are being hosted by the city in August.”  

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Anne-Marie will be playing Swansea’s Singleton Park on Saturday 30 July (Image: Wikimedia / Harald Krichel / Creative Commons)

Cllr Francis-Davies said: “The council made it a policy commitment that after two years of the pandemic, 2022 would be the best-ever year for exciting, world-class sport and entertainment in our city. Working alongside our partners and events promoters, we are delivering on that promise.”

He added: “There will also be excitement indoors as well as outdoors as all this will be taking place not much more than a stone’s throw from the Grand Theatre and Swansea Arena with their incredible line-ups of events and acts that’ll also be in full swing.

“All our events will be backed-up by our Destination Marketing teams who will be sharing the news of the big Swansea welcome across the UK. We’re backing local tourism and entertainment businesses and we want everyone planning a staycation in Wales and the UK to know about it.”

The council will also be supporting events arranged by other groups and organisations – from community bike rides to triathlons and duathlons.

Thousands flocked to Swansea Bay for the Wales Airshow (Image: Swansea Council)

Cllr Francis-Davies said: “Some special events to look out for are a Gala performance at Swansea Grand, to celebrate its 125th anniversary, and the return of Swansea Festival to the Brangwyn Hall.

He added: “Following on from the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, we will also see the return of popular events including food festivals and outdoor cinema.”

Cllr Francis-Davies said the council will also be helping host three national cultural programmes that will play out across the city throughout October. 

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He said: “The World Reimagined is a national public arts and education programme, focusing on better understanding our shared histories to make racial justice a reality.

“The education and community programme will run throughout the summer and result in a spectacular arts trail of globes in key locations, creating a new temporary visitor attraction for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.”

World Reimagined will take place alongside two major projects of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK – a national celebration of British creativity.

The first project sees Swansea hosting both the Welsh and UK wide commissions, including a walking trail by the Reading Agency, working with our libraries, virtual and augmented reality to bring reading and storytelling to life.

The second project is called GALWAD: A story from our future. It’s produced by Collective Cymru and will include a new performance by National Theatre Wales culminating in an immersive public performance in Swansea city centre.

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Cllr Francis-Davies said: “The latter part of this year sees the ever-popular Admiral Swansea Bay 10K in September, the annual Fireworks display and the not-to-be-missed Christmas Parade in November.

“All these events will demonstrate not only that Swansea is throwing open its doors to offer its biggest-ever welcome to visitors this year but it’ll also be a major boost for the events, tourism and hospitality sectors after a tough two years.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Charity

Swansea resident stars in film for homelessness charity Crisis

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Social justice documentary photographer and filmmaker, Alice Aedy, has produced two hard hitting and uplifting documentary films exploring the lives and experiences of two people who have experienced homelessness.

Working alongside Brother Film, a south London based production company, and award-winning director, Lucy Werrett, Alice Aedy’s films focus on the stories of Sylmarine and Swansea-resident John, their experiences of homelessness, and life in their new accommodation.

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Leading furniture retailer DFS, and Crisis, the national charity for people experiencing homelessness, commissioned Alice to create these films to showcase the incredible work that Crisis does to help those experiencing homelessness into permanent accommodation. The films also demonstrate how something as simple as a sofa can help people settle into their new homes and make it their own.

DFS has partnered with Crisis to donate sofas to members who have recently moved into new accommodation. A sofa means that Crisis members have somewhere to relax comfortably and enables them to have family and friends over, offering a welcoming space to be proud of – something that can help boost wellbeing and mental health.

Alice Aedy said: “Following the stories of John and Sylmarine through these films was an uplifting, but emotional experience. Hearing about their struggles with homelessness opens your eyes to the challenges faced by thousands of people up and down the UK and it’s a problem that is only growing.

“Crisis does extraordinary work to help those affected by homelessness and I hope these films serve as inspiration to those working to end homelessness and reassure those currently experiencing similar stories to John and Sylmarine.”

Kiran Ramchandani, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Crisis, said: “Across Britain, 227,000 families and individuals are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness – this includes people sleeping on the streets, stuck in insecure accommodation like B&Bs, or forced to sleep in cars and sheds because they don’t have a place to call home.

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“Crisis’ mission is to end homelessness, and, through our services, we support people to find permanent housing. Our partnership with DFS is so important as it turns houses into homes where people feel safe, settled and can rebuild their lives.

“We’re grateful to Alice Aedy for telling the powerful stories of two people we support and doing so with such care and humanity.”

John from Swansea talked about his experiences of homelessness, and how charity Crisis have helped

Joanne Shawcroft, Group People Director at DFS, said: “Being comfortable in our own home is something many of us take for granted. A safe, secure and welcoming space can play an important role in helping people rebuild their lives and through our partnership with Crisis, we are proud to have helped many people to feel more at home.

“With the support of Crisis, we’re donating £200,000 of furniture to people who have experienced homelessness, just like John and Sylmarine.”

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UK Government

Council looks for people’s view on how £41m funding pot should be spent in Swansea

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Worth over £41m to the city, Swansea Council want people’s views on how funding earmarked for the city should best be used in the next three years.

Swansea Council say responses to an online survey will help them develop a local investment plan aimed at addressing the city’s needs and making the most of its opportunities.

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Feedback from residents and businesses is needed on a number of key themes by midnight on Sunday July 17. These include communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills.

Once finalised, the local investment plan will then help inform a regional investment plan for South West Wales, which is aimed at unlocking £138m of UK Government Shared Prosperity Fund money that’s already been set aside for the region.

Swansea is set to benefit from £34.4m of this core funding, as well as a further £7.2m to improve the numeracy skills of adults.

The Shared Prosperity Fund is the main source of UK Government funding replacing the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund that are no longer available following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, although it is not a direct like-for-like replacement. 

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “Many organisations throughout Swansea made use of EU funds, so we know they’re interested in helping us decide how this funding should best be used over the next three years. 

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“Other people and organisations will have their own views too, which is why everyone is being encouraged to fill out the survey that’s now live on the council website.

“This is an opportunity to help determine how millions of pounds of money will best be spent to boost our communities, businesses and skills, so I’d invite as many people as possible to have their say.”

The regional investment plan will be submitted to the UK Government by August 1 for approval in the autumn.

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