Chancellor must do more to tackle rampant rural disadvantage, campaigners urge

Hinterland - 22 July 2019

In Hinterland this week - we concentrate on crime issues. Knife crime is rising, hidden domestic abuse in rural areas is profiled and a third of Police Authorities have no strategy for tackling rural crime. On other fronts we also identify the funding gulf between rural and urban places when it comes to supporting the elderly, we identify the latest “cause” being taken up by a rural lobby group and we have a list of interesting reading for those fascinated by the notion of the queer countryside. Read on....

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Knife crime soars in rural areas by as much as 50 per cent as violence epidemic spreads out of cities

Significant cause for concern here…

Knife crime rose by up to 50 per cent in rural areas in the past year as violence spread from cities, fuelled by county lines drug gangs, official figures show.

Suffolk, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Kent, Lancashire and Dyfed-Powys saw some of the biggest rises as knife crime overall in England and Wales rose by eight per cent to 43,516 offences, its highest since records began eight years ago.

At the same time, the proportion of crimes solved has fallen by half in four years, with fewer than one in 12 offences (7.8 per cent) resulting in a charge or summons. That is a fall from 9.1 per cent last year and 15 per cent four years ago.

Policing minister Nick Hurd admitted: “We are deeply concerned that certain offences, including serious violence, have increased and we are taking urgent action.

Robbery rose by 11 per cent to 85,700 offences, the number of killings increased from 693 to 701, violence against people was up 20 per cent to almost 1.7 million offences and sex crimes including rape were uip by seven per cent to 162,000

One-third of police forces lack strategy on rural crime

We have a crime theme going on this week. This second story demonstrates not only that the countryside is not just a bucolic landscape without any crime, but that many Police Forces appear ill equipped to deal with the strategic challenges which characterise rural crime.  It tells us:

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which scrutinised 38 rural police forces across England and Wales, found more than one-third (37%) lacked a dedicated rural crime strategy, nearly two-fifths (39%) did not have a rural crime team, and only 10 forces (28%) delivered rural crime training for new recruits.

More than one in four forces (27%) did not have a police officer of inspector rank or above leading rural crime, the research found.

And only about half (53%) of rural police forces across England and Wales have dedicated rural crime prevention tools, such as 4x4s, trail bikes, night vision equipment or drones.

CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said it is “astounding” that one-third of rural police forces do not have a dedicated strategy or team to deal with rural crime – especially when one considers the huge financial and emotional effect it has on those who live or work in the countryside.

He added: “Farming is a stressful business, where many are working on tight margins. Having to deal with replacing lost machinery, repairing a vandalised barn, or clearing up and bearing the cost of someone else’s fly-tipped mess, just adds unnecessary stress, eats away at meagre profits and takes up valuable time.

Councils in country have far less to spend on elderly than those in cities

Anecdotally I thought this was the case but this article demonstrates the funding bias against rural settings in the way local government is funded. It tells us:

Councils in rural areas like Dorset have five times less than to spend on care of the elderly than those in cities, new analysis reveals. 

The study by the Salvation Army warns that areas with lower house prices are unable to properly fund social care, because they cannot raise enough from council tax and business rates. 

Experts said the findings were evidence of a “dementia lottery” which meant the chance of receiving help were a matter of geography. 

The analysis suggests that typically councils in Dorset would have around £5,762 a head to spend on elderly care - while those in Lambeth in London could have more than £31,000 at their disposal. 

Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Somerset, East Sussex, Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire were among other areas with the most limited resources, according to the analysis. All the councils which fared best were in London. 

The trends also show an increasing gulf, with  “spending power” in rural councils falling, while it is rising in urban areas. 

The organisation said it was now having to subsidise places in its own care homes, to the tune of an average £302 per person were week. 

Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant, of The Salvation Army, said: “Rural local authorities have been set up to fail with this flawed formula and it urgently needs revision. 

“People are living longer and the population is ageing, the adult social care bill is rising but the local authority funding streams aren’t enough to cover the demand, especially in areas where there are not many businesses or people to tax.”

“The Government must prioritise its spending and properly fund adult social care.”

Domestic abuse report exposes hidden side of rural life

This a really important issue and one, which sadly often remains hidden from view to the great detriment of those afflicted. This story tells us:

A "deeply hidden and disturbing side to rural life" has been laid bare by an 18-month inquiry into domestic abuse in the English countryside.

Domestic abuse victims there suffer for longer, are less likely to report abuse and struggle to get support, it said.

Victims are isolated, unsupported and unprotected in a "rural hell" that protects the perpetrators, the National Rural Crime Network report found.

The government has just set out new plans to tackle the issue.

The researchers carried out 67 in-depth interviews with people who had experienced domestic abuse, and a set of separate interviews with those working in services supporting victims.

The inquiry also included a review of academic literature and a survey of a separate group of 881 abuse survivors, recruited for the research with the help of support services.

It sought to discover how the experience of domestic abuse in rural areas and getting help for it is different from urban areas and why.

National Rural Crime Network chairwoman Julia Mulligan described domestic abuse as "the hidden underbelly of rural communities".

"We have uncovered a deeply hidden and disturbing side to rural life.

"Far from the peaceful idyll most people have in their mind when conjuring up the countryside, this report bares the souls and scars of domestic abuse victims, who all too often are lost to support, policing and criminal justice services," she said.

Rural victims were half as likely to report their abuse to others, and experienced abuse for 25% longer, the report found.

And rural isolation is often used as a weapon by abusers, it said.

"Physical isolation is arguably the best weapon an abuser has and has a profound impact on making the victim feel quite literally captive," the report said.

Release of non-native game birds in UK to be challenged in court

Stabbings are up, rural crime is growing, resources are limited to support those in greatest need in rural areas but don’t worry we might soon see fewer pheasants….. This story tells us:

The legality of releasing 50 million non-native pheasants and partridges into the British countryside each year is to be challenged in the courts by a new crowdfunded campaign.

The government should be forced to carry out environmental assessments of the impact of the shooting industry’s release of game birds into the wild each year, according to Wild Justice, a campaign group led by environmentalists Mark AveryRuth Tingay and Chris Packham.

Lawyers for Wild Justice believe that in failing to carry out such studies, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is in breach of the EU habitats directive.

Avery said: “If you were building a supermarket near a special area of conservation or other protected area, it would be assessed for its impact on protected sites. We don’t see that there is anything different in releasing 50 million non-native birds into the countryside, a number that is going up all the time.

“There is reasonable evidence that these birds could be having an impact. People forget that pheasants go around gobbling up adders, lizards and all sorts of invertebrates. All these dead pheasants [from shooting and roadkill] are feeding foxes, carrion crows and others, which go on to eat other, rarer species.

 And Finally

Top 10 queer rural books

An article written by Mike Parker for the Guardian discusses the success of Gentleman Jack and how it created a fascination with “queer rural”. Mike Parker tells us:

If the countryside appears at all in LGBT+ stories, it is usually only as somewhere to escape from. For many of us, this is a pattern that never fitted, and though we did the urban thing to burst (or tiptoe) from the closet, the lure of the rural soon overwhelmed the anonymity of the city. It didn’t feel like a choice, but something intrinsic that would have been dangerous to resist, like the act of coming out itself.

So it was for George Walton and Reg Mickisch, an elegant couple who met in the postwar rubble of London, and in 1972 headed for the sticks, opening a B&B in a tiny mid-Wales village. They became much-loved members of our thinly scattered community, and great friends. When they died within a few weeks of each other in 2011, aged 94 and 84, my boyfriend and I found that they had left us their old farmhouse. In us, they saw themselves, and the feeling was mutual. Their legacy was far greater than that though, for it included an archive of letters, diaries, photos, art and books that told a remarkable story. My book On the Red Hill is that story – and so many others.

In researching it, I read widely around the topic of the “queer rural”. There wasn’t much, at least not explicitly so. Even more than is normally the case with LGBT+ history, that meant learning to read the shadows, to spot fragmentary connections that had previously been denied or ignored. The truth was clear: we are not newcomers to the countryside. We’ve always been here. In Wales, there is a long tradition of yr hen lanc (literally “the old lad”), the unmarried uncle who might live with, or next door to, his equally unmarried friend. Every village had its hen lanc, and his female equivalents too.

These are some of the books that chimed most sonorously in my research – read on for more revelations…..

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


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