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Hinterland - 1 July 2019

In Hinterland this week – Villages losing GPs, controversy around the Crown Estate, Food for Thought, the threat of the shadow of a return to yet more on shore windfarms, more evidence of the unmanageable pressure on local authorities to support people in need in a way never really conceived for them and a salute at last to women’s football.
One final thought from me. I discovered that the claimant count, the measure of those people on benefits largely as a consequence of unemployment has been persistently rising for the last 12 months across England and is now 200,000 higher than last July – that’s the equivalent of a City the size of Peterborough. Why has there been no media reporting of this???
Read on....

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Hundreds of villages lose their GP surgery as crisis grows across country

Laura Donnelly of the Telegraph has a really sharp and valuable interest in rural health and care. I’m really pleased she has highlighted the issues below. Her latest article tells us:

Hundreds of villages have lost their GP surgery amid a deepening crisis across the country, an investigation reveals.

Experts said rural and coastal areas were being hit particularly hard by a national shortage of family doctors, forcing elderly and vulnerable patients to travel ever further for care.

The figures reveal 1,946 villages which are at least three miles from the nearest GP practice - 162 more than was the case just two years ago.

They include 206 areas where patients are forced to travel at least five miles - a 12 per cent increase on 2017 - with distances of up to 14 miles in some parts of the countryside.


Crown estate faces tenants' anger over rent hikes, evictions and repair delays

The Prince of Wales is a rural champion from my perspective, this article makes less good reading about the crown estate and its relationship with its tenants. It tells us:

Scores of complaints have been made about rented properties on royal land and tenants have faced more than 100 evictions, a Guardian investigation has found, prompting anger over how the Queen’s £14bn property portfolio is managed.

The crown estate, which helps bankroll the Queen by giving the monarch 25% of its profits, has sought to evict 113 tenants in the past five years so they can sell their homes for profit.

It comes after it has emerged on Tuesday that the taxpayer has footed a £2.4m bill to renovate Frogmore Cottage, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s official residence, according to royal accounts. While the royals have no direct oversight role in crown estate’s dealings, Prince William and Prince Charles have both spoken before about the importance of ensuring good quality housing is available for all.

Figures obtained by the Guardian show that the crown estate has received more than 100 complaints about its residential properties in just two years, including grievances over rent hikes, leaks, delays in repairs and faulty electrical goods.

One evicted tenant accused the crown estate – which made £329m profit last year – of “greed”. The retired police officer, who said he was left thousands of pounds out of pocket after being evicted, told the Guardian: “The crown estate are custodians, they are not a bloody commercial estate agent. They are custodians and therefore they have a social duty to the public and their communities.”

An investigation using data obtained through Freedom of Information laws reveals that:

  • The crown estate has made £1.1bn selling off more than 700 residential and commercial properties since 2014, with one private firm subsequently hiking rent well above inflation.
  • More than a quarter of a million pounds has been banked by the crown estate in housing benefit from just seven hard-up tenants.
  • Four tenants have sued the crown estate for breach of contract, including one claim worth half a million pounds.

The disclosures will be uncomfortable for senior royals who have previously expressed their concern over the state of private rental properties. In March, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited dilapidated housing in Blackpool and saw rain leaking through the windows of a property and holes in the ceiling. The third-in-line to the throne later said during the visit: “There is a sadder side to Blackpool,” adding: “And we shouldn’t skirt around these issues.”


Leon restaurant co-founder Henry Dimbleby to lead food system review

Another in the long line of Dimbleby providing a useful and food for thought based service. This story tells us:

The co-founder of Leon restaurants, Henry Dimbleby, is to lead a government review into England's food system so it is "safe, healthy and affordable".

The review will examine the food system "from field to fork" and address what needs to change in the face of climate concerns and population growth.

Mr Dimbleby said he planned to talk to people "from across the food chain... and ensure everyone has a say".

He added that he hoped to convene a "citizens' assembly" on the issues.

"I am very keen to talk to people who have diabetes, those on low incomes, farmers who are not part of the political process," he explained.

"Populations are growing, diet-related conditions are harming the lives of millions, and climate change is altering what our land will yield. But we can change that," said Mr Dimbleby, whose success with Leon led him to found the Sustainable Restaurant Association in 2009.

Citizens' assemblies have become an increasingly popular forum for scrutinising nationwide issues and have been used to effect constitutional change on abortion in Ireland.


End onshore windfarm ban, Tories urge

My personal view and not one I expect everyone to take if that I really don’t want any more windfarm shadows falling over my landscape. I’m not sure this poll is truly revealing – perhaps if asked if they would like a series of these things close to their own properties these people might have offered a more nuanced view. I would be very interested to do a socio-economic analysis on the location of windfarms to see what it reveals about the relationship between relative affluence and their locations. Still this article tells us:

Pressure is mounting within the Conservative party to end its block on new onshore windfarms after evidence that Tory supporters overwhelmingly back their return.

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, who are battling to become the party’s new leader, are facing internal calls to give the green light to new onshore wind projects that could slash the price of energy.

Latest research suggests Tory voters are far more concerned about fracking than they are about onshore windfarms.

Clamping down on onshore wind turbines was used by David Cameron to appease Tory heartlands when he was prime minister. He said people were “frankly fed up” with the farms and slashed their subsidies, effectively making new installations unfeasible. The move led to an 80% slump last year in new onshore wind farms, with the fewest built since 2011. However, polling of more than 15,000 Tory voters suggests there is now clear support for onshore wind farms.

The survey, carried out by Survation, for the Conservative Environment Network, showed that 74% of people who voted Conservative in the last election support onshore wind farms. The figure was twice the number of Tory voters who back fracking – just 37%.


Surge in children seeking mental health support from cash-strapped councils, figures show

Councils just aren’t equipped to meet these allocation of resources across the UK to properly meet the needs of this vulnerable client group. This story tells us:

Soaring numbers of children seeking help for mental health issues have been blamed on savage cuts to local authority budgets.

Politicians and council leaders are calling on the government to inject funding into children’s services as an analysis of figures reveals the number of youngsters identified by councils as having mental health problems has surged by 54 per cent in four years.

The figure rose from 133,600 in 2014-15 to 205,720 in 2017-18, with more than 560 cases recorded every day last year on average.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which carried out the analysis, said children’s centres and family support services – “vital” for looking after children before problems become more serious – had lost 60p out of every £1 they had from central government over the past decade.

Some of these services have subsequently been stripped back or ended altogether, with about 1,000 Sure Start centres – which provide early years health and education services – having been forced to close down since 2010.


And Finally

More than a game: A history of male and female football stars of South Tyneside

I was (to me) surprisingly gripped by the France vs USA game at the World Cup on Friday night.  In celebration of this increasingly widening phenomena here is a fab advert for a really interesting exhibition!

An exhibition on the history of football in south Tyneside - featuring a rare 100-year-old photo of a cup winning women's team - has opened.

More than a Game showcases memorabilia, cups, kits and photos from the 19th Century to present day.

Highlights include a cartoon of tough player "Bumper" Towell and a snap of a women's cup winning team with England player Mary Lyons from 1919. The free exhibition is at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery.


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


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