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Hinterland - 14 October 2019

In Hinterland this week - rural homelessness, coastal towns, obesity, the Lake District and the perils of pets! Read on...

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Rural homelessness is a growing crisis and this is why it must be tackled

The next time you hear someone reach for the old “greenbelt is under threat” cliché get them to read this article. It tells us:

The housing crisis in England has seen many people forced into increasingly unaffordable housing beyond their means. While this problem is often framed as one affecting urban areas, the lack of genuinely affordable housing also affects rural areas.

This crisis bears a heavy cost as it pushes young people and low-income earners out of the places they call home. Not only does this raise the question about whether rural communities can survive and thrive without a future generation, it also bears a significant human cost, with increasing numbers of people being pushed into rural homelessness.

Housing affordability in rural areas has significantly worsened in the past decade. Since 2011, the amount of social housing built in rural areas has decreased by 83 per cent. Instead, consecutive governments have encouraged the construction of so-called ‘affordable housing’ in its place. This type of housing can be set at up to 80 per cent of market rents, meaning that in many areas, it is only marginally more affordable than private rented housing.

The root of the problem lies with government policy. Since 2012, successive governments have made the idea of affordable rent far more attractive to housing developers than social housing.

Government funding has channelled significant amounts of money into the construction of affordable rent homes, largely at the expense of building social rent homes.

Faced with a shortage of social rent housing that is genuinely affordable and stuck with the option of ‘affordable rent’ or private rent, many low-income households increasingly face a stark choice between trying to afford high rents in their local area or looking for cheaper housing elsewhere.


Jeremy Corbyn promises to fix 'blighted' coastal towns

The recent (late September) release of the English Indices of Deprivation 2019 has confirmed yet again that some of the most deprived places in England are small coastal neighbourhoods. It looks like Jeremy Corbyn has wised up to this issue. According to this article.

Coastal communities have been "blighted" by "nine years of vicious austerity and Tory cuts", Jeremy Corbyn has said in a speech.

Speaking in Hastings, East Sussex, the Labour leader also pledged to end the "evil of in-work poverty".

But the Conservatives say seaside areas can benefit from a £3.6bn fund.

BBC analysis this week found that workers living in costal parts of Britain earn £1,600 less on average per year than those living inland.

The research also found that two-thirds of coastal areas had seen a real-terms fall in wages since 2010.

In his speech, Mr Corbyn said poverty and inequality were "not inevitable". 

"In the fifth-richest country in the world, no-one should be forced to rely on a food bank to feed their family, no-one should be sleeping rough on our streets, and nobody should be working for poverty wages," he said.

Citing parliamentary research, he said one in five adults in Hastings and Rye could be in receipt of universal credit when it is fully rolled out.


Obesity: Ban snacking on public transport, top doctor says

Whilst not ostensibly a rural story the public health messages from this news item are very clear. Some people think that these utterances are a bit radical but that’s the licence you have at the end of the tenure of an important like the one Sally Davies has held. More power to her elbow for making an important issues of it. Oh and by the way there are plenty of what my mother would describe as “big boned” kids in rural England!! This story tells us:

Snacking should be banned on public transport and extra taxes placed on unhealthy foods to tackle child obesity, England's outgoing chief medical officer says. 

In her final report as CMO, Dame Sally Davies also called for tighter rules on advertising and takeaways.

She said children needed more help as they were "drowning in a flood" of unhealthy options.

If ministers were not bold, she added, they would fail to cut obesity rates.

A target to halve rates by 2030 has been set.

Dame Sally said: "The unavoidable fact is that over time our environment has become very unhealthy without us realising. 

"Our children are now suffering from painful, potentially life-limiting disease. 

"Our politicians need to be bold and help everyone embrace healthier life choices."

The proportion of obese and overweight children has doubled in the past 30 years.

Today around a third are obese or overweight by the age of 11 in England - with a minority, but growing number, classed as severely obese.


Locals accuse Lake District authority of turning region into a 'theme park'

Its fascinating to sit on the outside looking at this issue. It seems to me that for the Lake District we could read a number of iconic British landscapes where people have to live their lives just like you and me. This story tells us:

The authority responsible for the Lake District has become the focus of angry protest from residents and campaigners over accusations that it has turned the region into a theme park.

Keswick town council passed a historic and unanimous vote of no confidence against the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) over its decision to resurface a path to make it more accessible to vehicles. Keswick represents almost 20% of the population of the Lake District.

The unprecedented vote in Keswick comes after a series of disagreements between the park authority and local councillors, residents and campaigners, with the latter claiming that commercial interests are being put ahead of the needs of people who live and work in the community.

Five days ago senior leaders at the park authority voted against a ban on recreational off-road vehicles which devastate farm tracks, churning up soil and exposing the bedrock beneath, leaving them impassable to farm traffic.

The park’s rights of way committee voted to continue to allow 4x4s and trail motorbikes to use two lanes across farmland left to the trust by the author Beatrix Potter.

The latest dispute focuses on the reinstatement of a foot and cycle path from Keswick to Threlkeld which was destroyed by Storm Desmond in 2015.

Friends of the Lake District claim that using tarmac along the former railway line will compromise the historic and rural character of the route and make it more dangerous to use in icy weather.


Half a million over-75s with dementia will have to pay for TV licences – study

This is bad news in rural England, where we have both a higher proportion of old people than the national average and where social isolation often contributes to loneliness. This story tells us:

More than half a million older people with dementia could be forced to pay for their TV licences from next year, according to research commissioned by Labour, findings the party said were “a national scandal”.

Tom Watson, the shadow culture secretary, who has pushed for the government to maintain funding for free TV licences for those aged 75 or over, said the process of applying for a licence could be particularly difficult for those with dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Society called for more work to communicate the changes, saying television could be “a lifeline” for isolated older people.

The free licences were introduced by Labour in 1999, with the cost funded by government. In 2015, the Conservatives said they would phase this out by 2020, and that the BBC should take on the financial burden of £745m a year.

But the corporation argued this sum, a fifth of its annual budget, would require wholesale channel closures to reduce costs. Instead, from next June, it will make all those aged 75 or over pay the £154.50 annual fee, apart from those who can show they claim the means-tested pension credit.

Research commissioned by Labour from the House of Commons library estimated that more than 552,000 older people with dementia could thus lose their free TV licences, including more than 140,000 aged 90 or over.

The total of those living with dementia affected by the change was reached by combining official population estimates with the prevalence of dementia by age group, reaching a total of 682,000. Of these, 19% on average received pension credit and are thus still eligible for a free licence.


And Finally

Are pets really good for us – or just hairy health hazards?

This story didn’t make me for even one second feel bad about living with our tribe of dogs, chickens, horses, budgies and kitty our vicious white cat. Still if you need an incentive not to live in the animal kingdom here are some reasons to be nervous. This article tells us:

If you really want to go there, there are some pretty alarming downsides to pet ownership. In England, for instance, between 6,000 and 7,000 people are admitted to hospital for dog bites each year. Tripping over pets is another potential danger – each year, this sends an estimated 87,000 people to hospitals in the US, particularly elderly people. And what of the parasites that pets bring into the house – the fleas, ticks and mites? And the potentially fatal diseases they can transmit to humans, from pathogens such as salmonella (from reptiles) and capnocytophaga that can be passed to humans in cat and dog saliva? For many people, the answer to whether pets are good for us is clearly no – although, to be fair, you are far more likely to be exposed to disease or violence by another human than by a dog, cat or pygmy hedgehog.


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


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