Hinterland - 03 August 2020

In Hinterland more broadband (but still not enough), some interesting thoughts on food, extreme weather, Brexit threats remain in terms of disruption, a thoughtful report on bringing health and social care together and some less well used (at least currently) places to stay in And Finally…

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Millions of rural homes in UK to get next-generation full-fibre broadband

I discovered the other day that Mablethorpe will remain 53 kilometers from the nearest 5G connection so lets not get too deluded by this second class offer which it seems to me will just get us to first base. First base will no doubt however still be more welcome than the services the settlements mentioned here currently have. This story tells us:

More than 250 small towns and villages at risk of being left behind in the digital revolution are to get next-generation full-fibre broadband over the next three years.

Millions of homes and businesses located in rural areas, from the Scottish Highlands to the Welsh valleys, have suffered from poor internet service because providers have been reluctant to build faster networks due to prohibitive costs and low economic returns. Telecoms regulator Ofcom estimates that there are about 9.6m homes and businesses situated in this so-called “final third” of the country.

BT subsidiary Openreach has unveiled plans to guarantee to build full-fibre broadband to 3.2m premises in these hard to reach locations over the next three years. Locations on the list include Thurso in the far north of Scotland, Aberystwyth on Cardigan Bay in Wales and Lingfield in Surrey.

“This commitment will provide a great economic boost for rural areas, where it is clear connectivity has traditionally lagged behind more urban areas,” said Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance. “As we have seen during the Covid-19 pandemic, digital connectivity has been essential for the millions who are home schooling and working from home.”


'Once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity for more sustainable food

This is a thoughtful report which gives some really interesting reflections on the scope to reset the compass post our decision to leave the EU and in the light of the unintended changes to our economy arising from the coronavirus. This report tells us:

An independent review of UK food policy is calling for "a gold standard level of scrutiny" to ensure new trade deals do not undermine the environment.

Verification schemes should address concerns such as imports of beef reared on land recently cleared of rainforest.

And the government should press on with plans to pay English farmers to improve the countryside.

The report aims to ensure a food system that is healthy, affordable, sustainable, resilient, and productive.

It was commissioned by the government in 2019.

Author of the first report of the National Food Strategy, food entrepreneur Henry Dimbleby, said the UK had a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to decide what kind of trading nation it wanted to be when the transition period ends.

"We should use that freedom to decide that we want to uphold standards," he said.

"And the government should be confident of scrutiny on the trade deals that it is doing."

Trade deals should not only increase wealth but restore the environment and protect animal welfare, he added.


Climate change 'driving UK's extreme weather'

Not a surprise but still a sobering set of facts this article tells us:

Climate change driven by industrial society is having an increasing impact on the UK’s weather, the Met Office says.

Its annual UK report confirms that 2019 was the 12th warmest year in a series from 1884.

Although it does not make the top 10, the report says 2019 was remarkable for high temperature records in the UK.

There was also a severe swing in weather from the soaking winter to the sunny spring.

The temperature extremes were:

  • A new UK maximum record (38.7° C) on 25 July, in Cambridge
  • A new winter maximum record (21.2° C) on 26 February, in Kew Gardens, London - the first time 20C has been reached in the UK in winter
  • A new December maximum record (18.7° C) on 28 December, in Achfary, Sutherland
  • A new February minimum record (13.9° C) on 23 February, in Achnagart, Highland

No national low temperature records were set in the State of the UK Climate report, published by the Royal Meteorological Society.


Brexit a Bigger Threat to U.K. Food Supplies Than Virus, MPs Say

I think the concentration on coronavirus has been accompanied by a deliberate process of neglect in terms of Brexit negotiations and I fear a really awful winter as the two strands of major threat entwine is in prospect for rural communities. This article tells us:

A disorderly break with the European Union at the end of the year poses a bigger threat to Britain’s food supplies than the coronavirus pandemic that saw supermarket shelves emptied, a Parliamentary committee warned.

In a report published on Thursday, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee called on Boris Johnson’s government to complete an urgent review of the food industry’s resilience to shocks like Brexit and climate change. The panel singled out the importation of produce from overseas on a just-in-time basis as a particular concern.

“The government cannot afford to be complacent,” the report said. “It should provide reassurances that food supply disruptions have been factored into contingency planning for the end of the transition period.”


Revealed: NHS could take over social care, swelling budget to £150bn

Much food for thought in terms of cash strapped rural local authorities here:

Social care could be brought under the control of the NHS in England in a controversial move that would cause the health service’s budget to soar to £150bn, the Guardian has learned.

Downing Street has drafted in David Cameron’s former policy chief Camilla Cavendish to help finalise proposals designed to honour Boris Johnson’s pledge to “fix the crisis in social care”.

Under plans being examined by Cavendish and ministers, the government would take responsibility for social care services away from councils in England – together with the £22.5bn in annual funding – and hand it to the NHS, the Guardian understands. On Monday night the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) denied it had plans to merge the two public services.

The proposed merger would be designed to make it easier for frail older people, as well as vulnerable children and the disabled, to access the care they need and ease the strain on an overburdened NHS.

Experts warned that a merger would create problems for councils and the NHS. Nigel Edwards, the chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: “We would have several concerns about a radical shift of powers away from local authorities to put the sector under the control of larger NHS bodies. These large areas [ICSs] might be a bit remote to really understand what’s going on in social care.

They also don’t really exist as institutions yet, so giving them huge new powers as they start up would be a dramatic and potentially disruptive shift for both the NHS and councils.

“There would be a risk that this makes social care less joined up with other council services vulnerable people rely on, like housing and public health.”

Harry Quilter-Pinner, an associate director of the IPPR thinktank, said: “At its best, integrated care can overcome fragmentation and deliver better outcomes for older people. But policymakers have been talking about delivering integrated care for decades. The truth is it is hard to achieve and stripping local government of its responsibility for social care is a controversial way of going about it.


And Finally

Far from the madding crowd: UK staycation destinations to try this summer

Im not sure that many of these places are actually very far from the madding crowd, even the Peak District is ringed by Derby, Stoke, Manchester and Sheffield. Nonetheless some interesting options for those keen to get a break here

For many, a British holiday means a trip to well-known holiday boltholes such as Devon and Cornwall, the Lake District or the New Forest. But there is real beauty in slightly less trodden parts of coastal, urban and rural Britain.

The Peak District

When it comes to spectacular hills and rolling rivers, the Peak District is sometimes unfairly overlooked in favour of the more tourist-heavy Lake District. If you want miles of unspoilt countryside, with plenty for the kids to enjoy, then the Peak District national park has everything you need.

The Northumberland coast

With more castles than any other English county, you will never be short of ideas for a day trip in Northumberland. Perhaps the most dramatic medieval seat is Lindisfarne castle, which sits atop a volcanic mound a few miles off the Northumberland coast. Sadly, due to coronavirus the castle remains closed but Holy Island itself is open.

Mersea island, Essex

A short hop from London, this tiny estuary island has been a somewhat-secret place of pilgrimage for seafood fans for years. Across the Strood – the ancient Roman causeway that links Mersea to the mainland – lies what is said to be the UK’s most easterly inhabited island.


While most UK holidays involve a pilgrimage to the coast or countryside, travel experts say people may be missing a trick by not visiting cities. City hotels have not enjoyed the same booking boom as those by the seaside since lockdown restrictions were eased but many are offering great deals. York is one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations in normal times but its visitor income has disappeared virtually overnight. The biggest surviving remains of York castle, Clifford’s Tower, reopens to visitors from Saturday, as does the castle museum. Enjoy alongside the city’s other plentiful attractions, shops, bars and restaurants.


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



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