Hinterland - 04 November 2019

In Hinterland this week, - Brexit looms large, cash points are available in modest new numbers, unsustainable home to school transport revealed, a coalmine controversy and the awful impact of an impending election on school nativity plays. Read on...

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No-deal Brexit means return of battery eggs, farmers' union warns

More grist to the mill in terms of rural Brexit concerns. This story tells us:

Eggs from battery hens will return to British supermarket shelves if the government fails to strike a new trading deal with the EU and crashes out of the bloc, the National Farmers’ Union has warned.

The NFU says the government has ignored its pleas to put tariffs on eggs to protect against cheaper rivals from countries such as the US where caging hens is allowed.

“We will be importing eggs produced in those very same cages we banned in 2012,” said the NFU president, Minette Batters.

Tariffs on farm and other produce will come in at the end of the transition period after Brexit whether a deal with the EU is done or not, and will affect all imports from third countries.

But the NFU is baffled by the decision by the government to put tariffs on lamb to protect vulnerable sheep farmers, but not to impose them on eggs or wheat.


UK communities demand new free-to-use cash machines

Some modest, but I suspect relatively cold comfort, in proportion to the number of cash points being lost in rural areas. This story tells us:

Consumers and community groups have made more than 100 requests for free-to-use ATMs in their area, directly from operator Link in the month following the launch of a new fund.

The Community Access to Cash Delivery Fund is taking requests for free-to-use ATMs in places with poor access, and is part of measures aimed at tackling the concern that it is becoming harder for people to take out cash.

The requests so far have come from every corner of the country, with isolated rural communities, deprived urban areas and small towns all getting in touch, Link said.

If an application meets the criteria and there is a suitable location, Link will fund the new ATM directly.

There is £1m in the pot so far, but more money could be released when needed.


Britain's countryside will be transformed by policies to combat climate change, the government's former chief environment scientist says

Interesting controversy arising here….

Professor Sir Ian Boyd said climate policies after Brexit will alter the landscape more than most people expect.

There will be many more trees and hedges but far fewer grazing animals as people eat less red meat, he said.

The farmers' union, the NFU, rejected his analysis and forecast that there may be more grazing animals, not fewer.

It said the UK's well-watered pastures are ideal for producing low-carbon livestock and exporting it to places where growing conditions are less favourable.

This is the first public eruption of a long-running conflict between Professor Boyd, the former adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the body that represents Britain's farmers.

Sir Ian thinks the NFU has wielded far too much influence over departmental policy. The NFU believes he is out of touch with the reality of farming. 

The antipathy reflects deeper technical, ethical and political debates over the future of the production and consumption of animals for food.


Some councils' school transport costs nearly as high as child social care

We really need to sort these spiralling costs which local government was never set up to manage out! This story tells us:

Councils in England have warned that home-to-school transport, on which many children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) depend, is under threat because of “unsustainable” costs and insufficient funding.

A report commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) and County Councils Network has revealed that councils are spending more on home-to-school transport than they spend on children’s centres, family support or youth services.

In some areas where the costs of transport are disproportionately high, often because of long distances in rural settings, the LGA says the school transport budget is almost as large as the entire children’s social care budget.

According to the LGA, 550,000 young people currently receive free home-to-school transport each year, of which 145,000 are pupils with Send whose transport accounts for 69% of total expenditure. New analysis shows that annual costs have increased by £66m in the last four years and could rise by a further £127m to reach £1.2bn by 2024.

One of the key drivers for the increase in costs is that children with Send are increasingly being sent further afield to specialist schools because of a shortage of suitable places closer to home.

Campaigners have warned that cash-strapped councils are already making “ill-considered” cuts to home-to-school transport, prompting safeguarding concerns. In some cases, they say, disabled children with significant health needs are having to wait at pick-up points in freezing weather or are being asked to travel alone, when they really need support.


Government under fire for approval of new coalmine in Cumbria

I’m delivering a seminar about rural economic development in Cumbria tomorrow! It will be interesting to see what people think about this. This story of rural resource exploitation creating 500 jobs tells us:

A new coalmine in Cumbria has been given the green light by the government in the same week that the Treasury launched a review into how the UK can end its contribution to global heating.

The developer, West Cumbria Mining, said the £165m mine would create 500 jobs.

The Cumbrian MP Tim Farron called the decision “a kick in the teeth in the fight to tackle climate change”.

Farron had asked the government to “call in” the decision after it received unanimous planning approval by Cumbria county council in March.

But his application has been rejected, with the local Conservative MP Trudy Harrison saying “sense has prevailed”.

Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, expressed his dismay, saying the government should “invest fully in zero-carbon energy” instead.

He said: “Cumbria has so many renewable resources to provide energy – water, wind and solar – and we should most definitely not be taking the backwards step of opening a new coalmine.”

The news came as the government announced its net zero review, which will assess “how we can cut our emissions without seeing them exported elsewhere”.

The mine, called Woodhouse Colliery, will be situated on the former Marchon industrial site near Whitehaven. It will extract coking coal from under the sea nearby, with access via the existing Sandwith Anhydrite mine portals, according to West Cumbria Mining.


And Finally

General election: Hundreds of schools face disruption to nativity plays and Christmas concerts, survey suggests

Not only are we sick of Brexit in all its guises it seems now that it is going to destroy many nativity plays. Surely not something anyone wanted when they voted to leave!!! This story tells us:

Hundreds of schools are expected to tear up their plans for nativity plays and Christmas concerts because of the upcoming general election, a new poll suggests.

Around one in 12 primary school teachers have said the election on 12 December would disturb a scheduled festive activity – such as a nativity, concert or party, according to a survey by Teacher Tapp.

The findings, first shared with Schools Week, also found that nearly one in five (17 per cent) of primary school teachers say their school will be closed on election day to be used as a polling station.


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


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