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Hinterland - 13 May 2019

In Hinterland this week - rural places as settings for post modern crime, pensions – both in terms of GPs and an unjustified attack on public sector pensioners, direct action on recycling, the economic scorecard for farming in 2018/19 and finally a new poet laureate with rural credentials. Read on...

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UK’s organised crime threat at record level, warns National Crime Agency

Rural places used to be far less crime based than the Cities.  On-line trends like surveillance capitalism and the growth of the dark web mean that “space” has relatively limited impact any more in insulating rural communities from illegality and many rural dwellers are now very vulnerable to modern crime of the type set out in this article. Indeed rural places are often popular settings for modern criminals because of their isolation. This article tells us

The writer Misha Glenny, who will chair a panel of senior officers at the NCA’s report launch in London on Tuesday, said the austerity drive had allowed powerful crime syndicates to flourish in the UK.

Glenny, whose book McMafia documented the globalisation of crime after the break-up of the Soviet bloc, said that when it was published in 2008 organised crime was viewed as a global concern and its impact on most British citizens was minimal.

“In the past 10 years what is really striking is how this industry has grown inside the UK. Austerity has been absolutely critical in this, partly because of the reduction in police capacity but also because of the continuing increase in inequality. A lot of victims of organised crime tend to be people on the margins who don’t have a voice. When you get an impoverishment of the population, which is what we have had over the last 10 years, you get an increase in desperation, and that opens up opportunities,” added Glenny.

Transnational criminal networks, the exploitation of technological improvements and “old-style violence” is allowing serious crime gangs to “dominate communities”, the NCA assessment will say this week.

“It will reveal the changing nature of organised crime and its wholesale undermining of the UK’s economy, integrity, infrastructure and institutions,” said the NCA in a statement.

The assessment, described as the most comprehensive yet by the NCA, will also chart the rise of poly-criminality where organised groups operate in several illegal trades such as drugs, firearms and human trafficking. Last year the agency mapped 4,629 OCGs (organised crime groups) inside the UK with tens of thousands of members and says the threat has since continued to grow. One area of enduring concern remains the use of encrypted and anonymisation technology, the latter primarily on the dark web, that have eroded the ability of investigators to detect offenders.


Plan to end the tax trap on NHS senior doctors’ pensions

This is an interesting development in the context of the increasing challenge of recruiting GPs in rural areas. The article tells us:

They are considering changing the NHS pensions scheme so that staff can make only half their usual pensions contributions for up to 10 years during their careers. It is known as a “50/50” pension because healthcare personnel pay only half the usual amounts for a set period, but then receive commensurately less money when they start drawing their pension in retirement.

Already used in local government, it is designed to stop the current situation that means medics in the late stage of their careers are being hit with big tax charges for exceeding their pension allowance limits, especially if they do extra work.

Some of the service’s most experienced doctors are reducing their hours, refusing to plug rota gaps or quitting earlier than intended to avoid effectively being charged more than 100% tax on some of their earnings.

The disclosure comes days before NHS bosses are set to publish a long-awaited strategy to tackle the worsening shortages of doctors, nurses and other professionals. Figures show the service in England alone is short of 9,100 doctors and 40,000 nurses.

 “Philip Hammond and Matt Hancock seem to agree that this is a good change to make. It would help the NHS stop haemorrhaging experienced doctors because of the existing pension rules,” said one senior NHS figure who has been made aware of the ministerial discussions.


Number of public sector pensioners on £100k trebles in seven years

This is a pernicious article. It aims to undermine the pension rights of hard working local government staff and more widely public sector workers, under the guise of claims of inter-generational unfairness. In a population of over 60 million how relevant is it really to talk about an increase from 117 to 375 pensioners with large pensions! In the interest of balance how many private sector employees have six-figure pensions? It is another example of how people in the public sector are characterized as second class citizens unworthy of the same benefits as everyone else. There used to be an appreciation of something called “public service”…..

The number of people in the public sector’s largest pension schemes retiring on incomes of more than £100,000 has more than tripled in the past seven years, according to figures obtained by a charity promoting intergenerational fairness.

Pensions schemes covering the NHS, the civil service and the teaching profession were paying six-figure incomes last year to 375 retirees, up from 117 in 2010.

Those in receipt of pensions higher than the UK’s average annual salary of about £28,600 also increased by 46% – up from 78,000 in 2010/11 to 115,000 in 2017/18.

The Intergenerational Foundation said the figures, which it obtained through freedom of information requests, illustrated a growing divide between the generations.

Angus Hanton, the co-founder of IF, said the figures excluded the state pension, which adds another £8,767 to the incomes of new retirees and would likely push the pensions of thousands more public sector workers above the average wage.

He said successive governments had sought to protect those close to retirement at the expense of a younger generation whose pensions would be much less generous.


The hidden army of volunteers putting Britain's politicians to shame by recycling the rubbish councils send straight to landfill

I love stories of direct action in communities. This article shows that at the most personal level we can all do something to contribute to cause which are important to us. It tells us;

More than 6,000 people all over the UK have, without fuss or fanfare, quietly set up similar collections in their own homes, workplaces, schools or community centres.

They spread the word locally, and accept waste from friends, families, colleagues and neighbours. Some buy bins and leave them at the top of their drives for strangers to chuck in their plastic. Others persuade local shops, supermarkets and even pubs to have drop-off containers there. One I speak to, Olivia McGuinnes in Derbyshire, has hundreds of crisp packets and baby food pouches currently stored in her utility room. “My husband’s not mad about it,” she admits.

Then, when these collections reach a certain quantity, they are sent off to a private company, called TerraCycle, to be recycled.

In return, the volunteers receive two things.

The first is a small donation to a charity of their choice. In George’s case, he’s earned £17,000 for a variety of good causes over six years.

The second is the knowledge they are doing their bit to save the planet from what David Attenborough – who knows a thing or two about this stuff – has called “the untold harm” of plastic waste. “I’m quite fond of the world,” muses George. “So it’s worth saving.”


Poor weather blamed for major fall in farm profitability

Some really interesting stats here. This article tells us:

Total farming profitability dropped by a significant 17 percent from £5.63 billion in 2017 to £4.7 billion last year, new figures highlight.

Agriculture contributed £9.58 billion or 0.51% to the national economy, a decrease of £626 million (6%) on the year.

The annual statistics, published by Defra on Friday 10 May, are a measure of the performance of the UK agricultural industry.

Reasons for the decreases include a spike of 2% (£583 million) in gross output to £26.65 billion.

Crop output value rose by 2% to £9.38 billion. The cold, wet spring followed by the dry, hot summer contributed to lower yields of key crops. However, better prices helped offset production falls.

The value of total livestock output rose by 3% to £14.80 billion. Prices were generally higher but the challenging weather conditions affected volumes; the late cold spring disrupted lambing and the hot, dry summer led to poor grass growth and difficulties feeding livestock.

Responding to the figures, the NFU said it demonstrates the need for 'clear measures' that can allow farmers to manage volatility.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “These figures are a stark reminder of the impact last year’s weather has had on British farming and demonstrates just how exposed agriculture is to increasingly volatile weather.


 And Finally 

Simon Armitage named Britain's new poet laureate

Jessica and I were once held up on a speaking rota by Simon Armitage reading his poetry. As I recall a lot of the stuff had a landscape and countryside bent. He comes from the same kneck of the woods as Ted Hughes, where there is obviously something poetic in the water!!! So I am sort of pleased he has achieved this accolade…. This article tells us:

Simon Armitage will succeed Dame Carol Ann Duffy as the UK’s next poet laureate, with the Queen approving his appointment for a fixed term of 10 years.

Mr Armitage – who received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry last year – said he wants to “help poetry explore its potential” in an age of multimedia.

While the position does not entail any specific duty, as the 21st poet laureate Mr Armitage will be expected to produce poetry to celebrate national occasions and royal events.


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


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