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Welsh police forces braced for major budget cuts

34 UK police forces intend to increase the part of council tax which goes to policing over the next year to lessen the impact Credit: PA

Every police force in Wales and England is getting ready for major budget cuts in the next five years, it's been reported.

According to an investigation by the BBC forces face a 5% cut in government funding in 2015/16.

After 2016 they are expecting austerity measures amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds, although the exact level of savings will depend on the outcome of the general election.

It's thought some forces are planning to bring down the number of officers to allow them to operate on smaller budgets.

It comes after a reduction of 20% since 2011 in the amount spent on police by the Home Office.

Home Secretary Theresa May has suggested savings might be made by integrating the three emergency services - police, fire and ambulance.

Police reform is working and crime has fallen by more than a fifth under this Government, according to the Independent Crime Survey for England and Wales.

While we acknowledge that the police funding settlement is challenging, there is no question that the police will still have the resources to do their important work.

What matters is how officers are deployed, not how many of them there are in total.

– Home Office spokeswoman

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Natural Resources Minister seeks 'Big Six' talks

Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant has written to the UK’s “Big Six” energy firms, along with the Co-operative Energy and First Utility, asking them to meet him to discuss how they can work more effectively with the Welsh Government to tackle fuel poverty.

30% of Welsh households 'are in fuel poverty' Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The Welsh Government says almost a third of households in Wales are in fuel poverty.

"In Wales we have been successful in delivering multiple benefits through our energy efficiency programmes, such as Arbed, including jobs, wider community benefits, training and advice for residents.

Our additional investment for the next financial year is £35m. I want the energy companies to see how effective our approach in Wales is and discuss how working together we can maximise the amount.. they invest in these schemes in Wales."

– Carl Sargeant, Natural Resources Minister

Council Tax rise for Denbighshire

Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Denbighshire County Council has confirmed its budget for the 2015/16 financial year, meaning that council tax bills will increase by 3.09% in total.

This means that the average council tax bill for a Band D property will be £1,422.40, compared with £1,379.73 in 2014/5.

We have tried to keep council tax increases as low as possible, as Denbighshire residents tell us regularly that is what they would like to see happen.

We have set and agreed this budget at a time of severe financial constraints, with protection for education, substantially protecting funding levels to social services and putting additional funding in to the corporate plan.

This budget is set at a time of unprecedented change for the organisation. However, we are pleased that we have been able to agree a budget that sets clearly how we are going to manage our finances over the next 12 months.

– Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill, Cabinet Lead Member for Finance

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'Save £200 by switching suppliers'

Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Archive/PA Images

The UK Government says 650,000 households across Wales are missing out on their share of £130 million by sticking with their energy company.

It says by shopping around and taking advantage of the best energy deals on the market, millions of people can save around £200 - and some can save even more.

The ‘Power to Switch’ campaign, launched today, encourages people to switch supplier and save money by visiting www.BeAnEnergyShopper.com

There are 26 energy companies on the market and some fixed deals are £100 cheaper than they were a year ago.

We need to shout loud about the benefits of switching tariff. Too many people think energy firms are ‘all the same’. That’s far from true, there are huge differences on both price and customer service.

The worry is that news of recent price cuts, even though they were paltry, will have given many false confidence that they’re on a decent deal. Examine the figures and the ugly truth is very different.

– Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert

Wales sees biggest fall in shopper numbers

Credit: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire

The British Retail Consortium says Wales has seen the highest decline in shopper numbers across the UK.

In January they fell by 4.6% compared to a year ago. The biggest decline was at shopping centres followed by the High Street and out-of-town sites.

Meanwhile the number of empty shops was also up on the previous three months.

Our report ‘Welsh Retail: An Economic and Social Contribution’, which was launched this week, highlights the importance of the retail industry to communities across Wales and today’s figures will no doubt be of concern to many.

With almost 130,000 employees and 8,000 businesses Welsh retail is key to the wellbeing of our economy and we need be doing all we can to encourage investment by retailers and consumers alike.

We welcome the Minister’s recent comments around business rates and the potential for radical reform in the medium to long term. Retailers want to be at the heart of these discussions.

– Sara Jones, Head of Policy & External Affairs, WRC

Stamp duty reform 'boosts housing market'

The latest RICS UK Residential Market Survey says more properties are coming on to the Welsh housing market, and the potential of stamp duty reform is continuing to provide a boost.

Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

In Wales, 16% more chartered surveyors have reported a rise in newly agreed sales and have also seen a slight increase in properties coming onto their books in January.

The rise in supply, and continued demand, have kept prices and price expectations in the region positive.

18% more chartered surveyors have seen a rise in the past three months, and respondents are predicting a sustained market in the next three months.

"There was an unexpected slow start to the year after the Christmas break although in the last week of January activity increased and the market seems to be resuming with buyers and new listings...There are mixed message of activity across Wales from chartered surveyors and it would appear that many vendors anticipating marketing have been busy ‘dressing’ their homes in January...We anticipate an increase of new instructions across all price ranges in the coming months."

– Tony Filice RICS Spokesperson for RICS Wales Residential

Wales' biggest building society announces annual results

The Principality Group is announcing its results for 2014, saying it had a strong year, with profits up.

They also say number of first time buyers getting on the property ladder has risen by more than a quarter in the past year.

Credit: ITV Wales News

The Society reported a pre-tax profit of £53.5m. Last year it announced mortgage lending was up by ten percent to more than a billion pounds. It also said its first time buyer market grew to a record high.

Competition in the mortgage market has meant that interest rates for borrowers have been forced downwards and as a direct result of this savings rates have also been reducing.

We do recognise the plight of savers in an environment of continuing low interest rates and we have implemented a number of initiatives to help alleviate this.

In 2014, we have built on our core principles of providing a safe home for our customers' savings and helping people to buy their homes, whilst continuing to deliver strong customer service.

– Graeme Yorston, Principality Group Chief Executive
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