Hinterland - 16 March 2020

Hinterland this week - a sideways acknowledgement of coronavirus but life goes on, with: rural residents paying more for simple living costs, housing, privatisation, buses and inspirational farming women. Read on…

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Rural Residents Pay £3,300 More Than City Dwellers on Everyday Essentials – Report

This report provides a contemporary spin on the work undertaken by Joseph Rowntree Foundation a few years ago. It helps us remember that it is a significant financial stretch for people to live in rural England. It tells us:

New analysis of household spending in Britain’s rural communities reveals a gap of more than £3300 a year spent on everyday essentials like petrol and groceries compared to those living in towns and cities – the equivalent of £15.8 billion each year across the UK.

The findings come from BoilerJuice Connected and show that the cost of living in the British countryside has been rising at 29 per cent more than the average national rate.

BoilerJuice Connected is a new service that enables heating oil customers to digitally monitor their heating oil usage and arrange top-ups.

The research identified the 20 everyday items that rural households are most dependent on and calculated an overall inflation rate for them using a similar methodology to that used to measure the official Consumer Price Index inflation rate.

Extra spending on key items for country dwellers was mainly due to the costs of transport, petrol and domestic fuels, each of which affect residents of rural communities more because they are typically more dependent on cars, drive further and are less likely to be on the power grid.


North Yorkshire commission calls for grass roots approach to tackle rural housing crisis

Most rural commentators know this but I think it is useful to be regularly reminded that affordable housing is in very short supply in rural settings. This story tells us:

The dire lack of affordable properties available to both buy and rent has been blamed for an exodus of young people from many villages and market towns across the country. 

In some of the most desirable districts to live in North Yorkshire, the average property costs nearly £400,000 while the weekly wage in the county is just over £530. 

The Yorkshire Post revealed on Saturday that housing experts had warned the Government that Yorkshire and the rest of northern England are being “frozen out” of vital home-building schemes because of funding criteria which favour London and the South East.


End privatisation to help ‘left behind’ areas of Britain, voters say

I have to say that the market failure we often face in rural settings speaks in a compelling way to this story which tells us:

Voters believe that privatisation of public services has deepened regional inequality and “left behind” parts of Britain in the name of profit, new research has found.  

Polling conducted by Survation asked members of the public why they supported the renationalisation of public services such as public transport, utilities and the Royal Mail.

The most popular reason given by supporters of public ownership was that extra funds should go back into services rather than to shareholders, with 41 per cent citing this as the reason for their support.

A roughly equal number, 40 per cent, also said they believe that “privately owned companies prioritise profitable areas over providing a good service to everyone”.

The finding comes after a torrid few years for railway services in the north of England that cumulated with the government taking the Northern rail franchise back into public ownership on a temporary basis. 


Rural Oxfordshire buses to be funded with £588k government cash

A good example of rural transport regeneration in action. This story tells us:

RURAL bus services could soon be boosted by £588,000 given out from a government grant, though concerns about a quick turnaround to apply for the money have been raised.

Oxfordshire County Council was offered the £588,403 pot of money from the government’s one-year supported bus services fund in February.

The council’s cabinet member for the environment, Yvonne Constance, signed a letter to the government confirming OCC wanted to use the money to protect bus services in rural areas across Oxfordshire on Thursday.

According to the statement of intent letter sent to the government, the council will spend the money is three separate ways.

  • £125,000 will be spent on improving supported bus services, including the 136 between RAF Benson and Wallingford, and new Sunday routes between Banbury and Chipping Norton, Watlington and Oxford, and Woodstock and Witney.
  • £253,400 will be spent on restoring lost bus routes between Chipping Norton and Kingham station, Southmoor and Oxford, and Abingdon, Berinsfield and Cowley.
  • £210,000 will extend current services including a service between Lambourn and Swindon, an evening service from Oxford to Banbury, and a new Sunday service from Wallingford to Henley.


How do I get the government £3,000 coronavirus grant?

I really do fear for the future of rural businesses. Whilst the initiatives set out here are of some value my instincts tell me that the level of disruption and challenge is going to be far greater than any of us currently imagine.

Around 700,000 businesses in England currently eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR) or Rural Rate Relief can apply for the emergency funding.

The additional £2.2bn of funding for local authorities who collect business rates is part of a package of fiscal measures to help small business survive the coronavirus pandemic.

However, it is not yet clear how businesses will access the grants.

And the £3,000 coronavirus grant only applies to small business in England. Business rates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are set by their devolved administrations.

This comes on top of the government announcing in the 11 March Budget that companies in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will not pay any business rates this year. This includes hotels, restaurants and coffee bars.

The discount that pubs receive on their business rates will increase from £1,000 to £5,000, as long as their rateable value is below £100,000 in England.

In total, around 900,000 properties, or 45 per cent of all business premises in England, will not pay rates in 2020-21.

The government will also review the long-term future of business rates, a property tax which many say is unfair given the rise of online shopping and out-of-town retail parks.


And Finally

10 farming women to follow on social media #InternationalWomensDay

This story is a week old but its definitely worth accessing on line as there are some very interesting women to connect with here and their rural endeavours should be an inspiration to us all. This story tells us:

It is International Women’s Day (March 8) and there are plenty of incredible women to celebrate in the industry. Here, Emily Ashworth looks at ten social media accounts to follow to learn more about life in agriculture.


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



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