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Just before Christmas on a cold, snowy day in Buxton I was one of the guest speakers at Rural Action Derbyshire’s AGM.

I have known Rural Action Derbyshire (RAD), which is part of the ACRE network, and the excellent work it does in a number of incarnations over the years.

Like me it maybe that you know your local community council, rather than the ACRE network itself – either way, they do a remarkable job in our often forgotten rural areas, where deprivation still remains hidden and help is (literally) difficult to access.

The Network is the only nationwide organisation with a dedicated rural focus; building community resilience, strengthening local enterprise and supporting the most vulnerable in our society. In addition, it are the only network that provides advice to the 80,000 volunteers who keep England’s 10,000 village halls alive. 

It has been supported by Government investment for ninety years, but just a few days ago, it was advised by civil servants to expect no further funding from Defra.

I, like Rural Action Derbyshire, am extremely concerned about the impact that the withdrawal of this funding will have on communities across High Peak and Derbyshire.

Concerned about the negative impact on the wide range of services and projects which RAD to help people in Derbyshire’s rural communities including:  Wheels to Work, Oil Buying scheme, Village Halls support, Suicide Awareness Training, Agricultural Chaplaincy, community and neighbourhood planning as well as partnership work to support financially excluded people and foodbanks.

To pull the Defra funding now would fracture the Network, undermine decades of government investment and leave the most vulnerable in rural areas with nowhere to go.

If you are able to give examples of how Rural Action Derbyshire or your local community council has made a difference to you, your community or organisation, this would be very helpful.

Rural areas – as is the case in High Peak – are characterized by lower earnings and self-employment; made worse by the increase in the use of zero hours contracts.  Rural areas suffer more than most because of the cost of accessing even the most basic services and goods; we face poorer transport and digital infrastructure.

Rural areas are more likely to be in fuel poverty than those in urban areas.  High Peak is a classic example of this, we have a lot of old, solid wall homes that are difficult and costly to insulate; with one in eight High Peak families living in fuel poverty. 

These are all issues with which Rural Action Derbyshire, and its fellow community councils in the ACRE network, seek to help people living in rural areas – through practical schemes such as Wheels to Work or the community oil buying scheme.

At that snowy pre-Christmas meeting I was happy – and pleased – to say that Labour not only welcomed the ACRE Network’s rural manifesto but that it fitted well with much of the thinking of the shadow Defra team.   I have already taken up the issue with Labour’s Huw Irranca-Davies – and signed the petition –a dn will, as Leader of High Peak Borough Council write to the Secretary of State to ask her not to withdraw funding.

We only have one week to influence DEFRA’s decision. You can show your support for Rural Action Derbyshire and the wider ACRE Network by signing the ACRE Network online petition now at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/73418


Please urgently write to Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR or email her at defra.helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk to ask her not to withdraw funding from the ACRE Network.

 

 

Defra threatens to cut funding to rural action network

Just before Christmas on a cold, snowy day in Buxton I was one of the guest speakers at Rural Action Derbyshire’s AGM. I have known Rural Action Derbyshire (RAD), which...

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Caitlin Bisknell joined with members of the retail union Usdaw, including shop steward Steve Kitching to campaign for respect for shopworkers as part of the Freedom From Fear Campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse directed at retail staff.

Following a visit to Glossop’s Tesco store with Steve, when she spoke to staff about their experiences Caitlin pledged to support a protection of workers bill that would introduce a specific offence of assaulting a worker serving the public, thereby extending existing protections for police officers, immigration officers and Scottish emergency service workers.

Caitlin Bisknell said: “Too often retail employees are confronted with violence, threats and abuse and it is really important we stand together and ask people to respect shopworkers.

“I support Usdaw’s campaign for stiffer sentences and I’ve been very disappointed to see Tory and Liberal MPs, on five occasions in the current Parliament, combine to block this measure when proposed by Labour.

“Making the assault of a worker serving the public an offence in its own right would simplify sentencing. Under existing guidelines, assaulting a worker is an aggravating factor, but there are concerns this is not being applied when decisions are made about prosecutions and sentencing.

“I will continue to campaign with Usdaw for a change in the law to ensure that proper punishments are given out. We must give a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.”

John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary said: “We are grateful to Catlin for supporting our campaign to keep our members safe at work.

“Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to enforce the law, whether that is preventing under-age purchases of products like knives, tobacco or alcohol, or detaining shoplifters until the police arrive, they can be put in real danger. Parliament has given shopworkers the duty to enforce the law, so Parliament should provide the necessary protection.

“I have been shocked by the leniency of some of the sentences for assault of workers. Over 300 shopworkers are assaulted every day and it is time to say enough is enough. The Government must act to address this issue and act quickly.”

 

Caitlin backs Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear campaign

Caitlin Bisknell joined with members of the retail union Usdaw, including shop steward Steve Kitching to campaign for respect for shopworkers as part of the Freedom From Fear Campaign, which...

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High Peak Labour’s Caitlin Bisknell joined Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause campaigners to support calls for the Government to improve its plan to protect bees and other vital pollinating insects, which was published last autumn.

The use of toxic pesticides and the loss of habitat are major factors causing the drop in bee populations. 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have disappeared in the past 60 years. And important bee habitat continues to be lost to development.  Over 70% of UK land is farmed, so what happens there is pivotal to bees’ heath.

Caitlin Bisknell said: “It’s clear that many people in High Peak and around the country are deeply concerned about the loss of our bees. I’m backing Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause Campaign for a tough national Bee Action Plan that fully tackles all the threats bees face, from pesticides to how land is used.

“The Government must provide better support for farmers to create new habitat for bees and reduce their reliance on pesticides, and ensure that new developments built to tackle the housing shortage include bee-friendly green spaces too.”

Friends of the Earth Chief Executive, Andy Atkins, said: “It’s crunch time for our bees – people, businesses and politicians from all parties have persuaded the Government to draw up an action plan to reverse bee decline.

“But the draft is too vague about how farmers and developers will help bees and fails to tackle the widespread use of toxic pesticides. That’s why it’s so important that people like Caitlin BIsknell have put their support behind the campaign to make sure that Britain’s hard-working bees get the proper rescue plan they need.”

Key facts about bees:

  • Numbers of bees have been dropping at an alarming rate over recent years, with more than 20 UK bee species already extinct and about a quarter of those remaining at risk.
  • Bees pollinate 75% of our main crops worldwide, including some of our favourite fruits like apples, strawberries and tomatoes, and textiles such as cotton.
  • An independent study by the University of Reading estimates that it would cost over £1.8 billion every year to pollinate UK crops by hand.

Save Our Bees

High Peak Labour’s Caitlin Bisknell joined Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause campaigners to support calls for the Government to improve its plan to protect bees and other vital pollinating...

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