Hinterland - 15 April 2019

In Hinterland this week - In Hinterland this week – the huge public sector resource absorbed by Brexit, Modern Slavery, the rise of the “Pensioner Town”, help for farm tenants, the challenges of accessing mental health services in the countryside and the origins of the rural big cat…Read on...

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UK stands down 6,000 no-deal Brexit staff - after spending £1.5bn

Just imagine what 16,000 local government staff and £1.5bn could have achieved – then show me anything useful which has come out of the deployment of the resources referenced in this story which tells us:

The government has stood down an army of 6,000 civil servants who had been preparing for a no-deal Brexit, at an estimated cost of £1.5bn.

The civil servants who had been seconded from elsewhere will now return to their normal duties, but there is no clear role for an estimated 4,500 new recruits after article 50 was extended until Halloween.

More than 16,000 civil servants in total have been working on Brexit.

The Labour party’s Hilary Benn said it was a “costly price” to pay for Theresa May’s belligerent insistence of keeping a no-deal on the table.

“It was important to plan for all contingencies, but this is the huge cost of the prime minister repeatedly saying: ‘My deal or no deal’ when she knew that leaving without a deal was not in the national interest. This is one example of how Brexit is proving to be very costly for our country,” said Benn, chair of the influential Brexit select committee.

The Cabinet Office made the decision to reverse the no-deal plans at a meeting on Thursday morning.


Four men charged with slavery after 29 people found in Devon

Those who claim there are very few distinctive countryside crimes can add this story of modern slavery to the rural experience of county lines. This story tells us:

Four men have been charged with modern slavery offences after 29 people believed to be from Vietnam were found in the back of a van that was stopped on the M5 in Devon.

Police stopped the vehicle on Friday morning near Cullompton after reports that a group of people were seen getting into the back of a van after arriving on a boat.

On Sunday, four men – Frank Walling, 72, from Colne, Jon Ransom, 63, from Kent, Keith Royston Plummer, 62, from Sheerness, and Glen Martin Bennett, 55, from Burnley – were charged with human trafficking and assisting unlawful immigration to a member state. They were remanded in custody and will appear at Truro magistrates court on Monday.

Devon and Cornwall police said: “The van and another vehicle were stopped by officers on the M5 near J28 just after 9am in which 29 men, women and children were located, all believed to be Vietnamese. Police and partners continue to take care of those located in the van.”

The National Crime Agency, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and other relevant partner agencies have been informed and are assisting police.

A spokesman for Devon Children and Families Partnership said: “The UK government will decide what the next steps will be for these individuals. In the meantime, Devon and Cornwall agencies are supporting the group, and arrangements for temporary accommodation will be made if any of the individuals are under 18 years of age, pending further decision about their status.”

A British Red Cross spokesperson said volunteers were supporting a number of people who were alleged victims of human trafficking. “We are providing them with practical and emotional support at a rest centre while the police conduct their investigations,” they said.


Britain's grey towns: find out if you will be living in a pensioner-dominated area within 20 years

Its no surprise to me that these towns are almost all in rural settings. There is a distinctive demography to many of our rural service centres which provides a unique opportunity and challenge for how we support their development. This story tells us:

Britain is facing a “pensioner” explosion with some areas forecast to see their numbers of elderly expand to up to 90 per cent of their adult populations.

Traditional coastal and rural towns and villages dominate the new “grey” hotspots ranging from West Somerset and West Dorset in the west of England, North Norfolk and Suffolk in the East and Scarborough, Fylde, Ryedale and South Lakeland in the North.

The number of men and women aged over 65 is expected to increase by 40 per cent by 2041 to more than 14 million, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The biggest rise will be among those aged over 90 where numbers will more than double from 500,000 to 1.2 million in two decades...


Radical shake-up of agricultural tenancies proposed

This proposed legislative change looks like a really empowering new opportunity for tenant farmers it tells us:

Plans have been put forward for a radical shake-up of agricultural tenancy legislation in England and Wales, with a key aim being to improve productivity growth by making it easier for people to enter and exit the industry.

Consultations have been launched concurrently in England and Wales and will run for the next 12 weeks. The deadline for responses is 2 July 2019.

The papers set out options that ministers hope will create opportunities for new entrants, who they say will bring new skills, ideas and innovation to the sector.

The proposals are broadly based on the work of the Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG), which made a series of recommendations to government back in 2017.

Key ideas include enabling tenants with Agricultural Holdings Act (AHA) agreements, but without a successor, to assign their tenancy to a new third-party tenant farmer.

Industry experts estimate there may be 1,000 to 1,700 older AHA tenants currently “stuck” on their holdings without a successor, because they have limited means to retire and leave their farm.

The new tenant would be required to pay an open market rent and their tenancy would last for 25 years.

The idea is this option would allow an older tenant who wants or needs to retire to unlock the financial value of their tenancy, while at the same time unlocking land for new entrants.

Landlords would have the right to buy out the tenant’s interest to regain possession of the holding, but could not reasonably refuse consent to the tenancy being reassigned.


Children who need help with mental health face postcode lottery – study

Serious issue this and its no surprise to know that those with the least access are in rural settings. It tells us:

Children suffering anxiety, depression and other low-level mental health conditions face a postcode lottery when seeking treatment, research has shown.

There are wide disparities in spending per child in different parts of England with more than a third of areas seeing a real-terms fall in spending on these services. This is despite soaring demand and increased government funding for children’s mental health nationally, the study by the children’s commissioner for England found.

Experts said early intervention by school nurses, counsellors, drop-in centres or online support services to address low-level conditions can prevent them developing into more serious illnesses. And the report warned children may be losing out at this crucial point.

Researchers used spending data from local authorities and NHS clinical commissioning groups, which each contribute roughly half of funding, to calculate that local areas allocated £226m for low-level mental health services in 2018-19 – just over £14 per child.

But while local authority spending per child in London was £17.88, it was just £5.32 in the east of England. According to the study, a few very high-spending areas mask a larger proportion of low-spending areas.

The report’s findings showed the top 25% of local areas each spent upwards of £1.1m while the bottom 25% spent £177,000 or less. Spending per child was higher in London and the north-east, lower in the East Midlands, east of England and south-east. Urban areas were slightly better off than rural regions.


And Finally

On the trail of Britain’s wild big cats

In my on-going interest in non indigenous charismatic mega-fauna in rural settings this story provides some further fascinating insight it tells us:

For decades, reports of big cats have surfaced all over Britain – from Crystal Palace to Cornwall to Carlisle. There have been 155 big cat sightings reported to UK police forces in the past three years, according to forces responding to FOI requests. There are likely many more never recorded. Local newspapers publish dozens of eyewitness reports every year, and have helped to firmly establish certain creatures – the Surrey Puma, the Beast of Exmoor – in local legend.

Where might these cats have come from? One theory suggests they were released by their owners in the months leading up to the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act. Exotic animals had been sold in Harrods; cheetahs could occasionally be seen being walked in Hyde Park. Given the choice of acquiring a costly licence or relinquishing their pets to animal sanctuaries, at least some owners chose a third option: sending cats out into the wild. In 2000,

Leslie Maiden, a lion tamer known as One-Eyed Nick, told the Birmingham Post he’d released a panther and a puma in Derbyshire some 25 years before.

“At first I was a bit worried about how they would get on,” he said. “But I went up to the moors a few weeks later and saw bones of sheep and pheasants, so I think they adapted pretty well.”


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


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