Hinterland - 21 January 2019

In Hinterland this week - We live in challenging times. These stories bear that out. I’m delighted at the recognition the National Centre for Rural Health and Care has achieved in terms of our first story. The second shows just how many “big guns” are ranged against us in terms of fair funding in local government. Story 3 tells of the pressures driving up the costs of rural service delivery. Stories 4 and 5 have different “spins” on energy issues and story 6 provides all the clues you need to ensure you win the next round of “my backyard in bloom!!” Read on...

*         *          *

Patients living in the country get a raw deal from the NHS, study finds

Really pleased to see the campaigning work of the new National Centre for Rural Health and Care achieving some national profile. This story tells us:

Professor John Appleby, the Nuffield Trust’s chief economist and director of research, said:  “The evidence is mounting that small and remote hospitals face higher costs that they cannot avoid, with comparatively poor performance against key NHS measures and dire financial positions.

“It is certainly worrying that the methods used to allocate funding to these hospitals are inconsistent, obscure and depend so heavily on judgment. We recommend that the true scale of costs is examined again, and that national bodies are much clearer about how they make their funding decisions.”

Jan Sobieraj, chief executive of the National Centre for Rural Health and Care, said: “This report is showing us that there is growing evidence that rural healthcare is not properly funded.”

“The choice that trusts in these areas have is to either have a deficit, or find themselves in danger of not having enough resources to cover the service.”

The report said efforts to adjust funding to recognise unavoidable differences in the cost of land, buildings and labour have been in place since the early 1980’s but tended to work to the advantage of urban areas.

And it said attempts to give small uplifts to some remote areas had been allocated in an “arbitrary manner” leaving some with nothing extra.


Plan to redirect inner-city funds to Tory shires 'a stitch-up’

It’s a great shame to politicise this debate. The facts are clear, the funding formula has discriminated against rural areas for years. This story tells us……

Ministers have been accused of a “stitch-up” over proposals to redraw the funding formula for councils in a way critics say will redirect scarce cash from deprived inner cities to affluent Conservative-voting shires.

The proposed changes – which include the recommendation that grant allocations should no longer be weighted to reflect the higher costs of poverty and deprivation – come amid increasing concern over the sustainability of local authority finances.

Leaders of urban councils have written to ministers to complain that under the “grossly unfair and illogical” proposals, potentially tens of millions of pounds would be switched to rural and suburban council areas.

Labour-run areas suffer Tory cuts the most. It’s an ignored national scandal

Cllr Richard Watts, the leader of Islington council in London and chair of Labour’s local government resources group, said: “The evidence used by the government to justify these changes seems so bizarrely selective that it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that the review is a brutal political stitch-up aimed at sparing Tory councils and Tory voters from more cuts while piling misery on the most deprived areas of the country.”

Northern cities and metropolitan councils see the so-called fair funding review of local government revenue grant funding as an attempt by ministers to prop up financially struggling authorities and declining services in Tory heartlands. An estimated 76% of Conservative MPs represent constituencies covered by county councils.

The financial collapse of Northamptonshire county council a year ago – and well-publicised difficulties faced by other Tory-run counties such as Somerset and East Sussex – have focused attention on the impact of austerity cuts to local services such as libraries, parks and Sure Start centres in even relatively affluent areas.

Details of the proposed changes were contained in a consultation released by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government just before Christmas. The ministry has insisted the review is a technical exercise designed to simplify grant distribution among English councils and will make the process more transparent.


Care cuts failing older people in England, says human rights group

And a disproportionate number of older people in rural areas is one fact based justification for looking in detail at the current spending formula in the context of the article above. This story puts some more flesh on those bones telling us:

Vulnerable older people in England are at risk of being denied their human rights because of failures in the way the government allocates care resources since budget cuts, Human Rights Watch has said.

After a 13-month inquiry, the global campaign group has concluded that people are facing physical, financial and psychological hardship and are at risk of being denied adequate help to live independent, dignified lives.

It accuses the government of a lack of oversight of a system which is largely devolved to town halls and voices concern about a 140% increase in adult social care complaints since 2010 following a cut of almost 50% in central government funding for councils.

HRW is better known for investigating human rights abuses in places such as North Korea, Russia and Sri Lanka and it is the first time it has tackled the UK welfare system. It follows last year’s United Nations investigation into extreme poverty in the UK, which accused the government of inflicting “great misery” on its people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies.

HRW said: “Older people in England are at risk of not getting adequate assistance to live independent, dignified lives due to unseen assessments for social services. The government risks failing to secure older persons’ rights to health, and to live in the community.”


Reality Check: What should owners of old diesels do?

I live in a sparsely populated rural area and bought a diesel car in good faith. Now a one size fits all policy looks to discriminate against me and hundreds of thousands more people in the future. I don’t have access to public transport (most of which is based on diesel polluting buses). I notice diesel is now on average 10-12p a litre more than petrol – is this a cynical cashing in on the national mood music which retrospectively seeks to demonise diesel drivers? This story put more metaphorical fuel on the fire. It tells us:

The government's clean air strategy, which was published on Monday, describes reducing pollution from nitrogen oxides (NOx) as its most immediate challenge.

NOx emissions come mainly from diesel vehicles. Much of the strategy on road transport had been announced previously, including the pledge from July to stop all sales of new conventional petrol or diesel powered cars and vans by 2040. 

But it devolves responsibility for reducing NOx emissions mainly to a local level….

I assume this means some process of beating local government for a failure to deliver on a poorly thought through national policy stance. Some things never change!!!


Brexit: Losing energy links to Europe after no-deal will cost UK more than £2bn every year, experts warn

This looks like very challenging news. The article tells us:

no-deal Brexit could cost the UK £2.2bn every year as the network connecting the nation’s electricity supply with its European neighbours would no longer function effectively.

Environmental think tank Green Alliance issued the warning as Britain’s future clean power supply looked uncertain following a string of failed nuclear power projects.

With Japanese firm Hitachi pulling out of the planned Wylfa plant in Wales, the UK now faces a “nuclear gap” of about 15 per cent in its future electricity supply.

Environmental groups say the gap can be plugged with renewable energy, and business secretary Greg Clark acknowledged the tumbling price of wind power was making it a more desirable option than nuclear.

However, concerns still remain around how variable power supplies, such as wind and solar, can provide the grid with reliable power.


And Finally

Gardeners hope to win over Britain in Bloom judges' via their stomachs with edible displays

Now here’s a cunning approach from a land based fraternity. This story tells us:

Judges for the largest horticultural competition in the UK, hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society, have noticed that a bulk of this year’s 71 finalists have opted to grow fruit and vegetables rather than ornamental blooms.

The contest, now in its 55th year, features gardening communities from all over the country,from tiny Green Moor in Yorkshire with a population of just 90 to the high-rise business district of Canary Wharf in London’s docklands.

The gardens hope to give back to the community, and locals have grown edible goods in public spaces for people to help themselves to, and for donations to food banks.

Notable and impressive examples include the city of Bath’s tiered planters featuring tomatoes, chard and herbs mixed with flowers such as fuchsias and petunias, and the green-fingered contestants in Llandudno, who have recently planted an orchard for the public to help themselves to fresh fruit.


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.