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

Hinterland - 29 July 2019

In Hinterland this week - The “secret” Green Paper on important things linked to preventing ill health, fascinating scope for a rural response to being taken for granted by mobile phone providers, co-design made flesh (in Scotland), fears for farmers, a chilling insight into county lines and some style advice from Jacob Rees Mogg. Read on....

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NHS abandons plan to let healthy people pay for DNA sequencing

This article is not so interesting in relation to the headline story but for the other things in this “quietly” released Green Paper, many of which are very significant. The stuff about social prescribing is particularly important from a local authority point of view. This article tells us:

Matt Hancock, who survived Boris Johnson’s cabinet makeover to keep his job as health secretary, announced the “genomic volunteers” plan in January, which included a paid-for option that would be offered to healthy people in England to boost medical knowledge and uncover new treatments.

But in a government green paper on preventing ill health that was quietly released on Monday evening, the plans have been dropped in favour of a new scheme to recruit 5 million healthy volunteers who will have their DNA read for free. Details of how people will sign up for the scheme have not yet been determined.

Hancock had argued with Theresa May that the green paper, which includes proposals to combat smoking, drinking and poor diet, should not be published so close to her successor’s appointment. He has faced accusations of burying the document after slipping the report out with no notice.

Ofcom opens up UK spectrum to boost rural areas

This really interesting article shows scope for local action to seize new opportunities to connect places up. As always however it looks like rural areas are starting from the back of the grid! The article tells us:

Ofcom is to give businesses and rural communities the opportunity to build bespoke mobile networks by releasing licensed but unused spectrum on a local basis.

The regulator is inviting applications for the 1800MHz and 2300MHz bands currently used for mobile services, the 3.4-3.8GHz band used for 5G, and the 26GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) band earmarked for high capacity 5G services.

Although mobile operators hold licenses to some of these airwaves, they do not make use of them in parts of the country. Where an operator is not making use of the spectrum, Ofcom wants to see the potential realised.

Ofcom believes spectrum sharing could allow manufacturers to create private networks for connected factories, farmers to build local networks across large sites to connect people and machinery – enabling the Internet of Things (IOT) – and business and holiday parks to improve connectivity.

It would also pave the way for rural areas not covered by the commercial rollout of 4G and 5G to build local networks for residents.

Any party wanting to take advantage of the new regulations needs to submit an application to Ofcom with details of the band, location, bandwidth and power required. Ofcom will then assess the potential for interference with other users of the spectrum and grant a licence based on a per-area or per-base station basis.

Ofcom is looking at other ways to improve rural coverage. If a reported deal between government and mobile operators to build masts in rural areas is not reached, then Ofcom plans to offer discounted 5G spectrum in exchange for coverage obligations at the next auction of airwaves.

According to the regulator’s Connected Nations 2018 report, almost all properties can receive a good indoor 4G signal from at least one operator while 77 per cent are covered by all four major networks – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – up from 65 per cent last year.

However, while 83 per cent of urban premises receive what could be classified as “good” coverage, only 41 per cent of rural properties do, and in some areas there is no coverage at all.

'I decide who, what, where': why social care thrives when users help design services

This issue of local design reveals the benefit of local service planning made flesh. This extract from this article should inspire us all. It tells us:

Co-production, which is built on the principle that people who use a service are best placed to help design it, was central to debate at the annual conference of the European Social Network (ESN) in June, when delegates from 35 countries met in Milan to discuss how to raise the quality of care and support in a post-austerity era.

The ESN, which is funded by the European Commission but also draws members from outside the EU, shares knowledge and best practice in social services. It wants the commission to draw up a new framework for quality to guide EU states and others as policy moves on from a primary focus on ensuring continued provision of services in the face of the financial constraints of the past decade.

Katarina Ivankovi?-Kneževi?, the commission’s director for social affairs, told the conference that quality was “as important as the availability of social services” and a golden thread running through the 20 principles of the European pillar of social rights proclaimed in 2017.

It was work from Scotland, in the form of health and social care standards introduced last year, that helped shape much of the discussion in Milan. These are intended for all services, not just those regulated by statute, and are based on underlying principles of dignity and respect, compassion, inclusion, responsiveness of care and support and wellbeing.

Peter Macleod, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate in Scotland, said the principles were rooted firmly in a human-rights approach to care and support, and that the goal should be for the individual to be able to say: “I am receiving high-quality care that is right for me.”

This hard-Brexit cabinet could spell disaster for British farmers

Really thought provoking think piece. This article offers the following view:

Ever since Britain voted to leave the EU three long ago, those involved in farming have been aware that we are facing a fork in the road. One path offers the opportunity to build on our country’s comparatively high standards and compete on quality, sustainability and animal welfare. The other road requires us to sign up to free trade agreements on terms that suit our competitors, opening our borders to the worst horrors of industrial farming, symbolised (perhaps unfairly) by the spectre of chlorine-washed chicken. This would push British farmers either to lower their standards to compete or drive them out of business altogether.

The starting gun for the race to the bottom has been loaded. Almost every informed party agreed with the verdict of the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee last year that it is vital to “ensure that trade agreements demand that imported products meet our standards, and avoid a regulatory race to the bottom”. This reflects a broader growing consensus that there is no future in farming that requires huge quantities of synthetic fertilisers, land used to grow grain to feed to livestock locked up in sheds and acres of single-crop monocultures that are devoid of insects and wildlife.

It used to be only fringe environmental groups that made such a case. Now even the National Farmers’ Union buys it. Under the enlightened leadership of Minette Batters, it has committed to making UK farming net zero in terms of greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. It has made friends of old adversaries such as the Soil Association, which certifies organic goods in the UK, and the Sustainable Food Trust. The RSA is on the same page. Its Food, Farming and Countryside Commission recently issued a final report that called, among other things, for a transition plan for sustainable, agroecological farming by 2030.

None of these goals, however, can be reached without regulatory and government support. The greatest source of hope that this might be forthcoming was that the then environment secretary, Michael Gove, also seemed to be on board. In conversations with senior food and sustainability leaders, I have frequently been told that they think his commitment is genuine. The question was always whether he would be able to take the government with him. In a standoff with free-market fundamentalists such as Liam Fox, would Gove prevail?

Today the question is irrelevant. Gove is out, replaced by Theresa Villiers, whose track record is weak on the environment and strong on free trade. The starting gun for their race to the bottom has been loaded. Should it be fired, the consequences could be dire.

16 sentenced after south-east England 'county lines' drug sting

A fascinating if un-nerving introduction to the scary phenomenon of the county lines drug trade. This article tells us:

County lines is a drug distribution system in which criminal networks funnel hard drugs from cities to towns and rural regions across the country.

The police investigation first focused on phone lines, sifting through hundreds of thousands of pages of call data. With this information, they were able to identify the individuals involved.

Of the 16 convicted, 10 pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin. They were also charged with one count of participating in an organised crime group, which would remain on file.

Those found guilty included line holders, who managed the lines from London and directed younger members of the gang to “cuckoo” addresses in the south-east where they would conduct the sale of drugs. These properties often belonged to local drug users. This method of operation was typical of county lines, the Met said.

While there has been recent focus on children being used to transport drugs across counties, the investigation did not find any exploited young people connected to the gang. The police did, however, identify a number of vulnerable adults.

The phone lines operated by the gang each had a different name. The National Crime Agency estimates that one county lines phone can generate £800,000 a year.

Between August and November 2018, officers identified the gang were running five county lines: the Si, which ran from London into Bognor Regis in Sussex; the AJ, which operated in towns and villages on the borders of Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey; the Pepsi line, which ran between London and Medway in Kent; the Jeezy, which ran between London and Medway; and a local line that was responsible for the sale of crack cocaine and heroin in south London.

And Finally

Double spaces and imperial measurements: Jacob Rees-Mogg’s aides issue strict style guide to new staff

Whilst somewhat slovenly in my own approach to these things I appreciate a man with standards. I am sure this guidance will help oil the wheels of effective Government. This article tells us:

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg has issued a set of rules for staff in his office to follow, including a list of banned words and a requirement to use imperial measurements.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who was brought into the government by Boris Johnson on Wednesday, wasted little time in issuing the guidance to staff.

According to the style guide obtained by ITV News, Mr Rees-Mogg insists that all non-titled males are given the suffix Esq and words including “ongoing” and “hopefully” are banned.

Other directions include a call for a double space after full stops and no comma after the word “and”.

He also set out a series of banned words and phrases that should not be used by his staff

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


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