Hinterland - 4 February 2019

In Hinterland this week - This week what to do with their sites when our rural nuclear power stations are turned off, the need for a rational skills policy, auditors, Alexa, dentists and a tasty gray squirrel!! Read on...

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Fate of UK’s nuclear plants in doubt over ageing infrastructure

This is an interesting story, demonstrating the need to re-start the investment plans for new nuclear or to put more “umph” into other sources of energy. It also raises the question of what we are to do with the sites (in rural settings in Kent, Somerset, Lancashire and Cleveland) when the power plants close. Lets hope they’re not going to be left as off limits danger zones due to the cost of clearing them up properly. Sounds like this issue is getting closer to the top of the long policy grass sooner than expected……

Britain’s nuclear power stations recorded a 12% decline in their contributions to the country’s energy system over the past month, as outages raised concerns over how long the ageing plants will be able to keep operating.

A temporary closure of two of the country’s eight nuclear plants resulted in a double-digit drop in nuclear generation in January, compared to the same period last year.

Prospects for new nuclear projects have commanded headlines and government attention in recent weeks, with Hitachi and Toshiba scrapping their plans for major new plants.

But the fate of the existing plants, which usually provide about a fifth of the UK’s electricity supplies, has been pulled into focus by outages due to safety checks and engineering works running over schedule. Nuclear outages also push up carbon emissions because any capacity shortfall will typically be replaced by fossil fuel power stations.


Jess Phillips : I've met high earners with 'literally no discernible skills'

If we end up with this policy on the movement of people you’d better gear up to do all those jobs someone else does for you now – including caring for aged relatives, doing your own ironing and looking after yourself when you get sick. With very tight labour markets and some of the tightest in relation to health and care in rural settings if we impose a £30,000 policy for workers then I fear disaster. That is unless we start paying those working in some of these professions, particularly care, what they’re actually worth! This story tells us:

Labour MP Jess Phillips takes aim at politicians considering imposing a £30,000 pay threshold for EU workers to be considered skilled, saying: 'I have met many people who earn way more than £30,000 and have literally no discernible skills, not even one.' The MP for Birmingham Yardley says the post-Brexit immigration proposal was 'insulting' to the care workers, nurses and teachers who live in her electorate. 'I have definitely met some very rich people who earn huge amounts of money who I wouldn’t let hold my pint if I had to go and vote while in the bar,' she says.


'Decline in quality': auditors face scrutiny over string of scandals

It seems to me that whilst many of the local rural initiatives set up as a response to public austerity, with independent structures, face intrusive scrutiny with its tap root arising from the Kids Company collapse, if you’re a big private sector player then you have a softer ride.  This is particularly scandalous if you thrive, or fail to deliver on public sector contracts. This article tells us:

Britain has a good claim to be the birthplace of the modern audit profession. Yet more than 150 years after being forged in the heat of the industrial revolution, British auditors are under intense scrutiny after a string of scandals. Grant Thornton, the former auditor of cake chain Patisserie Valerie, which collapsed this month amid fraud allegations, argued this week that it is not the role of accountants to uncover fraud.

Last year, the Financial Reporting Council found that there had been a decline in quality across the “big four” auditors – Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC. In recent years auditors have been criticised for failing to spot financial problems at some of the UK’s best-known companies.

If you follow the hyper link for the story you’ll see a lot more information about how this lack of scrutiny works to all our disadvantages.


Amazon Alexa voice assistant could soon make 999 calls

I could see this technology making a major difference not just to personal security but also to the challenges facing vulnerable people in their own homes needing medical help. I think a number of proprietorial aids and adaptations could be deployed to provide cheap and effective support for vulnerable people living at home. In the meantime the potential of Alexa to help in this regard is illustrated through the lens of this story, which tells us:

Scotland Yard is developing new technology that would allow victims of crime to use voice-activated personal assistants, such as Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant, to contact the police.

Under plans being drawn up by Britain's largest force, people would simply have to shout for help - and any compatible in-range technology would notify the police. 

A report seen by The Sunday Times reveals that Scotland Yard think voice assistants - currently used by around 3m Brits - will "change the face of police contact". 

It states that the plans being drawn up by the Metropolitan Police Force would allow "an incoming demand from a home automation bot, rather than from a human".   

"The contact may be triggered by the human issuing a command to their bot, or it may be automatically generated by the bot through AI [artificial intelligence," the report states. 


More than 1 million patients unable to get NHS dentist amid rising tooth decay crisis

Why are we not surprised that a significant proportion of those places with the lowest levels of dentist availability are rural! This story tells us:

Access issues exist in every English region, but Lincolnshire is the area worst hit, followed by parts of Norfolk, Derbyshire, West Yorkshire and Cornwall, according to the NHS data.

Despite a wide-ranging NHS 10-year plan announced last month, the BDA says there was little good news for dentists and it says government spending on dentistry has fallen by more than 10 per cent in the last five years.


And Finally

Grey squirrel is on the menu, as diners turn to the wild meat to help boost the reds

Aerial rodent nosebag anyone….This story tells us:

Ivan Tisdall-Downes, who runs the restaurant Native in London’s Borough Market, makes a squirrel ragu by slow cooking the meat from its hind legs. His wild boar supplier happens to help with grey squirrel culling, and sends the carcasses down to the restaurant.

He said that customers are increasingly interested in eating cruelty-free wild meat and minimising their carbon footprint, which makes squirrel a popular choice.

He told The Sunday Telegraph: “Squirrel is one of the most sustainable proteins you can cook really. It is almost exactly the same in taste as rabbit.

“It's tasty, it's not as gamey as rabbit, it's nice white meat. It's good to cook down slowly and make stews from and ragus for lasagne.

"It's very good for you, it's quite lean.

"There are 5 million gray squirrels and only about 150,000 red squirrels at the moment, a record low. Because there aren't really any predators left for the gray squirrels the population is booming and they are taking over the red squirrel habitat.

"I think sustainable eating is becoming more popular now. More and more people are more conscious of their carbon footprint and the damaging additives that get put in their food. I grew up in South East London and hadn't heard of wild food. Now wild food is everywhere.”

Kevin Tickle, who runs Michelin-starred restaurant The Forest Side in Cumbria, uses the fact he is in a red squirrel conservation area to his advantage.

He has had a “critter fritter”, a grey squirrel croquette, on his acclaimed tasting menu since the restaurant opened in 2016.


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


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