Hinterland - 14 April 2020

In Hinterland this week - rural crime, virtual livestock sales, two examples of quick thinking and less good implementation in terms of the virus response, the regional impact of the virus and the threat to the hackney horse. Read on…

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Coronavirus: Help needed to counter rural crime surge

Whilst we are regularly applauding the best of human nature in the current crisis this article speaks to the darker side of things it tells us:

More government action is needed to help rural communities deal with some of the side effects of the coronavirus crisis, such as increased crime and more cases of domestic abuse.

In a letter to Defra secretary George Eustice, the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) says that rural issues are often overlooked in the development if national policies and points to a range of issues that have not so far been addressed by government.

In particular, it says criminals are already capitalising on the fact that police attention is being diverted elsewhere by the coronavirus challenge, with poaching and livestock theft a major concern.

The closure of waste and recycling centres is also leading to an increase in waste crime and fly-tipping.

The NRCN, which represents more than 30 police and crime commissioners along with rural organisations, also highlights an expected increase in domestic abuse cases.

Family isolation due to coronavirus will significantly increase the rates of domestic abuse, and the NRCN calls for government support to meet urgent accommodation needs.

The group also points to the increase in footfall on public rights of way, as more people use the countryside for their daily exercise.

“We don’t necessarily propose they should all be closed, but there should at least an awareness campaign so those using them are aware they are on land of someone who could be self-isolating and consideration of whether their journey across the land is essential.”

It also suggests consideration be given to allowing landowners to temporarily close rights of way if that landowner is being shielded for medical reasons.


UK’s first dedicated virtual livestock sale to go ahead

I think this is one of the way things will permanently change (not completely but substantively) as a consequence of the coronavirus. This story tells us:

A rural auctioneer is holding the UK’s first dedicated virtual pedigree livestock sale as the coronavirus crisis continues to cause restrictions.

The initiative will allow Harrison & Hetherington's (H&H) Annual Dairy Pedigree Sale of dairy bulls, from across the North of England and Scotland, to still go ahead.

The rural firm's decision to launch an online catalogue comes as Covid-19 restrictions have made the conduct of livestock sales impossible.

But the virtual sale will allow “normal” trading to continue, albeit without the face-to-face sales that the traditional mart embodies.

The catalogue is already published, and bidding will commence on Friday 10 April at 9am, with final bids to be made by Tuesday 14 April at 5pm.


Rishi Sunak heeds calls to help charities with £750m extra funding

I am very pleased about this. A recent fast moving survey we undertook in Lincolnshire revealed that 50% of respondents had lost 50% or more of their previous income and that over two third saw no prospect of anyone else picking up their clients. This help is clearly needed. Where I am more concerned is in the distribution of national funds through local bodies to support the sector. All those tasked with new largesse from third parties to distribute locally should be seeking direction from the health and car sector itself and should have very accountable systems for allocating funds.

The chancellor has announced £750m of extra funding for frontline charities across the UK, a move that is unlikely to go far enough to save some third sector organisations from collapse.

The announcement, made by Rishi Sunak in Downing Street’s daily coronavirus briefing, came after widespread calls to extend government financial help offered to small- and medium-sized businesses to the charity sector.

Some of the best-known national charities are in dire straits as revenue from charity shops and fundraising events dries up during the coronavirus lockdown. The Labour MP Stephen Doughty tweeted that the new funding fell well short of what was needed, pointing out that the cancellation of the London marathon alone cost the sector £66m.

The Treasury said on Wednesday that £360m would be directly allocated by government departments to charities providing key services and supporting vulnerable people during the Covid-19 crisis.

Another £370m for small- and medium-sized charities would be available for community organisations that are providing services such as delivering food, essential medicines and providing financial advice. Of this, £60m will be allocated through the Barnett formula to those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The government will also match donations made to the National Emergencies Trust as part of the BBC’s Big Night In fundraiser later this month, pledging a minimum of £20m.


Just 1.4% of firms enquiring about UK coronavirus business loans successful

I’m disappointed but not surprised by this. I suspect it’s having a disproportionately negative impact in rural areas where businesses are traditionally smaller and to some extent more easily pushed around by banks. Along with the story above it smacks of quick thinking and less good implementation.

The government has admitted that just 1.4% of businesses that enquired about its coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS) have so far been successful.

Almost three weeks after the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, first launched the scheme to help small and medium-sized businesses with loans and other financing of up to £5m each, it has emerged that just 4,200 of the estimated 300,000 firms that sought help online have received rescue loans.

Tens of thousands of firms are understood to have made formal applications, but amid accusations of excessive bureaucracy and a reluctance among lenders to make loans, only a fraction have been given the go-ahead.

Alok Sharma, the business secretary, revealed the lack of progress as pressure mounted on officials and leading banks to speed up the processing of loan applications before thousands of businesses go bust.


Coronavirus cases in UK epicentre London stabilising, health chief says

I have for sometime wondered about how the lockdown might be lifted in view of the differential incidence of the virus. Rural areas are to date more resilient with fewer cases. I have to say however that they are also more vulnerable with higher proportions of vulnerable people disconnected from straightforward access to health services. Interesting food for thought….

Numbers of serious coronavirus cases in London are stabilising, a health chief has said.

Prof Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, said hospital admissions for Covid-19 in the capital were reaching a plateau but they were still rising elsewhere in the UK.

London has had the highest number of – and steepest rise in – infections in Britain since the pandemic began.

The death toll for the whole UK has risen above 10,000 after another 737 fatalities were recorded in just 24 hours.

“We can begin to see London stabilising,” Prof Doyle said. “But on the other hand, for Great Britain we start to see other areas increasing, particularly the northwest and Yorkshire,” she added.

“It’s very important that the message about staying home and social distancing is adhered to because we are certainly not past this crisis’ damage yet.”


And Finally

Hackney horses at risk of extinction despite historic role in rural English life

As an animal lover I find this a sad story. Its easy to think about butterflies in Africa or Pandas in China, this story remind us some key icons of our own rural life are vulnerable to extinction…..

Hackney horses are at risk of extinction, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) has said, despite their historic role in traditional British rural life.

The RBST, which works to save and safeguard rare native livestock and equine breeds, has today released its Watchlist, showing which breeds are seeing a recovery, and which breeds are currently most at risk.

While some animals are doing well thanks to a renewed interest in consuming local, traditional breeds, others are dying out because the modern world has no use for them. These include Hackney horses, whose breeding numbers are down to 129 from 158 last year. They were traditionally used for driving carriages, but there is now little need for them because of the rise of motor vehicles....


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


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