Hinterland - 6 April 2020

In Hinterland this week - There really are few alternative stories to the one big headline. I’ve weakened and gone with the flow. This week: countryside hubs, 5G, crime, free electricity, supply chain problems and the Archers all feature in our pandemic tinted edition. Read on…

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Coronavirus: Virtual 'Countryside Hub' to provide info to rural firms

This is a sign of things to come. It should be applauded. I do however wonder whether in a month or so we will have more of these sort of initiatives than you can shake a stick at!  This story tells us:

A new virtual 'Countryside Hub' has been created to help rural communities across the UK through the coronavirus pandemic.

The service will listen to concerns and act where necessary to ensure the countryside and its communities remain safe and resilient during the spread of the virus.

Launched by the Countryside Alliance, the hub offers support by signposting those within rural communities to the essential information, such as news on the latest government guidelines and announcements.

It will also outline support for small firms, key telephone numbers including mental health lines, call-outs for help from official bodies, as well guidance in relation to rural activities like horse riding and fishing.

Sarah Lee, Head of Policy at the Countryside Alliance said: "Watching our rural communities strengthen has been a ray of light but there‘s still more that we can all do to support each other by listening and learning from each other’s experiences.

“The Countryside Alliance website will be a hub of information for you to regularly check and will be updated constantly with the latest government advice, stay-at-home ideas and other forms of light relief to help us get through these uncertain times.


Coronavirus: 5G ‘certainly delayed’ in Europe and UK

5G, the coronavirus, rural, Huawei, this story has a heady mix of players, all of which are reducible to the fact that rural places may be disproportionately badly affected in terms of the roll out of IT. Something new to talk about there then…..

The rollout of 5G mobile networks in Europe will “certainly be delayed” by the coronavirus outbreak, Huawei says.

The Chinese company is one of the major manufacturers of essential equipment for 5G networks.

Huawei said continuing the 5G rollout was the best way to ensure connectivity during the crisis.

But senior executive Eric Xu also told reporters the delays could last until “the time when the pandemic is brought under control".

Answering questions about its annual report, published on Tuesday, Huawei vice-president Victor Zhang said there would “definitely” be an impact but it would not be as significant in the UK as the rest of Europe.

The first priority was to ensure the existing network was reliable, as people were using it to work, entertain and learn from home, he said.

But given the demand for bandwidth and better coverage, “the quickest way is to use the 5G deployment”.

“We need to accelerate the network bandwidth… to make sure everyone can work and can entertain and can share information,” he said.

Mr Zhang pointed to rural areas in particular, where existing mobile broadband coverage “is not good enough” to support people working from home.


Police warn rural crime gangs likely to take advantage of isolated communities during Coronavirus lockdown

This story relates to farm equipment, my concerns are equally focused on small rural settlements where isolated people in lockdown are more vulnerable to a number of crimes it seems to me. This story tells us:

Rural crime gangs are likely to take advantage of isolated communities and stretched police resources during the Coronavirus outbreak, police have warned.

The warning came after stolen farm machinery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds was recovered by police in Warwickshire.

Warwickshire Police Rural Crime Team and the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) carried out two raids in the county earlier this month, leading to the recovery of a treasure trove of machinery, which had been stolen from farms across the UK.

The first took place at a Warwickshire farm after police carried out routine enquiries on the premises and found machinery with identifying marks, which raised suspicions.

Further investigation revealed other reported stolen and suspicious machinery and as a result equipment was seized including a John Deere 6940 tractor, a JCB telehandler, Takeuchi mini excavator, a Kobelco large excavator, an Ifor Williams livestock trailer, and a hedge cutter. Arrests were made.

The second operation involved a raid on a site elsewhere in Warwickshire. Among the machinery and vehicles recovered were six caravans, two livestock trailers, one small trailer, a mobile shower block, numerous power tools, a Ford Transit van and a Ford Focus. Police enquiries are ongoing.

Detective Constable Chris Piggott from NAVCIS urged farmers and rural residents to secure equipment as thieves were likely to target farms amid the Coronavirus outbreak.

He said: “Many farm vehicles now have so-called smart keys containing electronic information needed to start the machine, so it’s vital that keys are removed from machines and stored securely in a remote location.

“Other measures including CESAR marking, immobilizers and tracking devices are effective in deterring thieves and aiding police recoveries.”

He added information from farmers had made the raids possible.

He said: “Police forces do record these reports and use them to piece together trails which can lead to arrests being made – so it’s well worth taking the trouble to report suspicious activity, even when there doesn’t appear to be an immediate police response.


Households to be paid for daytime green electricity use during lockdown

The economics I learned as a boy is all askew. This latest story builds on those international examples where interest rates are so low people have been literally charged for saving. I wonder in these times where people have lots of space to think what you would come up with as being the best thing to be paid to use??

Thousands of British homes will be paid to use electricity during the day for the first time, as wind and solar projects produce a surge in clean energy during the coronavirus lockdown.

On Sunday morning, windfarms contributed almost 40% of the UK’s electricity, while solar power made up almost a fifth of the power system. Fossil fuels made up less than 15% of electricity, of which only 1.1% came from coal plants.

Meanwhile, the country’s energy demand has fallen by around 10% due to the shutdown of pubs, restaurants, companies and factories across the country, leading to the lowest electricity market prices in 10 years.

Households on a new breed of home energy tariff will even be paid to use electricity during the day on Sunday, because sunny weather and a brisk breeze will help generate ample clean electricity to meet the UK’s lower energy needs.

The so-called “negative electricity prices” have previously only been available to homes overnight, when demand is typically at its lowest. But the impact of the coronavirus lockdown and the bright spring weather mean some homes will be able to earn money while using clean electricity during the day for the first time.

Households which use the Agile Octopus energy tariff, offered by Octopus Energy, were contacted on Saturday to let them know they would be paid for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity they use during the sunniest hours of Sunday afternoon.

From 11am-4pm, those customers will earn 0.22p-3.3p per kWh to make use of the UK’s abundant clean energy, the company said.


Coronavirus: Nearly 400 care groups 'face protection shortages'

We have a proportion of care homes and vulnerable old people in rural settings this is worrying, but not surprising news. This story tells us:

Almost 400 care companies which provide home support across the UK have told the BBC they still do not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE).

Without protection, providers say they may not be able to care for people awaiting hospital discharge.

Of 481 providers, 381 - 80% - said they did not have enough PPE to be able to support older and vulnerable people.

The government said it was working "around the clock" to give the sector the equipment it needs.

The BBC sent questions to the nearly 3,000 members of the UK Homecare Association.

About a quarter of respondents said they have either run out of masks or have less than a week's supply left.


And Finally

The Archers will address the Coronavirus pandemic

Some people like the Archers. I personally have favoured social distancing from this programme for decades. Still just to prove its as up to date as anywhere else with a farm shop it looks like Borsetshire is about to experience the pandemic. This story tells us:

Jeremy Howe — editor of The Archers — has revealed: ‘For nearly 70 years Ambridge has been a haven for our audience, and so it continues to be.’ ‘Whilst Coronavirus might be coming to Borsetshire, listeners can still expect The Archers to be an escape, and the residents to be bickering and as playful and witty as ever.

We want this new approach to The Archers to still be a picture of the way we live now in rural England that it has always been. ‘However, these are unprecedented times and the team has worked tirelessly to make sure we can continue to visit Ambridge.’


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


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