Hinterland - 10 February 2020

In Hinterland this week :

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‘Enough is enough – we need our cash’: meet the rural town fighting back against bank closures

This is a heart warming story from the Yorkshire Dales based on the magical community of Hawes which has always shown a strong resilient attitude. It represents a real breakthrough in appreciating that there is more than one way to skin a building society in a rural town. It tells us:

Rural communities across the country know all too well the damage that bank branch closures are causing. However, a growing number of villages and small towns have seen little-known providers step in to fill the breach after Britain’s largest banks have fled.

Hawes is a picturesque town in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, most famous for being the home of Wensleydale cheese. The community was rocked when its two bank branches, a Barclays and an HSBC, closed their doors. This meant residents faced a 33-mile round trip through winding country lanes to their nearest bank in Leyburn.

But the community fought back and mounted a successful campaign to bring banking services back. Newcastle Building Society officially opened a branch in the town on Thursday, meaning small businesses and residents are not cut off from their money after being left in the lurch by the big banks....


Buses: Government unveils £50m plan to create first all-electric bus town

I’m up for more in the context of innovation around bus usage. I have often found local taxi drivers are the ones who are tricky to navigate when trying to do things which they perceive to challenge their business, which in many cases is founded on the lack of a viable local travel solution for vulnerable people.  A rural all electric bus town would be a great outcome to this story which tells us:

England's first town to have all-electric buses will be created through a £50m fund, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

Local authorities can bid for money to help pay for a new fleet of electric buses.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said buses had "a crucial role to play in bringing down emissions".

Darren Shirley, head of the Campaign for Better Transport, called it a "good start" after years of cuts to services.

The DfT said that the winning town would be used as a model by government as it aims to ensure all buses are fully electric by 2025.

The announcement comes as part of a wider package of measures for buses.

About £70m will go towards high-frequency "Superbus" networks. One is already in place in Cornwall, where a mix of lower fares, more frequent services and lots of bus lanes has proven successful.


UK to strengthen sea patrols to ward off post-Brexit fishing wars

Its surprising how few of us understand the fishing industry. My increasing involvement with it suggests that nothing is as it seems on face value. The one thing I think is certain in terms of this story is that there are likely to be tears before bedtime before a new arrangement settles down. It tells us:

Britain has been quietly increasing its maritime defences in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the “cod wars” of the 1970s once the UK fully completes its departure from the EU at the end of 2020.

With a post-Brexit deal on fishing to be negotiated, maritime authorities are taking on two new inspection ships, according to recent parliamentary answers – and will have more than twice the number of Royal Navy patrol ships by the end of the year.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs has said that it wants “a relationship with the EU based on friendly cooperation between sovereign equals”, but has ramped up preparations in case talks with Brussels break down.

Britain has so far refused to offer Brussels any promises on access to UK waters, where more than 700,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish are caught by EU trawlers each year, prompting the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, to threaten to block a trade agreement on financial services last month in retaliation.

In a no-deal scenario, the UK would be responsible for patrolling and enforcing the exclusion of foreign vessels in its economic waters, a vast area of 80,000 nautical square miles into the Atlantic and the North sea.

The Marine Management Organisation, responsible for English waters, can obtain a further 22 ships in an emergency, and is also considering whether to take on two extra surveillance aircraft to help cover the maritime area.


Government warned of 'rural revolution' over council tax rises in North Yorkshire

I have this vision of the cabinet in North Yorkshire wearing tee-shirts with “Ne Paseran” arising from this story. More seriously there is an on-going huge problem of unfairness which this story identifies and which seems almost insuperable to resolve. That doesn’t mean any of us are ready to give up just yet so I admire the folks in Northallerton for bringing this (yet again) to public attention. This story tells us:

The Government has been warned it faces a “rural revolution” as council taxpayers in parts of Yorkshire face bills of up to three times more than some of London’s most exclusive boroughs.

North Yorkshire County Council’s deputy leader Gareth Dadd told colleagues “we are now at the tipping point of acceptability over council tax”, as the authority pushed forward council tax increases with a “heavy heart”.

But Coun Dadd said: “This evidence will be paramount with Government lobbying. We are now at a tipping point of acceptability over council tax. Some may say this is a bit of a rural revolution.”

The council’s cabinet meeting heard the Government had created an additional budgeting headache by proposing local authorities be banned from using general funds to subsidise shortfalls in school funding without Secretary of State approval. Without extra funding, cash for children with special educational needs and disabilities would face a £12m shortfall over the next four years.

But Coun Dadd said the root cause of North Yorkshire’s difficulties centred on an unfair formula being used by the Government to calculate how much funding councils should receive.

He told members: “It cannot be right, as efficient as we are, for an average band D property council tax in North Yorkshire to be £1,544 and for a band D property in an average inner London borough to be £1,157, with some Westminster, for example, being £433 or £754 if you count the Greater London Authority. This inequality has been prevailing for decades under governments of all political colours.”


'It is devastating': UK farmers despair as sheep thefts soar

Sheep rustling reads more like something from the Wild West. Up close and personal, particularly when beasts are slaughtered in the field, it is a truly horrid crime. This story serves to remind us that there are many aspects to being a farmer which have very little to do with any kind of rural idyll. It tells us:

Rebecca Davidson, a rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said rustling caused suffering to farmers and to the animals.

She said: “Rustling has always been an aspect of farming but 10 years ago we would rarely see claims of more than a dozen sheep taken in one go. We are now regularly getting reports of 50-100 sheep being taken in a single raid and it is devastating for farmers.

“As well as causing untold suffering to sheep, which may be in lamb when they are stolen, rustling is causing high levels of anxiety for farmers who have built up their flocks over many years.

“Rustlers are getting more skilled and organised, quickly loading sheep on to trailers and lorries late at night. We are concerned that gangs are now using working sheepdogs, which have also been stolen, to get the job done.”

An alarming trend is the illegal butchery of animals in the field. Rather than having the bother of moving animals – and hiding them until they or their meat can be sold on – thieves sometimes prefer to kill them where they are, butcher the carcasses and leave the remains.

Farmers and their families are devastated when they go to check their flocks to find the bloodied remains. Davidson added: “We believe that meat from stolen animals is being sold on the black market and undermining welfare standards.”

The farmers are trying to fight back. Where possible, they are grazing animals away from roads. Some are setting up devices such as infra-red beams across gates that send alerts to mobile phones if broken. But it can be costly, time-consuming and not always effective.


Welsh police solve 'moo-dunnit' using DNA test on cow

Sometimes headlines just suggest themselves! This story tells us:

Police in rural south-west Wales have used DNA profiling to solve the mystery of a missing cow.

Dyfed-Powys police say they are the first force in the UK to employ a technique more often used in serious crimes such as murder to reunite a heifer with its owner.

The case – described locally as a “moo-dunnit” – centres on a £3,000 animal that went missing from a field in St Clears on the River Taf in Carmarthenshire. Police were called in and suspicion fell on a neighbouring farmer, David Aeron Owens.

The complainant, who has not been named, pointed out to officers the cow he believed was his. PC Gareth Jones was handed what Owens claimed was the cow’s passport – its identification document.

Unsatisfied, police oversaw the taking of blood samples from the disputed animal, which were compared against samples from cows on the complainant’s farm to prove a familial link. The cow in question was returned home and Owens, 51, pleaded guilty to theft at Swansea crown court this week.


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


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