Hinterland - 05 November 2018

In Hinterland this week - A couple of controversial energy stories: one about energy debt and one about fracking, sad stories about the challenges around – farmers under pressure, the slow death of meals on wheels and the negative profiling of Grimsby – and finally…. a remembrance of a series of iconic photographs of Sheffield and its Hinterland in the early 1980sh. Read on.....

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Number of UK households in energy debt rises by 300,0000

With energy efficiency being far less robust in rural housing this is a worrying story – with a fair number of these households likely to be in rural settings. It tells us:

The number of households already in debt to their energy supplier before winter begins has grown by more than 300,000 in the past year, according to research, with a total of nearly £400m owed to power companies.

Following a round of price hikes, the amount of debt collectively owed to energy companies in the UK hit £393m in October, an increase of almost a quarter on the same time last year. Fuel poverty campaigners said the figures were a reminder of the “huge anxiety” many people faced this winter, worrying whether they could afford to turn the heating on.

Households are usually expected to be in credit by this time of year, ahead of the higher electricity and gas consumption to come in the colder months. But research by the consumer website uSwitch found a 10th of them, 2.93 million, were in debt to their supplier, up from 2.62 million in October 2017. They owed an average of £134 each.


Less than half of councils still offering meals on wheels

It’s a real tragedy that a Cinderella service like meals on wheels is facing a gradual death. As this story demonstrates it’s a lifeline for many rural dwellers and not something we should quietly let slip into oblivion…

Less than half of the UK’s local authorities offer meals on wheels services to elderly and vulnerable people, according to new research into the impact of cuts on local government.

A quarter of councils have stopped offering the service since 2014, figures published this weekend by the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) have revealed.

The north of England, which has seen the highest cuts to local authorities’ budgets since 2010, is also the worst area for meals on wheels. Just 13% of councils in the north-west provide the service, while 17% in the north-east do.

Meals-on wheels services are seen by campaigners as a crucial way to ensure that vulnerable older people are provided with a hot meal and human contact on a daily basis.

In the east of England and London, nearly one in three councils have cut their meals on wheels services in the last few years, according to the figures. In Yorkshire and the Humber, nearly one in four have.

All councils in Northern Ireland provided meals on wheels services up until 2016, but one in five have stopped doing so in the past two years.

The reductions are caused by the government’s cuts to adult social care budgets, according to NACC. The Local Government Association estimates that adult social care faces a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025.

Neel Radia, NACC chair, said meals on wheels are about more than food provision.

“For many older and vulnerable people, the meals on wheels delivery might be the only friendly face they see from one day to the next,” he said.


Grimsby: Reaction to town's 'unhealthiest high street' crown

I know there’s more to Grimsby than this caricature suggests. I am not sure what these sort of indices achieve apart from to run down and depress places rather than lift them up…. The story tells us:

Takeaways, betting shops and off licences are just some of the reasons Grimsby has been crowned "Britain's unhealthiest High Street".

Grimsby has long been the butt of much negative mirth. The fishing port was left reeling when, in 2014, Channel 4 filmed its Skint documentary, portraying the town as poverty-stricken and a benefit black spot.

So it would come as no surprise that the "unhealthiest" appellation would ruffle feathers again.

The feeling of anger was particularly strong on Freeman Street, a half-mile long strip lined with a myriad of businesses alongside a 145-year-old fruit and vegetable market which used to be the town's main shopping area.

"It's just one more kick in the teeth," said Grimsby fitness instructor Daniel Westcott.

Mr Westcott launched the North East Lincolnshire Enough is Enough Action Group in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour problems in the town.

He described The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH)'s report ranking 70 major UK towns and cities as "flawed".

"It's not a fair reflection at all," he said.


Fit2Farm: Hard work and long hours take toll on farmers

Jessica and I are delighted to be involved with this initiative – which is seeking to expose the deep pressures faced by those who farm our countryside. This story tells us:

Hard work and long hours are taking their toll on British farmers and their families, who are looking for ways to improve their work-life balance, a major Farmers Weekly survey reveals.

On average farmers work a 65-hour week – far exceeding the UK national average of 37 hours. Some growers and livestock producers work in excess of 100 hours, according to the study – with many rarely taking a day off, let alone an annual holiday.

Carried out in association with Bayer and Isuzu, the survey is being published this autumn to mark the start of a Farmers Weekly campaign called Fit2Farm – highlighting the importance of healthy farmers to healthy farm businesses.

Over the coming months we will show ways that farmers can maintain and enhance their physical health and mental wellbeing – achieving a better balance between work, outside interests and time spent with family and friends – and how that can benefit the farm business.

The Fit2Farm campaign has its roots in a farm health forum hosted by the Worshipful Company of Farmers (WCF). Held last year, the event brought together farm leaders, rural charities and health experts to highlight the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for farmers, their families and businesses.

We have signed up Welsh rugby international Dan Lydiate as an ambassador and public face of the Fit2Farm campaign. A beef and sheep producer as well as a 2013 British and Irish Lion, he is well aware of the challenges faced by farmers.

Farm charities are supporting the Fit2Farm campaign. As well as WCF, Farmers Weekly has joined forces with the Farming Community Network and the Farm Safety Foundation as charity partners. Industry leaders are also lending their support.

NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts said: “The old ‘farming isn’t a job, it’s a way of life’ stuff is too often an excuse for accepting conditions and work arrangements no other industry would accept. For me, holidays with the family are critically important.”


Government faces new legal challenge over plans to speed up fracking

This story continues the uncertain dialogue about fracking in what are inevitably rural settings. It tells us:

The government is facing a fresh legal challenge to its proposals to fast-track new fracking sites by loosening planning regulations.

Ministers said this summer they would drop the requirement for shale gas wells to obtain planning permission by designating fracking sites as national infrastructure projects.

Greg Clark, the business secretary, used a written ministerial statement to tell local authorities they should abide by a definition of fracking that campaigners say is looser than the current one.

Opponents say the new definition allows some companies to claim that their operations do not meet the technical definition of fracking and therefore do not have to face tougher planning decisions.

On Monday a high court will decide whether to allow a legal challenge, brought by the mayor of a town in north Yorkshire against two government departments, on the grounds they should have undertaken an assessment required by EU law before Clark’s statement.

The case has been brought by Paul Andrews, the mayor of Malton, which is the nearest town to the KM8 well that Third Energy intends to frack.

He said Clark’s comments had completely undermined protections against fracking in North Yorkshire county council’s local minerals plan.


And Finally

Martin Jenkinson retrospective to go on show in Sheffield

This man and his photographs resonate deeply across the memories of my youth. The photo of the miner in the fancy dress police helmet inspecting the police picket line is an iconic remembrance of the early 80s and the area I grew up in. Many of these photos are as rural as they are urban in their settings and if you’re anywhere near Weston Park in the next few weeks you should definitely pop in and see them.

From the mundanities of everyday life in South Yorkshire to some of the most striking images of British industrial struggle, the first major retrospective of the work of photographer Martin Jenkinson is to go on display in Sheffield.

Jenkinson, a former steelworker, is known for his enduring images of British protests in the 1980s as well as his moving and humorous insights into the steel city’s character.

His most famous work includes the arrest of Arthur Scargill and the image of a smiling pit worker wearing a fake police helmet inspecting police officers without identification numbers during the Orgreave miners’ strike in 1984.

The exhibition, Who We Are, at Weston Park Museum, will showcase more than 80 of his photographs spanning four decades. Among the images on display will be a portrait of Maxine Duffat, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport’s first black female bus driver, and a photograph of 1,500 people queuing to apply for 50 jobs at a new Sheffield restaurant in 1983.

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


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