Hinterland - Friday, 8 June 2018

This week – a flavour of the insight of the folks from the Centre for Towns who are speaking at the annual Rural Conference, held on 4-5 September in Cheltenham), rural flight by young people, community transport, fruit pickers, farming post Brexit and how good is your knowledge of England’s geography and traditions?
Look out for our next regional workshop on housing issues in Huntingdon on 9 July. We have a developer speaking about public/private partnerships with local authorities and a separate strand of discussion about community led housing. This will be the fourth such event and I think they are beginning to bed in quite effectively. Until next week...

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Smarter ways to stop the rural brain drain

Professor Will Jennings and Ian Warren from the Centre for Towns are speaking at our conference in September. Here’s a flavor of what makes them such a refreshing addition to the rural agenda. This article tells us:

According to think tank Centre for Towns, a million young people in the UK have moved out of smaller communities over the past 30 years, in pursuit of smart living in a big city. Will smart city technology accelerate this brain drain, or could it be used by local authorities for towns and rural areas, to turn the tables and retain young talent?

When we talk about smart city concepts in the UK, we often reference large metropolitan cities such as London, Bristol or Manchester – bustling hives of innovation that are embracing technology to improve and enhance the lives of citizens. Recent government figures report that just over 45 per cent of those living in rural areas are now aged below 45 years, compared with almost 60 per cent in cities.

This represents a real challenge for the many small cities, towns and rural communities across the UK as young people continue to be lured away from their home towns for work and university. The adoption of smart technologies in these large cities adds to their appeal and is potentially accelerating the flow of younger, digitally native citizens from town to city.

The town that refused to let austerity kill its buses

This really interesting article makes Jessica and I think about the work we are currently doing in a cluster of villages in the Melton area of Leicestershire where the importance of a community transport service is emerging as top of the list of local issues. The story tells us:

Sit on the 210 for just a few minutes and strangers start to tell you things. They tell you how they were once ace footballers. About their heart problems. If you’re busy, they fill each other in on their just-completed trips to the GP or Aldi. And they’ll talk about how lost they’d be without this squat little bus turned impromptu social club.

“If this weren’t running, I’d be knackered.”

“I’d be a prisoner in my own home.”

Before getting off, almost every passenger turns around and tells the driver how grateful they are.

“See you Tuesday afternoon, Dave. I’ll bring the jokes.”

For a mere 15-seater, the 210 holds a lot of different meanings. For its operators, it’s “an ice-cream van”, running from Witney to Chipping Norton through five villages in west Oxfordshire that are otherwise starved of public transport. For passengers it’s a lifeline, either saving them from spending their pension on a minicab or – for the young – begging parents for a lift. It’s a new service run by and for a community that has been stripped of scores of bus routes. And that makes it a journey into a huge yet silent crisis: the shredding of our bus services.

Buses hardly get a mention in austerity Britain, yet they’re among its biggest casualties. Since 2010 funding for buses across England and Wales has been slashed by a third, while 134m miles of bus coverage has been lost over the past decade. Behind these big numbers are countless small stories of everyday indignity: of your nan no longer being able to get to the shops, or your teenage son struggling to clock on for a first job; of lives stripped of independence, or days out breaking tiny budgets.

Barely any of this is reflected in the London papers or what comes out of Westminster. They care more about trains. You can see why – our privatised services are big, costly and riddled with legalised larceny. But even so, buses figure far more in our everyday travel.

Don’t take us to a cliff edge on cash payments, IoF tells government

An interesting challenge not foreseen by many charities I suspect, this article tells us:

Responding to a consultation on cash and digital payments, the Institute of Fundraising says many charities need time to adapt as the role of cash diminishes.

Any changes to government policy on using cash should be carefully managed to avoid a “cliff edge” that would create problems for charities, the Institute of Fundraising has said.

In its response to the government’s consultation on cash and digital payments in the new economy, which closes today, the IoF says many charities will need time to adapt as the role of cash diminishes over time.

A survey of IoF members carried out for the consultation response found that, of the 247 respondents, 70 per cent had reported an overall fall in the percentage of overall donations made by cash in the past three years, and 86 per cent expected a further decrease in the next five years.

But the survey found that much depended on the size of the charity: of charities with annual incomes of less than £1m, 75 per cent thought there would be a falls in cash donations in the next five years, while 97 per cent of charities with incomes of more than £10m held this view.

Government promises profitable farming post-Brexit

I find this all very confusing. Is Defra in favour of paying for more food or more environment- and if the answer is both how are the two things to be reconciled???? This article tells us:

The government will take steps to ensure farms can operate profitably after Brexit, the environment secretary has insisted, as MPs challenged ministers to keep taxpayer funding for agriculture after EU subsidies are withdrawn.

Michael Gove said food production was at the heart of British farming. He told the all-party parliamentary environment group: “It would be impossible to sustain everything we value in rural Britain without thriving food production. And we need a balance [with environmental protection].”

His insistence on food at the core of the agriculture remit of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will be welcomed by farmers, who have seen lower productivity in recent years and were concerned by his previous emphasis on the environmental responsibilities of farming. Gove has repeatedly said subsidies would be given on condition of delivering “public goods” such as biodiversity – meaning they would cease to receive subsidies for producing food.

These concerns were reflected in a report published on Wednesday by MPs which said taxpayer funding would still be needed after the UK leaves the common agricultural policy (CAP) and such support should be ring-fenced in government budgets.

The environment, food and rural affairs committee found, in a report published on Wednesday, that the government’s plans for farming after Brexit have so far been vague and demanded further detail on what funding would be available after Brexit. Farmers currently receive £3bn in annual subsidies from the EU.

Fruit picker shortage leaves British farmers accepting anyone with ‘two hands and two legs’

We have more of this yet to come I fear! This story tells us:

A shortage of fruit pickers means British farmers are having to accept anyone with “two hands and two legs”, a recruitment agency has said.

More than half of recruiters could not find fruit and vegetable pickers even in the “quiet” first months of this year, according to the Association of Labour Providers.

Unpicked fruit has been left to rot in the fields as a result.

Ninety-nine per cent of seasonal workers on British farms come from Eastern Europe, with many arriving from Romania and Bulgaria.

The English question: How well do you know England?

Have a go at this quiz. It’s a great text of your spatial knowledge….

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


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