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Farm fires cost Wales £900,000 as UK figures reach four-year high

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THE COST of farm fires in the UK hit a four-year peak last year, with 2018’s prolonged, dry summer and early harvest causing devastation in the countryside.

Claims figures from the UK’s leading rural insurer NFU Mutual reveal that farm fires cost £46.4m in 2018, an increase of 27.5% on the previous year.

Farm fires cost Wales £900,000 in 2018. While this is a fall of 32% from 2017, farm fires remain a significant risk in the area. The East of England was the worst-affected area of the UK, with claims totalling £11.1m. Scotland was the second worst-affected area (£7.6m), followed by the South West (£7.2m).

The scale of farm fires has prompted a call to farmers to check their fire prevention methods and evacuation procedures.

Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual Rural Insurance Specialist, said: “Fire remains one of the greatest risks to the lives and property of farmers.

“Our latest figures serve as a crucial reminder to be alert to the danger and have plans prepared and shared with family members and staff. It is possible to manage the risks by taking all possible steps to prevent fires breaking out, and to have clear plans in place to evacuate people and livestock safely in the event of a fire.”

Electrical fires were the most common cause of farm fires in Wales in 2018 (53%), with the prolonged, drier summer contributing to the scale of blazes. According to the Met Office*, 2018 was the driest summer since 2003 and hottest since 2006. These conditions and an early harvest left UK farmers particularly vulnerable to fires, with tinder dry crops and overheating combines and farm machinery.

The second most common cause of farm fires in the region was fires spreading from elsewhere, such as a barn or homestead (16%).

Ian Jewitt, Managing Director of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services, said: “Electrical faults are the biggest cause of farm fires across the UK and we’d advise farmers to schedule regular safety checks of electrical equipment to help minimise that risk. Consider fencing off straw stacks and farm buildings to discourage arsonists and make it harder for fires to spread by keeping hay and straw at least 10 meters away from farm buildings.

“To enable you to fight a small fire safely, keep fire extinguishers in good working order and make adults living and working on the farm aware of where they can be found and how they should be used.”

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Two teams of chefs to represent Wales at the Culinary Olympics

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Two well prepared teams of chefs will be flying the Welsh flag as they take on the best in the world at the prestigious IKA Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart next month.

The senior and junior teams will join around 2,000 chefs and pastry chefs from more than 60 nations at the biggest and oldest international culinary art exhibition from February 14 to 19.

Senior Culinary Team Wales will be led by Nick Davies, culinary craft trainer with Cambrian Training, Welshpool, who combines the roles of team manager and member whilst Sergio Cinotti, from the award-winning Gemelli Restaurant, Newport, takes over the captaincy for the first time.

Junior Culinary Team Wales has Michael Kirkham-Evans, a lecturer at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Rhos-on-Sea, as manager and former senior team captain Danny Burke, a partner in Olive Tree Catering, Runcorn, as coach.

Also selected to represent the senior team are pastry chef Will Richards from Cambrian Training, Dylan Wyn Owen, Manchester City Football Club’s executive chef, Matthew Smith, freelance chef from Newtown, Mark Robertson from Coleg Cambria, Wrexham, Jay Humphris from Coleg y Cymoedd and Thomas Martin, a freelance chef from Pontypridd. Logistics manager is Peter Fuchs, culinary director of The Celtic Collection and ICC Wales, Newport.

The senior team has held four events to run through the dishes it will cook for the Restaurant of Nations – one element of the competition – at the Culinary Olympics. The chefs complete preparations with a sold-out dinner at Cobra Rugby Club on January 17.

The team met on January 2 to run through its chef’s edible buffet, a new element introduced for the Culinary Olympics and will complete last minute fine tuning at a final training session on February 3.

“The team has a good mix of seasoned competitors and new members who have brought some fresh ideas to the table,” said Nick, who will be competing at his fifth Culinary Olympics. “Most of the chefs will be competing at the Culinary Olympics for the first time and are understandably excited by the prospect. They have bonded very well.

“Our Restaurant of Nations menu is looking and tasting good and we are perfecting the chef’s edible buffet, which is being introduced for the first time at the Culinary Olympics.”

The team’s Restaurant of Nations menu for 110 covers opens with a starter of halibut, prawn, ravioli, textures of peas, asparagus and wild garlic and Carmarthen ham. Main course is marmalade glazed duck breast, confit leg bon bon, skin granola, root vegetable terrine, carrot puree and port jus. Dessert is rhubarb, apple, white chocolate, stem ginger and pistachio.

The junior team, captained by Callum Smith, The Lion and Pheasant, Shrewsbury, includes pastry chef Alys Evans, Llanerch Vineyard, Pontyclun, Dalton Weir, Home Cooking, Llandudno, Morgan Read, Brook House Mill, Denbigh, Lara Walker, Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Alice Yeomans, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Great Milton, Oxford and James Jarvis, Sebastians Restaurant, Oswestry.

The talented young chefs complete their Restaurant of Nations menu run through with a lunch at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Rhos-on-Sea on Tuesday, January 28. They put the final touches to their dishes and the chef’s edible buffet at a training bootcamp this week.

The team’s Restaurant of Nations menu features a starter of Pembrokeshire scallop and roe croquette, seabass ceviche, chilled avocado, gin and elderflower cucumber. Main course is dry aged fillet and short rib of Welsh Beef, sourdough crouton, onion puree and Butty Bach jus. Dessert is chocolate black cherry chilled fondant, white chocolate and griottine cherry custard, crème fraiche sorbet, sesame tuille and sour cherry gel.

Both manager and coach are pleased with the young team’s progress and are looking to the final practice dinner to fine tune the chefs ready for the Culinary Olympics. Most of the chefs are aged between 19 and 21.

“Alys competed with the senior team at the Culinary World Cup in November 2018 and two members went as commis chefs to gain experience,” said Michael. “The junior team is better prepared that we have ever been.

“Our Restaurant of Nations menu is packed with flavour and requires lots of different skills from the chefs. With 50 per cent of the hot kitchen marks awarded for flavour, we are hoping to score well for taste.

“The main course is braised Jacob’s Ladder and a small fillet of Welsh Beef, which seems to be working well with the people who have tasted it.

“Danny is working on the menus and has introduced some elements of the dishes that helped him to win the Northern Europe heat of the Global Chef Challenge.

“We are finalising the chef’s edible buffet, which has 12 courses, including canapes, terrines, a hot rabbit dish and a dessert.”

At the Culinary Olympics, the senior team produces its chef’s edible buffet on February 16 and its Restaurant of Nations hot kitchen menu for 110 covers on February 18. The junior team delivers its Restaurant of Nations menu for 60 covers on February 15 and its chef’s edible buffet on February 17.

Culinary Team Wales is sponsored by the Welsh Government’s Food and Drink Wales, Cambrian Training Company, Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Castell Howell Foods, Hybu Cig Cymru and Harlech Foods.

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Are you missing out on a Council Tax reduction?

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IF YOU’RE struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, then help could be available for you through the Welsh Government’s flagship Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS).

The scheme, which will continue to support vulnerable households in 2020-21, currently benefits one in five of all households in Wales. In the last year almost 280,000 low-income households have received help from the scheme, with 220,000 paying no council tax at all. Many more receive other discounts or exemptions.

You may be entitled to pay less council tax if:

• you believe you live on a low income
• you live alone, or with people/children who do not pay council tax
• you are a student
• you are disabled
• you are severely mentally impaired

Understanding why there are still vulnerable households not benefitting from the help they are entitled to is a priority for the Welsh Government. Last year we commissioned research to understand the circumstances of households in Wales and the effects of the UK Government’s Universal Credit on the CTRS.

The interim report out today shows that for many households, the move to Universal Credit can have a significant impact on council tax reduction awards. Whilst many households currently receiving a 100% reduction will continue to do so, for others, the move to Universal Credit is shown to have an adverse impact, particularly for employed households, self-employed households, and working households in receipt of a Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

Full findings of the interim report are available on the Welsh Government website. These findings will now be considered in more detail to inform the next stages of the research and policy development in this area.

Encouraging people to make sure they are not missing out on help they could be entitled to, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said:

“Ensuring every household in Wales receives the council tax support they are entitled to is an important part of our commitment to making council tax fairer.

“Our scheme is already helping hundreds of thousands of households across Wales, but we know that there are still many missing out on the discounts, reductions and exemptions they are entitled to. I encourage everyone to check the Welsh Government website to find out if they could be paying less.”

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Seven injured as bus hits bridge

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A BUS heading to Swansea University has struck a bridge and, as a result, seven people are being treated for injuries one of which is in a serious condition.
Emergency Services arrived at the scene on Neath Road shortly after 9:40am this morning (December 12).
A 63 year old man has been arrested and a full investigation has been launched by the bus company First Cymru.
Four of the injured were taken to Swansea’s Morriston Hospital, two were taken to Neath Port Talbot minor injuries unit and another was taken to University Hospital of Wales in a serious condition.
The bus was travelling between Swansea’s Singleton campus and the Swansea Bay campus when, according to reports, a fallen tree caused the bus driver to seek an alternative route to its destination.
The road remains closed and railway lines to Swansea are also blocked while authorities attempt to assess the damage done to the bridge with members of the public being asked to avoid the area.

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