Hinterland - 14 January 2019

In Hinterland this week - This week – I’ve failed to avoid Brexit but I hope you will agree that I’ve not raised it in a partisan way. Apart from this one story however this is a Brexit free zone – with county lines, TV licences, cash strapped authorities and NHS Trusts an ongoing Cornish Embassy in the EU and a rhea called “Linford” Read on...

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EU preparing to delay Brexit until at least July

Did you ever get the feeling that this is all becoming a bit like a poker game? It seems whichever way we turn uncertainty is likely to dog the rural economy into the summer and I fear/suspect beyond! This article tells us:

The EU is preparing to delay Brexit until at least July after concluding that Theresa May is doomed to fail in getting her deal through parliament.

The country’s 29 March deadline for exiting the EU is now regarded by Brussels as highly unlikely to be met given the domestic opposition facing the prime minister and it is expecting a request from London to extend article 50 in the coming weeks.

A special leaders’ summit to push back Brexit day is expected to be convened by the European council president, Donald Tusk, once a UK request is received. EU officials said the length of the prolongation of the negotiating period allowed under article 50 would be determined based on the reason put forward by May for the delay.

A “technical” extension until July is a probable first step to give May extra time to revise and ratify the current deal once Downing Street has a clear idea as to what will command a majority in the Commons.

An EU official said: “Should the prime minister survive and inform us that she needs more time to win round parliament to a deal, a technical extension up to July will be offered.”


London’s gangs have changed, and it’s driving a surge in pitiless violence

This very illuminating and tragically topical argument gives some insights into how this toxic social phenomenon is seeping into rural Counties it tells us:

The murder of 14-year-old Jayden Moodie on Tuesday night highlights how youth violence continues to devastate the lives of young people, families and communities in London. Jayden’s death marks a new low point as he is the youngest victim to die on London’s streets so far this year.

We don’t know whether Jayden was himself involved in gangs or if his death was gang-related. All we know is that he was struck by a vehicle while riding a moped, then chased by a group of three men and stabbed to death in what police believe was a targeted attack. However, Jayden was killed in Leyton, part of the east London borough of Waltham Forest where the threat of gangs and gang violence looms large.

Last year, we published the results of a study looking at gangs in Waltham Forest, that provides some context for Jayden’s murder. As one of the many areas in London affected by rising youth violence, Waltham Forest has been at the forefront of gang interventions ever since the ground-breaking Reluctant Gangsters study was published in 2007.

A decade ago, gangs in Waltham Forest were organised around postcode territories that young people defended from outsiders. Gang membership was a physical and emotional commitment – exhibited through gang “colours” and a real sense of local pride at being visibly present on the street.

Our research highlighted that gangs in Waltham Forest today view turf differently; less as symbolic hallowed ground, and more as a marketplace. Gangs are now more focused on profits, not postcodes. Two factors were responsible for this evolution: the ready availability of illicit drugs and the rise of social media.

Gangs had come to reject outward signs of gang membership as “bad for business” because they attracted unwanted attention from law enforcement agencies. They instead grew up and moved on to develop lucrative “county lines” operations in new areas where they were unknown to police.

County lines are predicated on an exploitation of people, not places. Leveraging young people’s boredom, poverty and lack of future prospects, gang elders cynically lure children into the drug trade with false promises of more money and status that rarely materialise, then entrap them through debt bondage and other coercive means. County lines have been linked with an increase in stabbings involving known drug dealers as victims or suspects, partly because grievances in illicit drugs markets cannot be settled through legal channels.


Scrapping free TV licence for over-75s could push elderly into poverty, charity warns

I think we should increasingly think through the challenges facing the over 75s as they are a large and vulnerable group with a big rural footprint. This story tells us:

The BBC’s plan to abolish the free TV licence for over-75s could push more than 50,000 UK pensioners below the poverty line, a charity has warned.

Currently, households with people over 75 are entitled to a free TV licence. However, the BBC is looking to reform the subsidy after projections showed the free licence scheme could cost the corporation £745m by 2022.

In November the corporation announced it would no longer provide the funding to sustain the scheme and would be holding public consultations about introducing “means-based testing” for the elderly instead.

Age UK now wants the government to take back responsibility for funding free TV licences, saying the scheme helps millions sustain their quality of life into late old age.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Scrapping the free TV licence would be a real blow for many older people who already have many other challenges to contend with.

“Millions of older people, particularly those who are lonely or housebound with disabilities, rely on their TV as their trusted companion and window on the world, and it would be cruel indeed to undermine this in any way.”


'Cornish embassy' would continue to represent county in EU

More power to Cornwall’s elbow I say on the strength of this story, which tells us:

The clock might be ticking to Brexit on 29 March, but even if Britain leaves the EU on that date, a “Cornish embassy” will continue to speak out in Brussels.

Cornwall council is tendering for a contract for the continued operations of an office in the city “to support our efforts to define our place within the new UK/EU relationship”.

About £240,000 has been put aside to support the project, which will cover what is envisaged to be a Brexit transition period.

Providing that there is a deal between the UK and the EU, and therefore a transition period, the council states on the tender contract that EU funds will continue to flow until the end of 2023 into Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (CIoS).

“Having a Cornwall Brussels office in place will ensure that we have a channel through which we can engage directly with EU stakeholders on funding issues during this period,” it says.

A deadline of 11 February has been set for receipt of bids to the council, which is the only local authority in England covering what qualifies under EU rules as a less developed region (LDR).

Cornwall had been receiving £80m a year in EU funding, according to the council, money that has gone into jobs, local businesses, infrastructure, training and research. It had been on course to receive about £350m for the next round of funding from the years after 2020.


NHS and councils full of financial problems, says watchdog

We all know this but it still stark reading when its served up in these terms. This story tells us:

The number of NHS and local government bodies with significant financial weaknesses in their ability to give value for money is unacceptably high and increasing, according to Whitehall’s spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office has examined the financial statements from nearly 937 local health authorities, councils, police and local fire bodies which are responsible for about £154bn of net revenue spending every year.

Auditors conclude in a report published on Wednesday that the number of local bodies with significant weaknesses increased from 170 (18%) in 2015-16 to 208 (22%) in 2017-18.

It follows the publication of an International Monetary Fund report in October which found that the UK’s public finances were among the weakest in the world after the 2008 financial crash.

Sir Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said he was shocked by the persistent high level of qualified audit reports at local public bodies.

“A qualification is a judgment that something is seriously wrong, but despite these continued warnings, the number of bodies receiving qualifications is trending upwards,” he said.

“Let us hear no cries of: ‘Where were the auditors?’ when things go wrong. The answer will be: ‘They did the job, but you weren’t listening.’

“This is not good enough. Local bodies need to address their weaknesses, and departments across government should ensure they are challenging local bodies to demonstrate how they are responding.”


And Finally

Escaped rhea set to stay at Evesham Golf Club

Now here’s a happy tale of charismatic mega fauna and the usually fussy golf fraternity. It tells us….

An escaped rhea looks set to make its home at a golf course it has been roaming for more than two months.

The 6ft, flightless bird arrived at Evesham Golf Club, in Worcestershire, in October and staff have so far been unable to catch it.

Golf club workers said it has become "a star" since its arrival and is "more than welcome to stay".

The club said it was a pet which escaped from the village of Harvington.

Due to its speed the bird was nicknamed Linford, after sprinter Linford Christie.

A temporary course set up while work is being carried at the site has also been named after the rhea.


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


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