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 - 30 November 2020

In Hinterland this week - rural broadband, Brexit, digital transport, nurses, vaccinations and your holiday carbon footprint. Read on….

*         *          *

Rural broadband: Where has all the money gone?

Whilst we have all been watching the global pandemic and some of us even thinking about Brexit where has all the broadband money gone and more importantly the commitment to connect the most rural places up….??

Internet and network providers have asked the government to clarify why its promised £5bn investment in rural broadband has been reduced to £1.2bn.

Industry bodies said they wanted clarity on how and when the remaining £3.8bn would be allocated.

The change was announced in Chancellor Rishi Sunak's spending review.

The government has also watered down its election pledge to reach every home in the country to the lower target of 85%.

Providing all homes and businesses in the UK with gigabit broadband speeds by 2025 was one of Boris Johnson's most ambitious election pledges.

It came with the promise of £5bn to get the job done - but in the spending review it was announced that only £1.2bn of that would be made available over the next four years.

UK Secretary of State spells out Brexit’s impact on the rural economy

Useful commentary on what to expect next from the Brexit side of the long hard winter ahead.. This article provides the latest (albeit through the lens of a Scottish discussion) update on the likely impact of Brexit on the rural economy – perfectly as relevant to England as Scotland.

George Eustice was grilled by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee on the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union for Scottish agriculture, fisheries, and the wider food and drink industry.

He explained that negotiations are ongoing, with two “particularly difficult sticking points” around State Aid and fisheries partnership agreements, the latter in terms of access to UK waters and quota sharing arrangements.

“Alongside that we’ve been working to prepare industries like meat and fish processing so that they are aware of the additional documentation that will be needed for exports,” Eustice added.

He was then quizzed about tariffs affecting livestock farmers, in particular sheep, and the potential for some kind of compensation scheme.

“We want to get tariff free trade on all goods, but we accepted that the EU weren’t up for any kind of special agreement, so since then we’ve been working on a simple trade deal much like the EU/Canada one,” Eustice stated.

“You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, so if the EU are unwilling to do a tariff-free trade agreement, then we would as a country have to review what our response to that would be and we would redouble our efforts to open new markets for lamb like the US and the Middle East.”

He explained that the UK would pursue a strategy of import substitution and in the interim there would be things like movements in exchange rates to smooth the passage from one system to another.

UK seeks views on digital innovation in boosting rural transport

This is a really interesting area of development. I think driverless vehicles provide real potential to tackle rural isolation. You should let the DfT have your views through this consultation, on that issue and more…

The UK Department for Transport has launched a call for evidence to explore ways of using digital innovation for improving rural transport connectivity in the country.

As part of this, views are being sought by the government on how 21st-century transport from e-bikes to drones can be used for moving people and packages from one place to another more easily.

The call for evidence will help the government to develop its Future of Transport: rural strategy, said the transport department.

UK Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “This call for evidence will give us a unique opportunity to harness the community spirit of rural areas to understand how innovation in transport can benefit the people and communities that need it most.

“Now more than ever, it is important that we use the power of transport to build back greener, and transform how people and goods move around the UK.”

According to the Department for Transport, in rural areas, the distance between residences and the nearest mass transport hub is nearly five miles. This makes it a major obstacle for rural residents in accessing public transport and services.

The call for evidence will explore how connecting different digital platforms together could provide a more seamless experience for people. This would include enabling them to plan, book, and also pay for travel all in one place, and to connect journeys over various modes.

It will also study how the growing popularity of e-bikes in addition to digital-mapping technology and apps can encourage more active travel in rural regions.

Also, part of the call for evidence is exploring the scope for using drones for making deliveries in rural or isolated towns and areas.

Furthermore, the Department for Transport will examine the feasibility of fully automated and passenger services operating in rural areas.

Student nurses on Covid placements in UK call for return of paid NHS contracts

Not a deeply rural story the impact of the unfairness here will nonetheless knock on to rural communities if the pipeline of nurses is too heavily exploited on the basis set out here

Student nurses are calling for paid contracts to be reinstated for those on placement in hospitals in the UK, saying they feel “forgotten about” during the second wave of Covid-19.

In March, final-year student nurses in the last six months of their degree were offered the option to join the NHS workforce under paid contracts. Other final year students and those in second year could also opt in for paid clinical work.

Paid contracts finished in September as pressure on the health service eased, and there are no plans to reintroduce them in any of the four nations of the UK.

As admissions to hospitals rise this winter, many student nurses are now being drafted in to help on Covid wards. In England and Scotland, their student status also means they are not automatically eligible for the death-in-service benefits that paid NHS staff receive.

US, Germany and UK could start Covid vaccinations as early as December

To me we’re rapidly entering the careful what you wish for element of this major challenge – rolling out the vaccine(s) and getting everyone to have one of them will be the big new challenges particularly for rural dwellers.

As G20 leaders pledged to ensure the equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, drugs and tests so that poorer countries are not left out, the US, UK and Germany each announced plans to begin vaccinations in their countries in December, while Spain said it would start administering the vaccine to its citizens in January.

Britain could give regulatory approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine as early as this week, even before the US authorises it, the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday. Pfizer and BioNTech could secure emergency US and European authorisation for their Covid-19 vaccine next month after final trial results showed a 95% success rate and no serious side effects.

Moderna last week released preliminary data for its vaccine showing 94.5% effectiveness.

The better-than-expected results from the two vaccines, both developed with new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, have raised hopes of an easing of a pandemic that has killed more than 1.3 million people.

And Finally

New travel website offers carbon labelling for UK breaks

I think this is a very innovative new approach in a densely crowded field, which had led me to think there wasn’t scope for anything new in the visitor world. Well done!

A new website aims to help climate conscious travellers make more-informed holiday choices by calculating the carbon costs of British breaks and even day trips in response to the increase in domestic tourism during the pandemic.

Natural Britain, which launched in July, wants to become the go-to website for ethically-run travel in the UK, and claims to be the first company in the country to offer carbon labelling – a calculation of the carbon dioxide emitted – for every part of the trip.

Natural Britain hopes to appeal to the growing number of outdoor enthusiasts, many of whom have taken on new challenges or found a fresh appreciation for nature in 2020. Itineraries include a cycle tour of the Cotswolds, sky-running in Snowdonia and sea-kayaking in Scotland, and activity sessions and accommodation can also be booked separately. It hopes to feature 35 experiences by the end of the year, increasing to about 100 in 2021.

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.