Hinterland - 10 July 2018

In Hinterland this week – if you want to get ahead get a hat! Poor housing is as bad for rural dwellers as smoking and drinking, just what did Boris sign up to at that fateful meeting at Chequers and what might it mean for rural places? Is Theresa May thinking about the need for us to retain our EU workforce? And the latest sad installment in the wind down of Northamptonshire. Read on.....

*         *          *

'It made me depressed': how poor housing costs the NHS £1.4bn a year”

We had a very interesting Rural Services All Party Parliamentary Group meeting on Tuesday. One central theme was the role housing plays in sustaining the well-being of old people in rural settings. There is still some considerable way to go before the quality of supply responds to people’s needs but there is loads of scope for innovation, particularly around modular housing. This article piqued my interest in the context of the challenge of creating a sustainable adult social care system in rural England. It tells us about the negative impact of poor housing on the health and well-being of its residents:

The impact of poor housing on residents’ mental and physical health is well evidenced. In 2017, research by Shelter found that one in five adults had experienced mental health issues in the past five years due to housing problems, and GPs say housing issues are often a key factor in patients’ mental health conditions. According to the University of Birmingham’s housing and communities research group, one fifth of housing stock in England does not meet the decent home standard. 

Poor housing costs the NHS £1.4bn a year  according to the Building Research Establishment. In terms of physical health, cold, damp homes can increase the risk of cardiovascular, respiratory and rheumatoid conditions. They exacerbate symptoms of arthritis and reduce dexterity among elderly people, increasing the risk of falls. Poor housing represents a similar risk to the NHS as physical inactivity, smoking or alcohol. It’s a link the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, made in 2017, when he suggested the NHS could in future pay to remove the damp from council homes.


What the cabinet has agreed at Chequers Brexit meeting

So as we draw nearer to the Brexit deadline – what are the bones of the deal the PM has (or thinks she has) hammered out with the cabinet? This article tells us:

Harmonisation on goods

The statement says the UK will “maintain a common rulebook for all goods” including agricultural products after Brexit, with the UK committing via treaty on continued harmonisation, thus avoiding border friction.

Parliament would have oversight of such rules, it adds, and can choose to not continue harmonisation “recognising that this would have consequences”. However, the proposal says protections in areas such as the environment, employment laws and consumer protection would not fall below current levels.

The arrangement would see looser arrangements for services, with a recognition this will involve less mutual access to markets than currently.

Joint jurisdiction of rules

The plan proposes what is termed a “joint institutional framework” for interpreting UK-EU agreements, to be carried out in each jurisdiction by the respective courts. However, decisions by UK courts would involve “due regard paid to EU caselaw in areas where the UK continued to apply a common rulebook”.

The system would include joint committees, or binding independent arbitration in the case of disputes, which would have reference to the European court of justice (ECJ) “as the interpreter of EU rules”.

The government statement puts forward the idea of the so-called facilitated customs arrangement, May’s new attempt at a compromise system that could be acceptable to her cabinet Brexiters and to Brussels.

This would see the UK and EU avoid hard borders by being treated as a “combined customs territory”. Under this, the UK would apply domestic tariffs and trade policies for goods intended for the UK, and their EU equivalents for goods heading into the EU.

This would, the document says, let a post-Brexit UK set its own tariffs for trade with the rest of the world without causing border disruption. The statement says the new arrangements would prevent a hard Irish border, ensuring the “backstop” elements of the initial withdrawal agreement would not be needed.


Northamptonshire County Council: Acting chief executive and finance officer to leave

There’s plenty of “rural” in Northamptonshire and local authority watchers like me cant resist watching the twists and turns in the sad unfolding scenario in the County. This latest instalment signals changes to key personnel. I do wonder how many other larger rural authorities might be on the brink…? The article tells us:

The acting chief executive and chief financial officer at a crisis-hit council have both resigned. 

Andrew Quincey and Mark McLaughlin have been working under two government-appointed commissioners at Northamptonshire County Council.

The commissioners were put in place in May to try to steer the authority out of its financial crisis.

Councillors were told of the resignations in an email from the Tory council leader Matt Golby.

He wrote that interim chief executive Mr Quincey, who took up his post in April, would leave on 27 July.

"Last week he handed in his resignation... and will shortly be taking a new role working on a major construction project in Sydney, Australia," Mr Golby wrote on Friday.

"Our chief finance officer Mark McLaughlin has also handed in his resignation. 

"Mark has made it clear that as the commissioners are now in post and the recruitment process is under way for a new chief executive, the council is moving into its next phase and therefore it is only right that he steps aside."

Interviews for a new permanent chief executive will take place on Monday and the successful candidate will be announced on 19 July.

Andrew Quincey took over the role following the resignation of previous interim Damon Lawrenson. 

Mark McLaughlin, who leaves at the end of July, joined the authority in December and in February issued a 114 notice, which banned all new expenditure.

Mr Golby thanked both officers for their work in this "tumultuous time" and said they will not receive settlement payments as they took voluntary redundancy.


Farm leaders herald Brexit ‘breakthrough’ after crunch Chequers meeting

I think the welcome reported in this article by the NFU and CLA to the emerging consensus on our negotiating position with the EU smacks as much of desperation as enthusiasm. This article tells us:

NFU president Minette Batters said more detail was needed, but avoiding friction at the border was vital in order to maintain the high levels of trade in agricultural goods with our largest market, which is so important to the farm economy.

“The NFU has argued strongly since the EU referendum that maintaining as free and frictionless trade as possible between the EU and the UK post-Brexit will be critical if British farmers are to continue to play their part in providing high quality and affordable food to the British public.”

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president Tim Breitmeyer described the development as “an important breakthrough in delivering a clear vision for a post-Brexit UK”.

“A future relationship which imposes barriers to trade or excludes agri-food would not just put at risk farming businesses, but have a devastating impact across the wider rural economy,” he said.

Mr Breitmeyer said the statement would give farmers and rural businesses more confidence about the future, but noted that the government’s vision still has to be negotiated and agreed with the EU.


Theresa May refuses to rule out EU citizens getting preferential rights to come to Britain after Brexit

I have to say this article makes me feel somewhat optimistic on behalf of all those local rural businesses, which rely so heavily on EU labour. It tells us:

Theresa May has suggested EU citizens could be given preferential rights to come to the UK after Brexit.

The prime minister insisted freedom of movement will end when Britain leaves the EU but said the issue of whether to give citizens of European countries special treatment has yet to be decided.

She also hardened her stance on dissent in her party, warning cabinet ministers they face being sacked if they speak out against the government's Brexit policy. 

It comes after the cabinet agreed a plan for Britain's future relationship with the EU following a day of talks at the prime minister's Chequers country retreat.

Under the proposals, freedom of movement between the UK and the EU will end but a "mobility framework" will be set up to make it easier for people to travel between the two, including for study and work.


Queen's patronage has single-handedly saved the British hat industry, Philip Treacy says

Impressive recognition for a lifelong achievement by the “head” of state. …..

She has been on the throne for more than 65 years, fulfiling her public duties, unifying the Commonwealth and providing the steady role-model the nation needs in turbulent times.

The Queen has also single-handedly kept the hat industry in business, according to Philip Treacy.

Treacy, the milliner used regularly by members of the Royal family, said the Queen had “kept hats alive in the imagination of people all over the world”, ensuring their survival even as most of her subjects largely abandoned them.

Now, he said, young women are choosing to wear hats again as they come back into fashion as an accessory of “rebellion”.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Treacy, who made dozens of hats for guests at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, said: “The patronage of the Royal Family keeps hats alive.


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


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.