Fri, 02 Nov 2018
“WE have a demographic timebomb on its hands that we’re going to have to deal with.”
That was the shared view of two West Berkshire Council representatives – Gabrielle Mancini and Bryan Lyttle – who say the district must address the challenges posed by its ageing population in order to sustain its economic growth and avoid becoming a “dormitory community”.
The pair presented a draft version of the Newbury Vision 2036 – a document which sets out how the local authority wants Newbury to look and feel for visitors who work and live in the town in the years to come.
The original Newbury Vision was published in 2003.
The updated Vision – for which a final draft will be fed through over the next two months – acknowledges West Berkshire is a “thriving district” – but not exempt of social problems.
Significant inequalities in wealth, life expectancy and health – as well as education and employment prospects – still prevail, while the average house price in the district has soared to £338,316.
Most significantly, the document projects a huge demographic shift, with only two working age people per retired person instead of four, as is the current case.
Ms Mancini, the council’s new economic development officer, said: “West Berkshire, in general, is a great place to live – but that’s just it – in general.
“The average house price is unaffordable to so many people.
“We have a demographic time bomb on our hands which we are going to have to deal with or else the liability that we have for adult social care costs, as well as the lack of available workforce, is going to massively threaten our sustainability of the district.”
Key indicators that have been identified in the next Vision include achieving a housing mix which provides a “range of housing types and tenures” for the future population needs of West Berkshire.
It is anticipated the Vision will be adopted by the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board by 2019, before being viewed by full council in March 2019.
In his closing remarks, the council’s policy and transport manager Bryan Lyttle said: “At the moment, we have the equality between the number of jobs that are available, to the number of people who are of economic working age in West Berkshire.
“The demographic timebomb is going to change that.
“If we are to keep one job per person, how are we going to do that?
“Are we going to reduce the economic workforce or going to ensure there are enough houses in the district for young people to move into?
“Instead of catastrophic events, we’re going to create a utopian West Berkshire.”