Young adults are deserting the district
While the council slashes services to pay for a skyrocketing social care budget overrunning by millions of pounds, a key demographic which pumps in council tax as well as and numerous other knock-on boosts to the local economy through disposable income and employment, is evaporating.
There are 9,000 more people living in West Berkshire than 10 years ago and in that time the ageing population of the district has trebled, according to the first release of the 2011 census.
Officers and councillors are now scrutinising the data in order to tackle the problem with new policies, according to council spokesman Keith Ulyatt.
Local politicians have pointed at a lack of affordable homes as the main reason for the mass migration and have called on the council to do more for young people looking to get on the property ladder.
Labour party spokesman Richard Garvie said a lack of services for young people and no homes for them to live in was “a recipe disaster “.
In January the council announced it was cutting £9 million cut across services, jobs and funding to vulnerable groups just months after it was revealed adult social care, which looks after elderly, vulnerable and disabled residents, had overspent by more than £1 million.
The council promised a £3 million injection into the service but has frequently admitted the elderly population was causing it a huge headache as funds were taken from services elsewhere, and parking charges and increased fines were introduced to help plug gaps.
As a result of the global economic meltdown, the Government said in 2010 it was to cut £25 million from West Berkshire Council’s budget over four years.
Decisions to overhaul adult social care, close day centres and re-assess the needs of many was taken as a direct attempt to tackle the problem of residents living longer and needing more care, however the latest figures have given a stark indication of the issues the council faces.
A study by the Government's Rural Advocate, Stuart Burgess, found around 200,000 young people are leaving the countryside every year.
He warned that village life was in danger of dying out as a record number of young people deserted rural areas because of a lack of affordable homes and modern services like fast internet connections.
For full reactions, see this week's Newbury Weekly News