NEWS
28/12/2018 10:58 GMT

19 Local News Stories That Tell The Story Of 2018 Beyond Brexit

A 12-month view on some of the local news stories behind national headlines.

Brexit dominated the headlines in 2018, there’s no question about it. From parliamentary wrangling to showy political bust-ups, there seemed to be little room for anything else.

But of course, life goes on beyond Westminster, and the real story of the year played out in local communities as many people faced Universal Credit rollouts, a rise in street violence and hate crimes, and continuing austerity.

Here, HuffPost UK looks at some of the local news stories from the year which paint a fuller story of 2018, including tales of courage, hardship and communities rallying together.

January

Shepherds Bush, west London

David M. Benett via Getty Images

The fatal stabbing of model Harry Uzoka in Shepherds Bush, west London, dominated headlines in January, and was a grim precursor to a series of stories on knife crime attacks throughout the year.

London has since seen the highest number of killings in a decade, with more than 130 deaths – the highest since 2008. The murder rate surpassed that of New York City by April for the first time in modern history.

Later in the year, George Koh was jailed for 25 years for Uzoka’s murder.

Scotland

In Scotland, the effects of cuts to local authorities saw teachers ask for a 10% pay hike in a bid to recoup wages, which have decreased over a decade.

Nicola Fisher, head of Scotland’s biggest teaching union, said at the time: “Austerity and ideologically driven attacks on the public sector from Westminster governments, coupled with financial decisions made here in Scotland, have caused our pay to decline dramatically.”

Their demands, dubbed “unaffordable” by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, were rejected in November as she called on unions to be prepared to accept a “realistic” pay deal.

February

Norwich

Mental health awareness continued to help bring to account to gaps in patient care.

A damning assessment by inspectors found patients at Huntercombe Hospital in Buxton, Norwich – a hospital for mentally ill children – could access dangerous items which they could harm themselves with, with one young person suffering a non-fatal overdose, the North Norfolk News reported.

The Care Quality Commission shut the hospital down.

An assessment also found staff at the hospital was not preventing patients from self-harming, and the closure came two years after the facility was placed in special measures.

In October, Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed the government would provide a £2billion boost to mental healthcare provision per year, and find mental health support in every A&E department in the country.

March

West Midlands

PA Images

The impact of the switch to controversial Universal Credit was laid bare in a multitude of stories from across the nation this year, not least among families who faced declining living standards as a result of delayed payouts. 

Some 130,000 children in the Midlands were due to miss out on free school meals, which the Department for Education later denied.

It came two months after local council bosses “quietly dropped” plans to provide free school meals to every primary school child in the city, according to the Birmingham Post.

Scotland

“I’m only guaranteed to eat two days a week at the moment, I don’t buy clothes, I just live in the clothes that I’ve got.”

These were the words of Alexander Cadona, who told BBC Scotland of his struggles living in poverty.

Around six months before Theresa May declared that “austerity is over” during her Tory party conference speech, one million families in Scotland were classed as living in relative poverty after rent or mortgage costs had been paid.

Poverty Alliance director Peter Kelly, said: “Low pay, rising living costs and unstable work mean that, for many, choices between whether to heat their home or pay their rent have become commonplace.”

April

Liverpool

John Hay, manager of Orchard Food Bank in Liverpool, told the Financial Times that nurses, care and healthcare workers were among users of the service as demand increased following a local Universal Credit rollout.

“The need to use the food bank, well, that doesn’t seem to discriminate,” he told the paper

It came in the same month that the government announced a mere 1% pay rise for health workers including doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives to cleaners and porters.

But unions denounced the move as “derisory” amid rising living costs.

May

Windsor

Windsor hit the headlines in May as Harry and Meghan’s wedding drew the eyes of the world.

But amidst royal wedding mania, which brought tens of thousands of well wishers to the town’s streets, one local man called for the royal couple to visit the Windsor Homeless Project.

It came after one council leader called on police to clear homeless people from the streets in the lead up to the May 19 nuptials.

It followed reports by the Windsor Observer that homelessness in the town increased “dramatically”. Meanwhile, rough sleeping figures were estimated by homelessness charity Shelter to be at 320,000 in November.

June

Lincoln

HuffPost

In the year that religious hate crime in England and Wales saw a 40% rise, police in West Yorkshire charged David Parnham, 35, for distributing “Punish a Muslim” letters, which encouraged people to carry out a number of offences against them.

The story demonstrated one out of thousands of religious hate crimes, in a year that saw more than 8,300 such incidents, with 52% of religious hate crimes directed at people perceived to be Muslim.

Oxford

In the wake of the #MeToo movement which brought to light cases of sexual harassment and abuse in corridors of power and beyond, The Telegraph revealed an unpublished report by Helena Kennedy QC, urging an investigation into sexual violence against students by staff.

The report, commissioned by the elite university, warned of “tribal loyalties” which created a barrier to reporting.

July

Edinburgh

Edinburgh saw another hate crime incident in July, when 18-year-old Sean Gorman admitted the racially-aggravated attempted murder of Syrian refugee Shabaz Ali.

Ali had settled in Edinburgh with his family after fleeing Kobane in northern Syria five years ago.

His solicitor Aamer Anwar said attacks on Syrian refugee communities were going unreported because people “are too frightened to complain”.

Gorman was sentenced to eight years in August, and the incident was followed in November by an attack on a 15-year-old Syrian boy in Huddersfield.

August

Longsight, Manchester

Stories of knife crime and fatal stabbings mostly emerged from the capital, but it is an issue which has plagued other areas of the country, not least Manchester.

The Longsight area of the city in August reported escalating violence and mass brawls, with 15 men involved in a bust up one night, amid daily brawls in the suburb, residents told the Manchester Evening News.

The incident left three men stabbed near a local takeaway, officers said.

Edmonton, north London

PA Images

Revelations that members of the Windrush generation were being wrongly deported sent shockwaves through Westminster, leading to the resignation of former Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

Among the stories was that of Anthony Bryan from Edmonton, north London, who was wrongly arrested and threatened with deportation to Jamaica, which he had not visited since he was eight years old.

The 60-year-old was detained twice after being unable to prove his immigration status, with a parliamentary committee labelling his detention “traumatising” and “debilitating”.

He subsequently sought compensation.

September

Merseyside

A homeless hostel in Birkenhead told the Liverpool Echo that 40 at any one time were waiting for a place in the hostel, as rough sleeping in England rose for the seventh year in a row.

Wirral Ark hostel said homelessness in the town was a “significant issue”.

October

Co. Down, Northern Ireland

In another hate crime incident, police in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, launched an investigation into reports that people were dressed as members of the Klu Klux Klan outside an Islamic prayer house.

Local DUP MP Jim Shannon labelled the act a “disgrace”.

November

Hastings & Rye

As the Universal Credit rollout continued to expand to more areas of the UK, so did stories about challenged households continue to emerge. This time, residents in Amber Rudd’s constituency of Hastings and Rye saw demand for food banks soar by 80%.

The services have become a “vital part” of the charity scene in the area, the Bexhill Observer reported.

Merseyside

Bloomberg/Getty Images

Woodchurch High School banned students from wearing designer puffer coats from brands such as Canada Goose and Moncler in a bid to stop poverty shaming.

Ilford

The shocking murder of pregnant woman Sana Muhammad by ex-partner Ramanodge Unmathallegadoo rocked the east London community who rallied round to support her husband and children.

She was killed by crossbow in her home and her baby, due the following month, was later delivered alive by doctors.

Latest figures from the femicide census show 139 women were killed by men last year, and more than three in four knew their killer.

December

Westminster

Less than a week before Christmas, homeless man Gyula Remes, 43, died on the steps of Westminster in the second case of its kind this year. 

His death followed widespread reports, including figures analysed by HuffPost UK, showing that homelessness figures are grossly underestimated by local councils who count rough sleepers on one night a year during the autumn.

Nearly 600 people sleeping rough died last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.