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Solid year for Swansea Building Society as new office makes bright start

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SWANSEA BUILDING SOCIETY enjoyed a strong increase in its total assets and a modest increase in its profits in 2016, mainly driven by the success of its newest branch in Carmarthen, which generated increased retail savings and mortgage balances during the year.

The Building Society’s annual income was £5.7m in 2016, an increase of £300,000 or 6% on its income of £5.4m a year earlier. It was boosted by increased retail savings balances across all of its branches – but Carmarthen in particular, which opened in October 2015. This helped its total assets increase by 16.2% to reach a new record level of £268.6m.

The Society also increased its net profit to just over £2m, an increase of £12,000 in comparison to 2015, despite the appointment of additional staff at its Carmarthen branch and head office, and continued investment in its IT systems.

The Building Society’s total loan book increased to £185m in 2016, an increase of £15.2m or 8.9% on the £170 million outstanding in 2015. This helped generate an operating profit before impairment losses and Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) provisions of £2.7m, which, in turn, led to increased capital, which now stands at £17.8m.

Alun Williams, Chief Executive Officer of Swansea Building Society, said he was pleased with the results and the extent to which its investment in setting up a new branch has delivered results. But he also warned that some aspects of government policy that applies to building societies continues to make life difficult for niche players that do not use the wholesale money markets for funding.

Mr Williams said: “We are delighted with another strong set of results, particularly the contribution made by our newest office in Carmarthen. Despite the significant investments we have made in staff, infrastructure and IT systems last year, we have delivered an extremely pleasing set of results.

“That said, the economic landscape remains uncertain and we still face some challenges. Contributions to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) continue to weigh heavily on the Society and the costs are proportionately higher than that levied on the banks due to our reliance on retail depositors rather than wholesale funding.

“Following the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, the Bank of England base rate reduced to 0.25% with effect from August 4, 2016, having been at 0.50% since March 5, 2009. Most economic forecasters expect UK Economic growth to slow in 2017 and if that is the case then the bank base rate is likely to remain at 0.25%t well into 2017, and possibly beyond.”

Mr Williams explained that the Society has also benefitted from stimulus in the form of the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS), which has served to depress both the retail and wholesale borrowing costs of the banking and building society sectors. But he added that while the resultant low interest rate environment benefits borrowers, savers lose out and Swansea Building Society must carefully manage inflows of funds in such an environment.

“In addition to the base rate reduction, the bank announced a package of measures including a new Term Funding Scheme (TFS) of up to £10b of UK Corporate Bonds and an expansion of the asset purchase scheme for UK Government bonds of up to £435b.

Unfortunately, whilst the above will reduce the borrowing costs for households and businesses, it has led to a further reduction in savings interest rates across the UK. We remain acutely aware of the negative impact that these very low interest rates are continuing to have on our savings members.

“We kept our savings interest rates as high as we could for as long as we could during 2016.
It is a measure of how competitive our current range of savings accounts are that our savings balances increased by £35.7m (16.6%) to £250.3million of savings balances under management during the year.”

The Society’s balance sheet is 100% funded by retail and business savings and retained profits, meaning it has no reliance on the wholesale money markets to fund either asset growth or mortgage lending.

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Council crews deal with fall-out of Storm Ophelia

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL staff had a busy afternoon and night dealing with the fall-out of storm Ophelia which battered the west coast.

The highways team dealt with 34 separate incidents throughout the county as extreme winds brought down trees, branches and electricity cables well into the early hours of this morning (Oct 17).

During the day the Met Office recorded winds of 75mph on Cefn Sidan sands, but the council received most calls during the evening, with the storm’s intensity seeming to peak between 4pm and 9pm.

Crews attended to clear fallen trees from Glandy Cross to Carmarthen, Llandovery to Llanelli where one tree fell onto a car in Vauxhall Street – thankfully with no injuries.

Electricity cables were brought down in St Clears with damage to property roofs in Water Street, Carmarthen, and Capel Hendre.

All routes were open this morning, but crews are now clearing debris along miles of road.

Cllr Hazel Evans, executive board member for environment, said: “Our frontline crews were out into the early hours of this morning in terrible conditions to clear and re-open roads. Back at base, our duty officers, contact centre staff and Careline agents also dealt with a large number of calls from members of the public. I’d like to thank all staff for their efforts, as well as farmers, landowners and police who helped throughout the storm.”

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Two hospitalised and dogs cut free after crash

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TWO people have been taken to Morriston Hospital following a crash in the early hours of this morning (Oct 17).

Fire crews also had to cut two dogs free from the wreckage following the collision, which involved a 4×4 vehicle.

The collision took place between Pencader and Llandysul shortly after 1am.

A spokesperson for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “We received a call at 1.14am this morning to reports of a traffic collision three miles outside Pencader.

“Fire crews from Carmarthen and Llandysul had to release two dogs from the vehicle using small gear, a short extension ladder and lighting equipment.”

A spokesperson for the Welsh Ambulance Service added: “We sent two crews in emergency ambulances and a paramedic in a rapid response vehicle and two patients were taken to Morriston Hospital in Swansea.”

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Rugby player left needing surgery

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A RUGBY player was left needing surgery after an unprovoked attack left him with a broken jaw.

Chris Rogers was in action for Ferryside against Pontardawe in a League 3 West Central C game on Saturday, October 14, when the incident occurred.

The Herald understands that a scuffle had broken out between a few other players towards the end of their match and that Chris was standing away from this.

It is alleged that a Pontardawe player came from behind and attacked Chris. He was treated at the scene and taken to Morriston Hospital.

Chris had surgery on Sunday night and the Herald were told that he was allowed home from hospital on Monday (Oct 16). His face is still swollen and he is still in shock from the incident.

Pontardawe’s secretary has called to see how the player is doing.

It was the first time the two sides have played each other and there was no apparent reason behind the alleged attack.

The police have also been informed of the incident.

Chris had to have a plate and wiring put in his jaw and the doctors have told him not to play again.

Ferryside Coach Nathan Jones told the Herald that Chris is totally ‘against violence’ and that it was very sad that this sort of thing had happened to him.

Chris and the Club have received much support from the wider community with a number of people saying that there is no place in rugby for something like this.

The Herald wishes Chris a full recovery from his injuries.

A spokesperson for South Wales Police told the Herald: “South Wales Police received a report of an assault on Sunday, October 15, at 09:46hrs, in connection with an incident the previous day (15:30hrs).

“Police are currently investigating the assault of the male. If witnesses have any information please contact 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111 quoting occurrence: 1700401165.”

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