Hinterland - 19 April 2021

In Hinterland this week - rural crime, the impact of covid on mental health, housing and low income citizens and a new rural champion at the head of the “firm.”

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In this edition of Hinterland: rural crime, the impact of covid on mental health, housing and low income citizens and a new rural champion at the head of the “firm.”

Fed-up farmers reveal extent of fly-tipping in countryside

This article features an increasing scourge which is a real threat to rural local authorities and farmers. It tells us:

Farmers have shared pictures and videos of fly-tipping as part of renewed efforts to illustrate the extent of the problem in the countryside and force tougher sanctions for offenders.

A tweet from the NFU asking for evidence of waste dumped illegally has prompted replies from dozens of fed-up farmers.

A deluge of pictures showed building material blocking country lanes, black bin bags discarded in hedgerows, and even a small boat on a trailer, left on the side of the road.

The NFU said: “The quicker we tackle this continual blight on our countryside, the quicker farmers can concentrate on what they do best – caring for the environment and producing the nation’s food.”

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “Every day, I hear how farmers’ fields are being bombarded with rubbish being illegally dumped.

“It’s extremely costly and time-consuming to remove, is dangerous to human health and harmful to wildlife and livestock.

 “The NFU’s new Levelling up rural Britain report highlights how farms and rural communities have increasingly become the target of criminal gangs, with those areas continuing to receive lower levels of police funding, per head of population, than urban areas.”


Rural crime: Farmers 'feel like sitting ducks'

The second of two stories this week about the impact of rural crime.

A farmer who saw a sharp rise in crime on her land has told how she has blocked 50 gateways, dug ditches around fields and hired a private security firm to protect her business.

Freya Morgan, 57, said the 10 crimes on her north Bedfordshire farm in 2020 included hare coursing and fly-tipping.

The security upgrades have cost her at least £12,000, she estimates.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has called on police forces to increase resources for tackling rural crime.

It said a survey of its members had revealed that rural crime had cost the average victim £5,100, with one in 10 respondents putting the bill at £10,000 or more.

Mrs Morgan said: "Our main issue is hare coursing - when organised criminals chase hares for large bets of money."

As well as spending about £8,000 putting up about 50 lockable gates to fields and tracks on the farm, she has dug ditches "as a physical barrier" and erected a £4,000 electric entrance gate.

Fly-tipping is another blight, including "the odd caravan dump".

The county's rural policing team is based a 90-minute drive away at Dunstable.

Mrs Morgan said: "We need more rural police officers and we need them distributed about the county better."

Since last year, she has paid £50 a month to a private security firm which conducts night patrols.

"It's a good return, as you go to bed at night knowing that someone is keeping an eye on your property when you cannot do it.

"No other workplace has this level of damage or risk sitting over their business."


Covid-19 pandemic likely have 'profound' effect on mental health

Our good friend Jim Hume of Support in Minds Scotland has been talking about the rural characteristics of this for some time. This story from Northern Ireland but which is more generally applicable tells us:

Mental health problems associated with the Covid-19 pandemic are "likely to be profound and felt for many years".

That is according to a newly-published research paper on suicide from the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It said there was "emerging" evidence the mental health of younger people in particular had been "disproportionately affected".

The paper warned, though, conflating declining mental health with suicide and suicide risk should be avoided.

It said to do so could increase the risk of normalising suicidal behaviour.

The paper, produced by the assembly's research and information service, said the "increased mental health burden associated with the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to be profound and felt for many years".

"Restrictive measures put in place during the pandemic coupled with, for example, loneliness, job and income loss, bereavement, and the direct or indirect impacts of Covid-19 has led to increased levels of anxiety and had a negative effect on many people's mental health," it said.

"The pandemic has also been shown to affect subsections of the population differently, for example, front-line workers, those hospitalised by Covid or suffering post-infection, and those with fewer social or economic resources.

"There is also evidence emerging that the mental health of younger people in particular has been disproportionately affected."


British families took bigger hit to income during Covid pandemic than Europeans

I found this article particularly interesting to consider through the lens of the fact that it costs more to live in rural England due to distance from services. It tells us:

The greater exposure of British households, revealed in an analysis by the Resolution Foundation thinktank to be published in full this week, comes despite similar levels of average income with our European neighbours.

The typical working-age income level in the UK is £29,437 and £29,350 in France. However, the poorest fifth of working-age households in the UK are 20% poorer than their French counterparts, while the richest fifth are 17% richer in Britain.

The structure of Britain’s economy and income inequality is seen by some as a reason for the heavy toll the pandemic had wrought on the UK. Some public health officials continue to warn that incidences of the virus remain higher in areas with many people in low-paid work and where they cannot work from home. There have been warnings that it could become a “disease of the poor” in some areas.

High employment levels in the UK helped household finances in the run-up to the pandemic last year, with a 75% employment rate – broadly similar to that in Germany and far higher than the 66% record in France. However, the typical hourly rate paid in the UK (£11.20) was much lower than in Germany (£12.33) and France (£13.89). It was partly driven by low self-employed earnings, raising further concerns about the extent of the gig economy in Britain.

Levels of UK welfare support were found to be poor in comparison with other large European nations, underlining the importance of protecting jobs through the government’s emergency furlough scheme rolled out last year. For example, a single adult who had been out of work for two months, having previously earned two-thirds of the average wage, would see their benefit income total just 17% of their previous earnings. The same person would see a benefit replacement rate of 59% in Germany and 64% in France. The gap is closed when housing-related benefits are included, with the UK’s benefit replacement rate rising to 46%, compared with 59% in Germany and 68% in France.


About 700,000 renters served with ‘no-fault’ eviction notices since start of pandemic

Some interesting challenges surfaced in this article, remembering that it is more difficult for people in rural settings to find new homes and some very good news about the decision to keep the pressure on developers to bring forward affordable housing.

About 700,000 renters are estimated to have been served with “no-fault” eviction notices since the start of the pandemic, despite a government promise to scrap the practice.

The estimate is based on polling of a cross-section of private renters and comes two years to the day that the government announced “private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason”.

But the so-called section 21 eviction notices are still in use and ministers are now facing a new push to deliver on their promise from a new coalition for reform of renters’ rights, which includes the charities Generation Rent, Crisis and Shelter, as well as Citizens Advice and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The renters’ reform bill, which promised to abolish no-fault evictions, was announced in the last Queen’s speech in December 2019 but has not yet been delivered.

Countryside campaigners have welcomed a quiet U-turn by the government on one aspect of affordable housing policy. Ministers have signalled that they will not raise the minimum threshold at which developers of new housing estates are required to provide affordable units from 10 to 40 or 50 homes, as originally proposed in draft planning reforms.

Tom Fyans, the deputy chief executive of CPRE, said: “Rural communities are facing unprecedented pressure when it comes to housing – rising house prices and low rates of affordable housebuilding are only making this situation more precarious. So, it is a massive relief and hugely welcome that the government has decided to drop its proposal to massively loosen the duty for developers to build affordable homes.”


And Finally

Philip’s death leaves Prince Charles as patriarch of royal family

Prince Philip had lived such a long life many of us had forgotten what there was to like about his royal service. I suspect Prince Charles (now in his 70s) may have a similar path of development up to the point of his accession. What I do know is that he is a longstanding champion of rural causes. He now takes on the ostensible role as head of “the firm.” This article tells us:

The Duke of Edinburgh’s death, as the Queen expressed, has left “a huge void”. Philip was the patriarchal head of “the firm”. This is the mantle Charles will now assume. This role was most symbolically underscored when Charles was the only family member to visit his father during his recent spell in hospital.

He spent 30 minutes at the duke’s bedside at King Edward VII’s hospital in London in February. What words were exchanged between father and son can only be guessed at, and are unlikely to ever be made public. But it was a sombre Charles who emerged with, according to photographers waiting outside, tears glistening in his eyes.

Charles’s siblings may take some time to adjust to his new role. “It will be difficult for them to see him the way they used to see their father,” said Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty magazine. “In my opinion, though, Charles has been pretty much the head of ‘the firm’ for quite some time. With the general decline in the Duke of Edinburgh’s health, it was a natural progression.”

“And Charles is fully consulted in all manner of things he never used to be,” added Little. “In many ways, Charles has already become his father.’


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


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