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Firefighters aim for Christmas number one

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FIREFIGHTERS from the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have launched their bid to reach the top of the chart and achieve a Christmas number one single.

The group, formed under the name ‘The Fire Tones’, was the vision of Welshpool Firefighter, Chris Birdsell-Jones, who dreamt of a band of firefighters reaching the top of the charts with the classic Christmas hit ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’.

The single is set to raise money for the Firefighters Charity and the Band-Aid Charity Trust.

Firefighter Chris Birdsell-Jones said: “It started when we were in a bar in Welshpool around this time last year – the first song that came on was ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’

“As we sat there, everyone in the bar was singing along or tapping the bar and it got me wondering if we could do something for charity.

“I said it out loud and everyone told me I was dreaming! But a couple of days later there was a film on called ‘Daddy’s Home 2’ and the song is on the soundtrack, so I took it as a sign and got to work.”

Chris set about widening the search for talent from other UK Fire and Rescue Services to contribute to the single.

Interest and momentum quickly gathered, leading to an offer of a recording session at the BIMM Music College, Birmingham, in the newly built recording studio. From across the UK, firefighters travelled to Birmingham to record the vocals in a hectic 12-hour recording session, masterminded by producer Steve Osborne and expert vocal arranger Louise Warren.

Chris added: “We wanted to honour the spirit of the original recording, so we wanted to get it all done in one day, just as they did with the original Live Aid single.

“I must admit, I was nervous on the day because you’ve put all this work in and you’re wondering things like ‘is that person going to turn up?’ and ‘is this actually going to work? But on the day, it was just incredible, they played it back to us in the studio and it was ‘wow’, this isn’t just a bit of fun, they can really sing.

“We are doing this to raise money for two fantastic causes. I’m over the moon to have worked with such a talented group of people, and I feel proud and honoured to have been involved with such a fantastic project, whatever we manage to raise.

“The Fire Tones boast over 40 Fire Service personnel within its ranks. During the recording, we had to move out of the studio and go on a stage to record the chorus parts.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Rob Quin, Mid and West Wales Fire Service said: “This is a wonderful initiative by our firefighters in Welshpool, which has snowballed across our Service and across to other Fire and Rescue Services.

“I’m extremely proud of Mid and West Wales firefighters as our Fire and Rescue Service is amongst the highest contributors to the Fire Fighters Charity. Our firefighters and support staff are constantly fundraising to this fantastic cause, be it through traditional methods, such of hosting car washes and selling cakes, or highly ambitious projects such as The Fire Tones.

“I can’t wait to hear the song, buy it and show my support to the Fire Tones, Fire Fighters Charity and Band-Aid.”

The Fire Tones’ single is available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music.

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Swansea Bay City Deal leaders are supporting Neath Port Talbot Council’s proposals for changes

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SWANSEA Bay City Deal leaders are supporting Neath Port Talbot Council’s proposal to amend some of their projects due to be part-funded by the £1.3 billion investment programme.

Any amended or enhanced projects, they say, will be progressed through City Deal governance and approval processes before submission to the Welsh Government and UK Government for consideration.

This follows on from the City Deal’s Joint Committee accepting all recommendations arising from two reviews into the City Deal, which included enabling flexibility in the investment programme to bring new projects in if they’re beneficial to the region.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Bay City Deal Joint Committee Chairman, says a Neath Port Talbot Council call for the City Deal to change approach is also being put in place.

Cllr Stewart said: “As a Joint Committee, we have accepted all recommendations from the City Deal reviews, and work is ongoing to implement them as soon as possible.

“These include the appointment of an independent programme director to manage the City Deal, as well as flexibility to amend or enhance projects forming part of the investment programme if they’re good for the region.

“The City Deal is still at an early stage of its development, but we’re doing all we can to make governance and project approval processes more efficient to speed up the investment programme’s delivery.

It would be too great a risk for communities and businesses in Neath Port Talbot to miss out on City Deal investment, so we stand ready to help Neath Port Talbot Council move their projects forward.

“All City Deal partners remain committed to delivery. It’s widely recognised that the City Deal presents a once in a generation opportunity to create considerable economic growth and well-paid jobs across the region as a whole.”

The independent review into the City Deal commissioned by both governments recommended immediate approval for two City Deal projects – the ‘Yr Egin’ creative sector development in Carmarthen, and the Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District.

Cllr Stewart said: “We expect funds to be released for these projects imminently.

“We also welcome Neath Port Talbot Council’s continued commitment to the regional Homes as Power Stations project, which will help people save money on their energy bills by introducing cutting-edge energy-efficient technology to both new houses and existing buildings throughout South West Wales.”

The Swansea Bay City Deal investment programme is due to be funded by the UK Government, the Welsh Government, the public sector and the private sector. It’s being led by the four regional councils – Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea – in partnership with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea University, Hywel Dda University Health Board and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board.

The City Deal is projected to create over 9,000 high-quality jobs and give the regional economy a £1.8 billion boost in coming years.

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June completion date for A484 at Cwmduad promised by Council

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WORKS to repair and fully re-open the A484 at Cwmduad are scheduled for completion in June.

The road was partially re-opened in March, following extensive work to clear and make the area safe after a landslide which occurred during Storm Callum in October.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s highways team has been leading a highly complex operation to clear the highway and stabilise the land following the landslide which tragically claimed the life of a young man.

Contractors are due back on site at the end of this month as work continues to rebuild a parapet wall before the road can be fully re-opened.

The programmed completion date for re-opening is June 7.

Cllr Hazel Evans, Executive Board Member for Environment, said: “We understand that this has had a major impact on the local community and road users, and we would like to thank them for their patience and co-operation whilst the recovery and repair works have been carried out.

“This has been a very complex operation involving a number of agencies, and the safety of the public has been paramount. Please be assured works are continuing and the end is now in sight.”

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Almost 100 jobs to go at Calsonic Llanelli

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A MAJOR Llanelli employer is to shed almost a quarter of its employees following what it describes as a ‘significant drop-off in sales’.

Calsonic Kansei, based says that continuing political and economic uncertainty have contributed to its decision to lay off 95 workers at its Lleithri Road factory on the outskirts of the town.

Calsonic were offered £4.4m from the Welsh Government to create 88 jobs at the plant late last year.

Llanelli’s local AM, Lee Waters, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for the Economy and Nia Griffith MP issued a joint statement about the jobs blow.

Lee Waters AM said “Nia Griffith and I will be doing what we can to work with the company, trade unions and other employers in the area to help the workers directly affected. And the Welsh Government will be extending the taskforce helping workers at Schaeffler to offer practical support.”

“Calsonic were offered significant Welsh Government help to develop new products at the end of last year, and we will continue to do what we can to help create a sustainable future for the site, through what is clearly a troubling period.”

Nia Griffith MP said “The next month will be a difficult period for the workers and their families at Calsonic, both Lee and I are ready to do whatever we can to help anyone affected. Alongside working directly with the factory staff and the trade unions, I’ll be using my voice in Parliament to ask the UK Government to match Welsh Government’s ongoing commitment to the plant and the workforce.”

Calsonic’s vice-president of HR for Europe, Neil O’ Brien, said: “The automotive industry is at a transitional stage, as well as being at a key point in several major vehicle ‘life cycles’, with car manufacturers developing their technologies to satisfy the ever demanding environmental legislation and moving towards autonomous and electric vehicles.

“During this period of transition, the added pressures of market instability caused by the political and economic conditions have affected our customers’ volumes and, consequently, Calsonic Kansei’s sales have seen a significant drop.

“The company intends to do everything reasonably possible to reduce the impact of this proposal on its employees.”

In January Schaeffler announced plans to close its plant in Leave-voting Llanelli with a loss of 200 skilled jobs.

Schaeffler also cited uncertainty about the UK’s economic and political future as being partially responsible for its decision.

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