Hinterland - Friday, 1 June 2018

I was very pleased with the positive experience of the North East Regional Workshop last week. Our speakers were thought-provoking as was the subsequent debate.
There was a strong consensus that social enterprise was a great opportunity in terms of future rural service delivery amongst many other interesting points of debate including a discussion about different types of “rural” from a local authority perspective.
Look out on the RSN website for discussion notes. In Hinterland this week: drones, children’s services, community spirit, National Parks, Hypothecation and Shetland in a box. What’s not to like?

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Special educational needs funding needs to be more than ‘one-off cash injection’, councillors warn

My sources tell me that whilst we’ve all been worrying about the cost of adult social care rapidly rising children’s services costs have been creeping up on local government. This article provides some grist to that mill. It tells us:

Children with special educational needs require “significant, on-going and sustainable” funding building on from the government’s £50m pledge announced today, councillors have warned.

The Conservatives announced the boost to create additional school places and up-to-date facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The plans are in addition to the £215m fund announced last year to ensure children with SEND could access a good school place.

The surge in funds could help create around 740 more special school places and provide new specialist facilities to support children with complex needs such as specialist equipment in playgrounds and sensory rooms.

Whilst councillors have welcomed the plans, they have argued the move should be continual and a sustained form of funding to meet rising levels of demand. They are calling for an urgent review of funding to meet the “unprecedented” rise in demand for support for children with SEND.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils have been clear that there is a need to provide additional and ongoing funding to support children with special educational needs and disabilities so we are pleased that they will receive this additional funding.

“However,” Cllr Watts continued, “this should not be a one-off cash injection and needs to be significant, on-going and sustainable funding, otherwise councils may not be able to meet their statutory duties and many children could miss out on a mainstream education.”

More than half of Britons describe their neighbours as ‘strangers’

And if you thought this was just an urban phenomenon think again. I have visited some very unfriendly rural places, but then it might just be people’s reactions to me! This article tells us:

Britain’s sense of community spirit is in decline, according to a new poll, which found that more than half of respondents barely said a word to their neighbours and 68 per cent describe them as “strangers”.

Two thirds admitted days can pass without them seeing others living on the same street, while 73 per cent said they didn’t even know their names.

Half said they did not feel part of a “good neighbourly community” and nine in 10 admitted they never volunteer to help out with local charities and groups.

Only one in 10 said they would assist with a local tidy up, 12 per cent would help with a charity event and a four per cent would organise a fundraiser or attend a fun run.

Four in 10 said they felt no sense of pride about where they live and 84 per cent fail to participate in any local events.

UK drone users face safety tests and flight restrictions

I think drones offer the potential for fascinating service options to rural communities. The regulations referred to in this article nonetheless have in my minds eye been too long coming. It tells us:

UK drone users may have to pass online safety tests under legislation being introduced to the Commons on Wednesday.

Restrictions around airport boundaries have also been clarified stopping any drone flying within 1km of them.

The changes, which are set to come into effect between July 2018 and November 2019, follow a rise in the number of drone near-misses with aircrafts.

Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said the measures were needed to “protect” aircraft and their passengers.

In addition to the safety tests, people who own drones weighing 250g or more will have to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Some drones, usually cheaper models, weigh less than 250g. But most – especially those with built-in cameras – weigh more.

Before, the regulations had applied to aircraft that weigh 20kg or less.

All drones will also be banned from flying above 400ft (121.9m), a rule which had been mentioned previously in the CAA’s Drone Code but will now be enshrined in law.

Hypothecated health tax brings risks, King’s Fund warns

Ive never been a fan of hypothecation – its clearly not applied when traffic camera’s and parking fines are used as an income source and I think the comments in this article about the challenges of such an approach in the context of the NHS are fascinating and compelling. There is no doubt however that the current system isn’t fit for purpose, particularly in rural areas, where because people live longer everyone assumes they have better health. When you look closely the two things don’t follow each other, but that’s another story…

Creating a dedicated ring-fenced tax to fund the NHS could undermine other public spending areas, the King’s Fund health think-tank has warned.

Committing to a hypothecated tax for health and social care may be part of the answer to the NHS’s funding problems “but on its own it is unlikely to be enough to guarantee a more stable future”, its report, published today, said.

The report examined the arguments for and against a hypothecated tax and concluded the debate was finely balanced.

Hypothecation was “an attractive idea [that] could end up back firing unless the risks are tackled” leading to “even greater public mistrust of politicians”.

One of the risks of hypothecation was the loss of flexibility, which could result in “sub-optimal decisions” on other public spending priorities.

Over the last two parliaments, local government and the criminal justice system have received bad settlements compared to the NHS, overseas aid and pensions, the King’s Fund noted.

If a hypothecated tax were introduced there would need to be “some independent, non-political input” into setting the budget for health and care, it added.

The King’s Fund has previously called for an Office for Budget Responsibility-style watchdog for health.

Advocates of a ring-fenced health tax say the certainty it offers could put an end to the cycle of “boom and bust” funding for the NHS, which has been in place for the past 70 years.

National Parks can fuel rural economic growth, says CLA

I’m looking forward to the outcome of this review which I think will be fascinating. The article associated with it tells us:

Farmers and landowners have urged the government to put boosting economic growth and productivity in designated landscapes like National Parks.

Defra Secretary Michael Gove has committed to conserve and enhance England’s most cherished landscapes as a new review launches into the nation’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

Nearly 70 years after the country’s National Parks were first established, an independent panel will look at how these iconic landscapes meet needs in the 21st century – including whether there is scope for the current network of 34 AONBs and 10 National Parks to expand.

The review, led by writer Julian Glover, will also explore how access to these landscapes can be improved, how those who live and work in them can be better supported, and their role in growing the rural economy.

Undertaking a review is one of the key commitments of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses has reacted to the government announcement.

The organisation said government must strike the right balance between ensuring designation that delivers natural beauty, alongside encouraging the right types of economic activity.

CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said: “Together, this more positive balance will sustain these areas and create thriving communities.

“Designated landscapes are crucial to the wellbeing of the nation, providing opportunities not only for visitors but most especially for those who live and work there. We look forward to contributing to the review.

“Most businesses within designated landscapes experience significant opposition and hostility to development of any kind.

Mr Breitmeyer added: “Success in this review will see more landowners, users, park authorities and conservation boards coming together to identify opportunities which deliver the right types of sensitive development to improve the use and enjoyment of these unique areas.”

‘Nobody puts Shetland in a box’

I blame the map makers! But this fascinating article does have some important substance about how stereotyping some rural places can do them no good. It tells us:

Shetland is more than 100 miles away from the Scottish mainland, as the crow flies. It takes 12 hours to get there from the mainland on a ferry. It is, by any measure, quite far away.

But looking at a lot of maps, that might not be immediately clear. Often as not, Shetland might show up enclosed in a box in the Moray Firth or in the North Sea off Aberdeenshire.

This isn’t a new thing. The National Library of Scotland’s map collection includes various examples dating back to the middle of the 17th Century where Shetland – and indeed Orkney – are corralled into boxes.

Examples abound, from bank notes to the covers of government reports. But one representative of the islands fears that such maps are not properly representative of the islands.

Tavish Scott, the Lib Dem MSP for Shetland, says that putting the islands in a box causes people to forget about the challenges they face on account of their remote location.

He said: “The logistics of getting to and from Shetland are all too often forgotten, and this has had an impact on the crucial economies of the islands, for instance the movement of oil, gas and seafood.

“Recognising where Shetland is located would go a long way to understanding the challenges we face as an island.”

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


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