Hinterland - 07 August 2018

“And Finally….” this week  proof that Stonehenge is Welsh! If that’s not interesting enough for you this week in Hinterland we also have our second example of a local authority going deeply into the “red” and in this case not against a background of financial denial or mismanagement.  We have a widening jobs gap in the NHS at the same time as our emerging approach to immigration is clearly stifling the supply of workers and we have a couple of environmental stories about pollution and “wonky” vegetables – Read on…..

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Council funding crisis could be 'catastrophic' for vulnerable children

NHS Trusts are allowed to overspend with some rhetorical criticism but not swingeing sanctions. This story (and there will be a dozen so or more local authorities over the next 24 months to follow) shows that local authorities conversely are the whipping boy in our unbalanced relationship between central and local government. Lets hope those in Central Government of both political hues who have presided over this get the blame and not the local authorities themselves which have been denuded of over 50% of their funding in recent years. And who are the real victims in all this? – those vulnerable people who need society’s help most! This story tells us:

Families with vulnerable youngsters are unable to get help from cash-strapped councils, the children’s commissioner for England has said. 

Anne Longfield’s comments followed Tory-run Northamptonshire and East Sussex councils’ plans for major reductions in the services they provide across all areas of activity as a result of funding shortfalls. 

Longfield said she had written to ministers calling on the government to intervene to ensure youngsters across the country were protected from local authorities’ financial difficulties.

“I’m extremely worried that the financial difficulties that Northamptonshire county council are facing will mean that they are not going to be protecting the services for the most vulnerable children, which could have catastrophic consequences for those children,” she said.

Work carried out with the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed “half of all the spending on children’s services goes on the 70,000 children who are in care”, she said, and “if you add in those who are on the child protection registers, that’s over 80%, leaving very, very little for any others”. 

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday: “Councils have been warning for some time that they are not going to be able to meet their statutory requirements. 

“I can see and hear every day from families and children who simply can’t get help.” 

There were about 1.5 million children living in families with very high needs such as “severe mental health problems, domestic violence in the household” who were not getting “any form of substantial help”, she said.


East Sussex council set to cut services to bare legal minimum

You know that Government is on the back foot when it tells half a story. The comments of the spokesperson below omit to mention that 50% of local authority funding has been removed over the last 10 years. It really means nothing to quote big figures out of context in the face of the imminent collapse of services of fundamental importance to the most vulnerable in society. This story tells us:

Fresh evidence of the funding crisis facing local government has emerged after a second council said it was preparing to cut back services to the bare legal minimum to cope with a cash shortfall that could leave it bankrupt within three years.

East Sussex county council said growing financial pressures and rising demand for social care were forcing it to restrict services to the most vulnerable residents only. Under this “core offer”, many of its services will be severely cut or shut down completely.

It said families and neighbourhood voluntary groups would have to take increasing responsibility for supporting those older people who would no longer qualify for social care support from the council under the new arrangements.

East Sussex’s outline of its strategic approach, revealed in a council paper last month, appears to have been adopted wholesale by Northamptonshire county council, which this week adopted an emergency cuts plan to reduce services to skeleton levels as it attempts to close a £70m black hole in its budget during the next few months.

Northamptonshire’s financial collapse has been portrayed by ministers as being down to chronic mismanagement rather than lack of government funding. However, East Sussex is regarded as a stable and well-run council, giving authority and credibility to its shock warnings of the consequences of underfunding.

East Sussex said that without more government funding, stripping services back to a core offer would be the best it could afford to deliver, although it added that without a sea change in local authority finances even this most basic model of municipal service might be unaffordable by 2021.

The government insists that the funding arrangements for local government strike a balance between relieving the pressure on councils and keeping council tax bills down. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said: “We are providing local authorities with £90.7bn over the next two years to meet the needs of their residents. We are also giving them the power to retain the growth in business rates income and are working with local government to develop a funding system for the future based on the needs of different areas.”


Fears for NHS as apprenticeships fail to plug gaps left by Brexit brain drain

I’ve trailed some original research which shows that the most rural areas have almost 50% fewer NHS staff than the England average. The calculation includes cities like Lincoln, Plymouth, Norwich and Carlisle, which serve large rural hinterlands. This story is further cause for pessimism. It tells us:

The total number of people starting NHS apprenticeships has fallen by more than a third in the past three years, raising new concerns about shortages of key staff such as nurses after Brexit.

Figures released by the Department for Education show a 36% drop in the number of people taking up NHS apprenticeships between 2015/16 and 2017/18, with take-up of such positions falling way short of government predictions.

Despite ministerial pledges to plug recruitment gaps with the help of 1,000 apprentice nurses a year, the official data also shows that in January 2018 just 20 apprentices started the registered nurse degree apprenticeship while just 10 people signed up for new “nursing associate” training in the same period.


Low levels of air pollution linked to changes in the heart

A very good exposition of why its great to live in a rural setting. This article tells us:

Regular exposure to even low levels of air pollution may cause changes to the heart similar to those in the early stages of heart failure, experts say.

A study of 4,000 people in the UK found those who lived by loud, busy roads had larger hearts on average than those living in less polluted areas.

This was despite the fact people in the study were exposed to pollution levels below the UK guidelines.

Researchers called on the government to reduce air pollution more quickly. 

A team of scientists, led from Queen Mary University of London, analysed health data of people who had no underlying heart problems and were part of the UK Biobank study, including the size, weight and function of their hearts.


LIDL Selling 5KG Boxes of “Wonky” Fruit and Veg for £1.50

A great story of agile and practical thinking which makes me so pleased that we have more than a “big four” when it comes to supermarkets. This article tells us:

Budget supermarket Lidl is selling 5kg boxes of damaged fruit and vegetables for £1.50 at selected stores.

Part of an ongoing trial called “Too Good to Waste”, the boxes will be available for a limited time across 122 stores, with anything unsold being donated to charity. 

Each one will contain a selection of imperfect or slightly damaged fruit and veg, packed by Lidl staff.

And, while customers cannot choose what items are inside, the supermarket says it will ensure the produce is “perfectly good to eat”.

“We know from our data that fresh produce is one of the biggest contributors to food waste in stores, so we’re excited by the difference our initiative will make,” Lidl’s chief executive Christan Hartnagel said.

“Not only will it help customers consider items that they might have previously dismissed, it will also provide an opportunity for them to make further savings.”

The move comes following a pledge by Lidl that it will cut food waste per store by 25 per cent by 2020.


 And Finally…..

Stonehenge: Origins of those who built world-famous monument revealed by groundbreaking scientific research

Fascinating insight from perhaps our most iconic rural tourist location….

A new scientific research collaboration is, for the first time, revealing who built Stonehenge. The cutting-edge study sheds a remarkable light on the geographical origins of the Neolithic community that first constructed the ancient site.

Complex tests carried out on 25 Neolithic people who were buried at or following the time of the initial construction of the now world-famous monument, have revealed that 10 of them lived nowhere near Stonehenge, but in western Britain, and that half of those 10 potentially came from southwest Wales (where the earliest Stonehenge monoliths came from).

The other 15 could be local to Stonehenge, Wiltshire-origin individuals, or the children of other descendants of migrants from the west. All the remains were cremations.

Up until now, it has always been assumed that it was not possible to carry out place-of-origin tests on burned bones – but recent research at Oxford University by Belgian scientist, Dr Christophe Snoeck of the Free University of Brussels, has now discovered that the act of cremation actually crystallises a bone’s structure and prevents the crucial origin-indicating isotope evidence from being contaminated by isotopic signals in the surrounding soil.

The cremated remains from Stonehenge of the 10 individuals of probable western British origin, were buried at various stages between the 33rd century BC and the 28th century BC.


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



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