Book your place at the National Rural Conference 2022

If your organisation is a member of the RSN through the SPARSE, Rural Assembly, RSP or RHCA you can book your free place at the National Rural Conference now and join rural specialists to debate key issues.  We have over 600 bookings already so book your place now!

Hinterland - 14 December 2020

In Hinterland this week - some great coverage for the Rural Health and Care Alliance as it campaigns on rural health inequalities, Brexit worries, planning, housing and hunting, topped off by an uncertain Queen’s Speech…

*         *          *

Covid response hits rural NHS services hard – report

I am thrilled that in partnership with the Nuffield Trust we have managed to achieve this exposure in the national press. This story tells us:

NHS patients in rural areas of England face extra long waits for treatment, according to a study.

The Nuffield Trust think-tank says urban areas benefited most from measures put in place to help the NHS cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers found rural hospitals now faced an uphill challenge when it came to restoring services to normal.

NHS England says that funding reflects the higher costs of delivering care in rural communities.

The Nuffield Trust report says while the number of Covid cases in rural areas was lower than in big urban centres, the pandemic's impact on services has been much greater.

It says the coronavirus crisis highlighted pre-existing problems facing rural trusts.

For example, it can be hard to recruit and retain doctors and nurses who are willing to work in smaller hospitals, which means trusts rely more heavily on expensive agency staff to fill gaps in rotas.

This, in turn, has a detrimental effect on the finances of hospital trusts which struggle to balance the books.

In addition, rural trusts often have only a limited capacity to treat any extra patients as they are often already very busy.

Prof Richard Parish, chair of the National Centre for Rural Health and Care, said: "We continue to be concerned that Covid has made a number of rural inequalities worse.

"There doesn't appear to be much short-term prospect of respite. When there is, we still have to make progress towards a level playing field.

"This would involve, for a start, reducing the reliance on agency staff in rural health settings, speeding up rates of hospital discharge and reducing waiting times for elective surgery."

Sheep farmers are staring down the barrel of crippling 48% No Deal tariffs on British lamb ‘that will kill the industry’

As we look to negotiate up to the wire all my instincts suggest we are heading to the very edge of the abyss, and as if we didn’t have enough to deal with anyway….This story tells us

Farmers are fearing for their sheep flocks as they face crippling export tariffs on the lamb they send to the EU.

Lamb is expected to be one of the sectors that suffers most in the event of No Deal.

The average tariff for the meat would be 48 per cent, raising concerns that No Deal would stop exports entirely. 

This would then mean Britain had too much lamb, which would drive down prices and make sheep farming unviable.

Mark Bridgeman, president of the Country Land & Business Association, which represents 30,000 rural businesses across England and Wales, said: ‘There’s no escaping that, in the event of No Deal, tariffs for exports into Europe will damage many farming businesses.

And with talks on a knife edge, Government must come forward with measures to support the most vulnerable sectors should there be no deal.’

He added: ‘The EU sells £33billion of agricultural products to the UK each year – almost £20billion more than we sell to them – so the Prime Minister is absolutely right to have confidence in the value of our market.

‘But make no mistake, without a decent free-trade agreement, thousands of farmers both in the UK and the EU would be at risk.’

Adam Quinney, a beef and lamb farmer in Warwickshire, said that such sky-high export tariffs on lamb would halt trade and do ‘significant long-term damage’ to the sheep industry.

He told Radio 4’s World At One yesterday: ‘If the tariffs come in and we have a 47 per cent exports tariff on lamb, in effect it will mean the majority of that trade will stop.

‘That trade is worth about £500million a year to British sheep farmers, so it is an important market for us.’

Backlash over government's overhaul of English planning system

Something has to give if we are to get enough appropriate accommodation in rural England. These planning reforms point in that direction. They are however based on a for profit only approach which all our intelligence over the last 40 years suggests cannot do all the heavy lifting on its own. This story tells us:

The government is facing a backlash from local councillors – including more than 350 Conservatives –over its proposals to shake up the planning system.

More than 2,000 councillors from across England and campaigners have signed an open letter to the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, calling on him to rethink the plans.

Ministers want to overhaul the planning system, which they say is necessary to boost the building of high-quality, sustainable homes, by streamlining the process, cutting red tape and harnessing technology.

Proposals include speeding up the creation of local plans by communities and creating zones for growth, renewal or protection, with development in growth areas pre-approved as long as it meets local design standards.

The proposals are also aimed at much quicker development in renewal areas, replace the planning process with a clearer, rules-based system, and protect green spaces by allowing for more building on brownfield land.

But councillors have said the plans will undermine local democracy by removing the public’s right to be heard in person at local plan examinations and taking away development decisions from elected planning committees.

Government scrapping affordable starter homes ‘deplorable’, say MPs

Another housing story showing just how fundamentally broken the current arrangements for providing people with a start on (or for that matter in terms of older people – off) the housing ladder are. It tells us:

A government plan to deliver discounted starter homes has left 85,000 young people waiting in vain for an affordable place to live, in a policy branded “deplorable” by a cross-party committee of MPs.

The 2015 initiative to build 200,000 homes and sell them at a 20% discount was formally scrapped this year without a single home being built. But £173m was spent buying land, a damning report by the Commons public accounts committee said. It is now on course to deliver only 6,600 homes and is being replaced by a new scheme.

The influential committee highlighted the abandoned scheme as a waste of time and resources as part of a broadside against government housing policy, which it said has been “stringing expectant young people along for years” with housing policies that “come to nothing as ministers come and go with alarming frequency” – there have been 19 since 1997.

It also criticised the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) for failing to say how it will reach its ambition of building 300,000 homes a year in England and accused ministers of an “alarming blurring” of the definition of affordable housing.

Councils crack down on trail-hunting as police investigation into hunt masters’ meetings continues

The return of an old friend for Christmas as we move closer to Boxing Day. This story tells us:

Two councils have launched crackdowns on trail-hunting on their land, two weeks after landowners banned the activity in response to a criminal investigation into how it is organised.

The news comes as a third local authority is due to consider a motion suspending hunts from its land.

Councillors at Cheshire West and Chester Council on Thursday evening backed a motion that paves the way for a ban, voting to devise a new policy reflecting the “damage” caused by trail-hunting.

And finally

Recording of Queen's Christmas speech reportedly delayed by Brexit impasse

It is a true sign of exceptional challenge when something as fundamental as the Queen’s speech is afflicted by uncertainty! This story tells us:

Buckingham Palace has refused to deny reports that the Queen is delaying the recording of her Christmas speech until after a decision on a Brexit deal is reached.

The monarch usually films the annual address in early to mid December, but has reportedly pushed back the recording to next week due to uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with the EU, after the deadline for a deal passed.

However, yet another deadline for trade negotiations with the bloc has now been missed, after both parties agreed “go the extra mile” on Sunday and resume talks in Brussels. While Boris Johnson downplayed expectations, telling ministers to prepare for a no-deal exit when the transition period ends in three weeks’ time, the European commission said that “progress has been made” and that “the next days will be important”.

A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace told the Guardian the reports, published in the Daily Mail, were “a load of speculation which we wouldn’t give any credibility to by commenting on. The filming date was set a number of weeks ago”.

About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.