Hinterland - 4 January 2021

Welcome to 2021. Hinterland looks forward to some relief from the pandemic on the horizon. I have found a number of covid-story many with optimistic tones to start the new year, but which also demonstrate we are not out of the woods yet. However I think I see a hint of reborn Laura Ashley on the horizon which must be cause for true optimism...

*         *          *

Covid: Regional rules 'probably going to get tougher', says Boris Johnson

I really am getting fed up with lockdown as we enter 2021. Still as this article indicates we have more pain to go and thank goodness for the prospects of a return to normal with the vaccine. I don’t think we have had enough analysis of the rural impacts of the pandemic although as I indicated in the last issue of Hinterland the marvellous exposure of the joint work of the National Centre for Rural Health and Care and the Nuffield Trust is a great cause for revelation – you can still read the article here should you wish: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55263765

Regional restrictions in England are "probably about to get tougher" to curb rising Covid infections, the prime minister has warned.

Boris Johnson told the BBC stronger measures may be required in parts of the country in the coming weeks.

He said this included the possibility of keeping schools closed, although this is not "something we want to do".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for new England-wide restrictions within 24 hours.

Sir Keir said coronavirus was "clearly out of control" and it was "inevitable more schools are going to have to close".

It comes as the UK recorded more than 50,000 new confirmed Covid cases for the sixth day in a row, with 54,990 announced on Sunday.

An additional 454 deaths within 28 days of a positive test result have also been reported, meaning the total by this measure is now above 75,000.


Covid-19: Keep schools shut, council leaders urge

Councils again find themselves in the eye of the storm having to put forward local common sense and sentiment in the debate about the need to think very carefully about the role of schools in spreading the more virulent form of the virus. This article shows how some big rural players in Kent and Cumbria are leading the charge it tells us:

More councils in England are calling on the government to delay the reopening of primary schools amid rising cases of Covid-19.

Local authorities in Wolverhampton, Cumbria and Kent are now asking for a delay to the start of term on Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC parents should send their children to schools where they were open.

Some schools announced on Sunday they would remain closed after teachers said they felt it was unsafe to go in.

Mr Johnson told BBC One's Andrew Marr the risk to children was "very, very low" and the benefit of education was "so huge".

He added that while school closures would be kept "under constant review", the government would be "driven by public health considerations and by the massive importance of education".

Teaching unions have called for remote learning and some head teachers have begun legal action to force ministers to reveal data behind the decision for most schools to reopen.


Youth organisations in England face wholesale closure

Small VCSE bodies have been ravaged by covid and this article shows how many local charities focused on young people have been affected. Since our recent work at Rose Regeneration with the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs I fully understand the importance of rural youth issues and the desperate need for support a significant number of isolated young rural people have. This article tells us:

England faces a wholesale closure of youth organisations, leaving a generation of vulnerable young people without life-changing support, according to research.

Almost two-thirds of youth organisations with incomes under £250,000 say they are at risk of closure, with 31% saying they might have to shut in the next six months.

The forced withdrawal of support officially recognised as “essential” comes at a time when the pandemic has left more than 1.5 million vulnerable young people in critical need of help, the research by the charity UK Youth found.

The responses from 1,759 youth organisations in England revealed that 58% are operating at a reduced level, with a further 20% temporarily closed or preparing to permanently close.


UK to begin using Oxford Covid vaccine as PM strikes hopeful tone

This is a thrilling development. My sources tell me we are likely to be less thrilled about how the challenges of rolling the vaccine out will be addressed. I have some modest recent personal experiences of the challenges on this score. Lets hope everything clicks into place!!!

People in the UK will begin receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on Monday, after the prime minister expressed hope that the pace could be ramped up to protect tens of millions of people from Covid-19 within the next few months.

In England the first doses would be administered in a small number of hospitals for surveillance purposes, said the NHS: in Oxford, where the vaccine was invented, London, Sussex, Lancashire and Warwickshire.

Once it is certain there are no hitches, the jab will be shipped within days to GP-led centres in the community. There are 730 vaccination centres at the moment, with a further 180 and 100 more hospital sites scheduled to open this week.

The first priority is to immunise care home residents. Although the UK government’s advisory Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recognised this group as the most vulnerable to Covid, the need to store the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at -70C in the long term has meant supplies have not been taken into most care homes. GPs are now being offered £10 for every care home resident they vaccinate by the end of January.

Boris Johnson said he could not yet say how fast the vaccination programme would be scaled up to the 2 million jabs a week he hoped for.

“I wish I could give you here and now any sort of elaboration on the figures you have already heard about how we hope to get up to 2 million a week and so on,” he told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. “I can’t give you that yet. What I can tell you is that ... we do hope that we will be able to do tens of millions in the course of the next three months.”


Ministers ‘failing jobless young people’ after breaking pledge to recruit 30,000 Whitehall apprentices

A different story. I am very committed to trying to find meaningful employment opportunities in rural settings for talented young people. As the labour market tightens we all need to see a stronger commitment to the issue of supporting apprentices in rural settings. This article is a wake up call on that score.

Ministers have been accused of failing jobless young people, after falling far short of a promise to recruit 30,000 new apprentices to the civil service.

A senior Conservative said the government had not made achieving the pledge “a priority” – and criticised an attempt to blame the embarrassing shortfall on Covid-19.

In fact, the target was set four years ago – to ensure that Whitehall “leads by example” – and only 16,155 apprentices had been recruited by the time of the lockdown in March.

It follows a wider failure to sign up 3 million apprentices across the economy between 2017 and 2020, with only around 2.2 million recruited.


And Finally

From Laura Ashley to Debenhams: the biggest retail collapses of 2020

A salutary list of closures here but tinged with optimism as we hear that Laura may be making a come back…..

A string of household names were lost this year as Covid accelerated changes to the high street

2020 was a punishing year for the high street, with 177,000 jobs lost as a string of household names succumbed to administration during Covid-19. The pandemic has accelerated the painful restructuring of an industry that is a big employer but where fewer physical stores are needed to serve shoppers in the internet age. Here are some of the biggest retail collapses throughout 2020.


1 December With no rescue deal agreed, the troubled chain started closing down sales in its 124 stores before Christmas, as it announced plans to liquidate. About 4,000 head office and store jobs have already gone as a result of its second administration in a year and its 12,000 remaining staff face an uncertain future.


30 November The collapse into administration of Sir Philip Green’s fashion group affected 13,000 jobs. The Arcadia brands, which include Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins, are being auctioned off. So far only the plus-size label Evans has changed hands but all its outlets are to close, meaning hundreds of job losses. Arcadia had already cut 500 head-office jobs in the summer of 2020.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group

The fashion group, with 21,500 staff, owned by the entrepreneur Philip Day, fell into financial crisis in the autumn. Its brands – Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Ponden Mill, Peacocks, Jaeger, Austin Reed and Jacques Vert – followed each other into administration and it has cut 860 jobs so far.


5 August The Renfrewshire-based clothing retailer, formerly known as Mackays, was restructured via a pre-pack administration. The move resulted in the closure of 47 of 215 stores and 400 job losses.


30 June The furniture chain went under, with the administrators announcing an initial wave of 240 redundancies among its workforce of 1,500.

TM Lewin

30 June The shirtmaker called in the administrators. It closed all 66 of its outlets permanently, with the loss of about 600 jobs.

Monsoon Accessorize

11 June The fashion brands were bought out of administration by their founder, Peter Simon, in a deal that resulted in the closure of 35 stores and 545 job losses.

Oasis and Warehouse

15 April All stores closed after the fashions brands went into administration, resulting in 1,800 job losses. The brands were subsequently sold to the online fashion group Boohoo.

Cath Kidston

21 April More than 900 jobs were cut at Cath Kidston’s retro retail label when a rescue deal brokered for the business closed all 60 of its UK stores.

Laura Ashley

17 March The chain went into administration, with 2,700 job losses, after rescue talks were scuppered by the pandemic. It was acquired by the Gordon Brothers investment firm and is set to make a return through a partnership with Next.


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.