For the second time in its 98-year history, Swansea Building Society held its annual general meeting (AGM) behind closed doors, due to COVID-19 restrictions, although members were still able to engage in the process via video and telephone link.
The Society also donated £2,500 to the Wales Air Ambulance based on a pound for each vote received.
The Society usually hosts its AGM at the Liberty Stadium where high numbers of members can attend. For the second year running, due to restrictions on public gatherings, it held the event via a conference call, inviting members to vote by ballot paper, submit questions in advance, and for the first year allowing members to attend the meeting via video and telephone link.
During the event, held at noon on Thursday, April 22, the Society also donated £1 per vote to its official charity: Wales Air Ambulance. In the end, with 2,180 votes cast, it rounded the figure up to £2,500. This is the most generous charitable gesture of its nature (based on encouraging members to vote) of any building society in the UK.
This donation adds to the £10,718 the Society raised for this valuable medical rescue service during 2020, helping it achieve its long-held ambition of becoming a 24/7 service across Wales, and allowing it to keep helicopters in the air during an unprecedented year.
At the event, the board of the Society presented and explained its best-ever set of results to members. During the year it benefitted from supporting local communities by keeping its growing network of local branches across South Wales open through the pandemic, whilst ago reaping the rewards of a five-year investment programme started in 2015.
Its total assets, mortgage balances, savings, capital and profits all reached record highs last year despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This planned increase was the result of a comprehensive investment plan kickstarted in 2015, which has seen it open three new branches, upgrade back-office systems, implement new technologies, and hire new talent across the business.
Employees in the financial services sector were classed as key workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as the government wanted to ensure individuals had access to their finances. By keeping all of its branch offices open for face-to-face and telephone/e-mail contact, Swansea Building Society was able to welcome many new savers and mortgage customers despite the challenges of the last 12 months.
The full recording of the session, as well as the Society’s full set of results, will be available from May 1, on its website: swansea-bs.co.uk.
Alun Williams, Chief Executive of Swansea Building Society, said: “These are unprecedented times and we have been forced to adapt. Despite again not being able to hold the AGM in a physical form, members remained engaged in the process, casting votes and submitting questions in advance.
“We are also proud to present a record set of results to members, which we feel reflect the success of the five-year investment programme we started in 2015 and our ethos of keeping branches open and our services accessible to members throughout this challenging time.”
For the 12 months to December 31, 2020, the Society’s total assets increased by £44.1 million to £414.4m, a growth rate of 12%; its mortgage balances increased by £29.6 million to £302.9 million, an increase of 11%; and its savings balances increased by £41.1 million to £386.8 million, a 12% rise. All of the growth in net mortgage lending was funded by increases in retail savings balances from personal customers deposits.
The Society posted a pre-tax profit of £3.3 million compared with the £2.3 million it made a year earlier in 2019. Although its levels of mortgage lending were slightly down due to the disruption of the pandemic (£67.1 million versus £74.3 million a year earlier) it also reduced its expenses to £4.8 million compared with £5.0 million in 2019. The Society has now delivered annual pre‐tax profits greater than £2m in each of the last seven years.
Swansea Building Society remains one of the few financial institutions in the UK that receives no wholesale funding or support from the Bank of England in the form of cheap funding. Its balance sheet is funded entirely by customer savings balances and its own capital reserves built up from retained profits over many years.
Lead image: Swansea Building Society has adopted the Wales Air Ambulance as its chairity pictured at the Wales Air Ambulance headquarters in Llanelli are (from left) air ambulance clinician Cat Bryceland, Richard Miles head of Savings at Swansea Building Society, Dr Ian Bowler air ambulance crew member, Sioned Jones Swansea Buidling Society Area manager for West Wales, air ambulance clinical care practitioner Rhyan Curtin and air ambulance pilot Captain Jenny Stevenson.
Mayor of Llandovery raises over £2k for air ambulance after surviving freak cycling accident
The Mayor of Llandovery in Carmarthenshire has raised over £2,000 for Wales Air Ambulance after surviving a freak cycling accident that left him unconscious at the side of the road and saw TWO air ambulances sent to his aid.
Mayor Handel Davies and his wife Margaret raised £2,280 during the annual Mayors Charity Ball.
The successful ball, which included an auction of rugby related paraphernalia and a raffle, also raised funds for Llandovery Hospital League of Friends.
Over 110 guests enjoyed an evening of entertainment, which included ‘an excellent address’ from Wales Air Ambulance chair of trustees David Gilbert. Over £4,500 was raised during the evening for the two good causes.
The Mayor and Mayoress presented the cheque to David Gilbert at a recent base visit at the Wales Air Ambulance’s headquarters in Llanelli.
The mayor has had personal experience of the essential service the Wales Air Ambulance provides after the Charity’s medics were called out to him during the pandemic.
Handel was involved in a freak accident when a dog ran out in front of him whilst out cycling. He was knocked unconscious for 15 minutes and despite two air ambulances being called out to him, luckily for Handel he didn’t need to be airlifted to hospital.
Mr Davies said: “A sheepdog literally appeared from nowhere at full speed in the blink of an eye hitting the front wheel of my bike at right angles causing me to fall immediately. It happened so quickly I do not remember hitting the road, but the eyewitness commented that had I not been wearing a helmet I would not have survived. The shattered interior of the helmet is evidence of this.
“It took 6-9 months to really recover and get over the impact, which following another serious cycling accident when I was 18, has led me to decide to ‘hang up’ my bicycle and instead attend ‘spin classes’ at the local leisure centre.”
The Wales Air Ambulance Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep its emergency helicopters in the air and its rapid response vehicles on the road.
The 24/7 emergency service offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’. The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia, and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care.
Reflecting on why the 24/7 Charity was chosen to benefit from the Mayor’s charity Ball, he added: “I have the utmost respect for the incredible and invaluable work the Wales Air Ambulance undertake and as we live in a beautiful part of north Carmarthenshire next to road which is very popular with both cyclists and motor bikers, over the last 25 years we have seen many accidents along this stretch of the A4069 particularly at weekends.
“It seems that almost every weekend during the summer months a Wales Air Ambulance flies overhead to attend to an incident.”
Jane Griffiths Wales Air Ambulance’s Community Fundraising Manager said: “It was lovely to meet the Mayor and Mayoress of Llandovery during their recent base visit. They’ve raised a fantastic amount for two important causes and we’re extremely grateful for them choosing the Wales Air Ambulance as one of the charities to benefit from the Mayors Charity Ball.
“It’s lovely to hear that the mayor has recovered from his freak accident, and we wish him well for the future. Your support of our lifesaving Charity is much appreciated and will help us to continue to be there for the people of Wales when they need us most.”
Premature baby doing well thanks to emergency crews and hospital staff
A young Swansea couple whose son was born prematurely at around 30 weeks have been reunited with some of the emergency crews who helped safeguard the child and swiftly get them the care they needed.
Since the birth of their son Hunter in November, Jenna Cullen and partner Jack Harris, both 28, experienced several traumatic months with Hunter spending time in a specialist neonatal care unit at Singleton Hospital, Swansea.
At birth, Hunter weighed just 700g, but now safely back home together in Swansea and with Hunter weighing a fantastic 9lbs, the proud parents have reached out to tell their story and highlight the work of the Welsh Ambulance Service and the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer team who attended them.
Jenna, who works for the DVLA, said: “Everything was fairly normal until around 20 weeks when I lost a lot of water, and after a scan they put me on weekly monitoring.
“At my 25+3 week scan, I was told the water had increased and that things were fairly normal.
“A week after that, I started suffering back pains but put this down to Hunter lying on my back.
“It eased by the following day but came back with a vengeance the next night, so we popped to the hospital who said I was not in labour and I may have slept awkwardly and we went back home.
“Six hours later, Hunter was born.”
Due to the early arrival, Hunter had not yet turned as most full-term babies would so was born feet-first which can carry extra dangers.
Jenna said: “I didn’t know what contractions felt like but I was in a lot of pain and by the time Jack had phoned 999 Hunter was almost here.
“I wrapped him in a towel and cleared his airways and got a little cry.
“I just kept him wrapped up warm and checked on him but he was quiet.
“I thought he was dead.”
It was then that Senior Paramedic for the Welsh Ambulance Service, Dai Bowen from nearby Cwmbwrla Ambulance Station, arrived and began emergency care on Hunter.
“Dai was amazing,” said Jenna.
“He came in and straight away began giving oxygen and he cut the cord for us also.
“I helped with the oxygen as Dai placed equipment upon hunter to monitor him.
“Without Dai and the other crew members, I don’t think my son would be here now.
“They definitely saved his life.”
Dai, 46, also from Swansea, had only minutes earlier begun his shift.
He said: “I’d booked on at six and checked my vehicle when I got my first job or ‘detail’ as we call it around 20 past down in Port Tennant.
“Control told me a young mother had given birth to a very premature baby.
“I was on my own in the rapid response vehicle so requested support and back-up as I knew we’d need an ambulance to get the baby to hospital.”
The control room were able to release an ambulance from nearby Merthyr to assist Dai due to the dangerous nature of such a young child being born.
Dai said: “I was greeted at the door by dad who was obviously very distressed, but with my 20 years in the ambulance service I was able to talk to him quickly and calmly and get him to show me to his partner.
“Jenna was so calm, bless her, and already had the baby in her arms – I thought the baby may have been stillborn.
“I quickly checked she was alright and then began to look at the little man.
“He was so premature and was very susceptible to losing heat and picking up infections.
“But then, I saw his little chest move and he took a breath on his own.
“That was it, action stations.”
Dai took the baby and made a resuscitation area in the couple’s lounge where he began working on Hunter and connecting him up to the monitoring equipment.
He said: “Hunter was making minimal effort, but we are lucky as we have great paediatric equipment and on this job it all worked really well.
“He was still very cold despite the warming mattresses we had on him and I just continued to keep him warm and monitor his levels.”
A Welsh Ambulance crew of Robert Shannon and David Griffiths soon arrived to support Dai.
The Wales Air Ambulance charity’s road division known as the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS), also attended the scene from their base at Dafen to help deliver the critical care and advice that was so valuable to Hunter, providing things such as heat pads to keep his body temperature up during transfer to hospital.
On duty for EMRTS that day were Dr Jon Baily, Critical Care Practitioner Dewi Thomas and Helicopter Transfer Practitioner Jez James.
Jo Yeoman, Wales Air Ambulance Patient Liaison Nurse, said: “Our crew arrived with specialist neonatal equipment and made a rapid assessment while keeping baby Hunter warm.
“Premature babies are at high risk of a declining body temperature so they placed him in a special wrapping specifically designed to keep premature babies warm, covered him with a heated blanket and put a hat on his head to prevent heat-loss.
“They then attached him to some neonatal monitoring to assess his vital signs and contacted the Specialist Neonatologist at Singleton Hospital to arrange for direct admission to the specialist unit rather than going through Accident and Emergency.
“We are delighted that Hunter is doing so well.”
Call handler Emma Beynon picked up Jack’s 999 call at the Clinical Contact Centre in Carmarthen.
She said: “I’d been working a night shift and it was the last call before I was due to finish.
“It was quite traumatic as the baby was so premature.
“At the start of the call I thought it wasn’t going to be very good news.”
Emma, 36, from Narbeth and herself a mum of three girls, said: “I was supported by my manager Emma Colvin as it was only my second birth call – the first had come earlier that week.
“We were giving birthing advice and I remember the caller shouting that the baby was out and it was only the size of his hand.
“We didn’t think the baby was going to be born so soon but it happened really quickly on the call.
“But most importantly the baby was breathing.
“The crew got there very quickly which was the saviour I think.
“It’s remained a call that has stuck in my mind and I’m so happy to find out that baby Hunter is doing really well along with mum.”
The couple were able to spend a lot of time together at the hospital with Hunter thanks to a change in visiting restrictions.
Of the care Hunter received at Singleton’s intensive care unit and their special care nursery, Jenna said: “They were absolutely brilliant and nothing was too much.
“The staff and the consultant there were all so good.
“We’re lucky to have such good facilities here.”
(Lead image: Wales Ambulance Service Trust)
7 year-old Penllergaer schoolboy starts year-long fundraising challenge for Wales Air Ambulance
A seven-year-old Penllergaer schoolboy has started a year-long walking challenge for the Wales Air Ambulance after being inspired by a child who was honoured with a British Empire Medal from the Queen.
On New Year’s Day Rhys Gough, was watching the morning headlines when it shared the story of eleven-year-old Tobias Weller, who was the youngest child to receive a commendation from the Queen.
Rhys’ proud mum Kirsty said: “Rhys was fascinated and asked lots of questions in relation to fundraising. He was also very keen to meet the Queen! He asked if he could do something similar to raise money for charity.
“We decided that we would attempt to walk the equivalent of 2km per day for the whole of 2022. Our house is on the flight path from Morriston Hospital, so we often see the Wales Air Ambulance. I suggested raising for Charity and Rhys was amazed at how much money it costs to keep this service going.”
Now operational 24/7, the Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep the helicopters flying.
Wales Air Ambulance offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’. The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world.
They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia, and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care.
This is the first time that the Pontillw Primary School pupil has done a fundraiser and has so-far raised £380 of his £500 target for the lifesaving cahrity. Rhys wears a smart watch to track his daily activity.
Along with walking Rhys, also gets his steps in through playing rugby, but the majority of the time they take the dog out for a walk in the evenings and on weekends, which easily covers his 2km a day.
Kirsty, added: “On rainy days though he does need some encouragement but in the whole is enjoying the challenge. His friends and family have been really proud of Rhys for doing this for charity.
“At the end of February Rhys has walked a total of 290.44km this year which includes day to day steps! He is so proud of this achievement so far.”
James Cordell, Wales Air Ambulance’s community fundraiser, said: “Thank you to Rhys for taking on the huge challenge of walking every day for a whole year to raise funds for the Wales Air Ambulance. Despite his young age, he’s passionate and determined to complete the challenge to help others.
“Fundraisers like, Rhys’ will help our medics continue to be there for the people of Wales 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
You can show your support to Rhys by donating to his fundraiser via his Just Giving page ‘Rhys walking challenge for 2022’
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