Grow­ing pop­u­la­tion will county’s re­sources and put a strain on in­fra­struc­ture

With a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion, Bucks will need an over­haul of front­line ser­vices to cope with chang­ing de­mands. JO-ANNE ROWNEY takes a look into the fu­ture

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EX­PERTS pre­dict Buck­ing­hamshire’s pop­u­la­tion could reach 546,933 by 2021 and 582,760 by 2031. This may not sound like much of an in­crease but when you fac­tor in what those 66,664 need in terms of health­care and the strain it puts on the county’s in­fra­struc­ture, the ques­tion has to be asked – what are we do­ing to pre­pare for this?

Look­ing at the sta­tis­tics, it is hard not to be pes­simistic.

Young peo­ple are leav­ing the county, search­ing for jobs else­where and leav­ing be­hind a smaller work force.

Peo­ple of work­ing age made up 62.4 per cent of Buck­ing­hamshire’s pop­u­la­tion in 2012. This is pro­jected to fall to 59.3 per cent in 2021 and 56.5 per cent in 2031.

In 10 years, Buck­ing­hamshire is ex­pected to have the largest in­crease among peo­ple in their 70s, with an ex­tra 12,620 peo­ple by 2021, ahead of those in their 50s (10,346) and 80s (5,986).

The num­ber of peo­ple in their 40s and 20s is pre­dicted to fall by 7,920 and 755 re­spec­tively.

The in­crease in peo­ple in their 50s will mean this co­hort could be­come the most pop­u­lous in Buck­ing­hamshire, even ahead of chil­dren aged un­der 10.

Com­pare this to the fig­ures from across Eng­land, where the largest group in 2021 will be peo­ple in their 30s, only the fifth most com­mon in Buck­ing­hamshire, and a prob­lem starts to ap­pear.

Che­sham Over 50s Pos­i­tive Ac­tion Group (COPAG), sees prob­lems first hand.

Chair­man Barbara Richard­son says the rise in the num­ber of elderly means some­thing has to be done re­gard­ing the is­sues Bucks has faced in terms of health for years.

“Trans­port, in terms of get­ting to hos­pi­tal and about, es­pe­cially for the less mo­bile, the dis­abled is the first is­sue,” she says. “The sec­ond is GP surg­eries, be­ing able to get an ap­point­ment and to be seen, these days you can wait weeks when you ring up and that’s with the amount of elderly we have now.

“We speak about these is­sues, and have done for years and years, but it feels like we go around in cir­cles.

“We hear how there are more elderly, but it seems no ac­tion is taken.”

The county coun­cil set up Pre­ven­tion Mat­ters, aim­ing to help more peo­ple be­come in­de­pen­dent and act be­fore health is­sues be­come crit­i­cal.

The coun­cil has set aside £4mil­lion for the scheme, with a cen­tre set up in Che­sham, but Mrs Richard­son says she feels this is still a case of ‘talk and not much ac­tion’.

“I un­der­stand they are do­ing some­thing,” she

said, “but I feel of­ten we hear a lot of talk from ex­ec­u­tives yet noth­ing to show for it.

“The scheme is try­ing to get us to help our­selves, we get told there’s no money, but what about these oth­ers is­sues, trans­port, GPs? There’s no need for more schemes, we have to deal with these first. With more and more elderly if we don’t act now we will re­gret it.”

In Bucks 84,000 peo­ple are above 65 (16 per cent) and this is ex­pected to in­crease by 36 per cent by 2025. There are 11,000 peo­ple over 85, ris­ing by 84 per cent by 2025.

Pa­tri­cia Birch­ley, cabi­net mem­ber for health and well­be­ing at Buck­ing­hamshire County Coun­cil, said: “The real key is mak­ing sure older peo­ple know about the ser­vices we have, that’s the chal­lenge we face. Com­mu­ni­ties can help by shar­ing the news, and churches and coun­cils giv­ing out leaflets.

“We are help­ing those peo­ple on the cusp of need­ing our ser­vices, the longer we can de­lay them need­ing ex­pen­sive med­i­cal care the bet­ter. There are al­ready com­mu­nity schemes, like Cholesbury where peo­ple drive those who can’t drive to events, and dial-a-ride. It’s us­ing those vol­un­teers. We al­ready have a Vol­un­teer Hub that we can har­ness.”

As the elderly pop­u­la­tion rises, Bucks’ youth are leav­ing.

De­spite the great ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, it ap­pears young peo­ple dis­ap­pear off to univer­sity never to re­turn, in­stead turn­ing to the bright lights of Lon­don.

But can some­thing be done to change this?

Ash­leigh Davies is a mu­sic col­lege stu­dent who is set to work for Avid, in Pinewood Stu­dios.

She was given the chance af­ter her tu­tor at Amer­sham and Wy­combe Col­lege – where she stud­ied mu­sic and sound pro­duc­tion – was con­tacted by Avid, who wanted stu­dents for a year’s place­ment.

Ash­leigh, 20, said cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties like this is the way to keep the skill set in Bucks.

Miss Davies said: “I be­lieve 100 per cent that this is the case. If I’m go­ing to be do­ing some­thing I want to do, and I can get a po­si­tion here, of course I’ll stay. I won’t move out of Bucks. Places like Pinewood have been good at this, pro­vid­ing these chances, and busi­nesses like Avid. It’s not only them, but more could do this.”

Ben Wood­ward, of Char­tridge, works in High Wy­combe. He said: “Univer­sity wasn’t for me and I al­ways wanted to stay lo­cal. I don’t see why peo­ple want to go to Lon­don, travel is ter­ri­ble and takes up so much of the day.

“I know peo­ple think it’s lu­cra­tive but there’s the cost.”

The county coun­cil’s deputy for ed­u­ca­tion Bill Bendyshe-Brown spoke about his wish to draw more peo­ple back to Bucks when he was ap­pointed, us­ing work ex­pe­ri­ence, trainee­ships, or ap­pren­tice­ships.

“We’re work­ing with Bucks Busi­ness First, Con­nex­ions and try­ing to get schools to give pupils the chance for more ca­reers ad­vice.

“It’s my job to make sure schools put the pupils first and meet their skill needs.

“The coun­cil’s role is not one as a dic­ta­tor but as a per­suader.”

So it’s not all gloom and doom then?

“I think this is some­thing we can change,” he added.

“It doesn’t have to be the case that Lon­don takes all the skill set, we are mak­ing changes in Bucks.”

Photo by Ais­ling Mag­ill www.buyapho­totms.co.uk NL20135796

PRE­VEN­TION MAT­TERS: Cabi­net mem­ber for health and well­be­ing Pa­tri­cia Birch­ley

NOT ALL GLOOM: County coun­cil deputy for ed­u­ca­tion Bill Bendyshe-Brown and below, sound pro­duc­tion stu­dent Ash­leigh Davies who will be work­ing at Pinewood Stu­dios

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