Look­ing for­ward 100 years

Bucks County Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive CHRIS WIL­LIAMS con­sid­ers what chal­lenges face the county over the next 100 years

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FOCUS -

WHAT does the next cen­tury hold for Lo­cal Govern­ment in Buck­ing­hamshire? The UK will con­tinue to be af­fected by the global econ­omy in which there will be con­tin­ued tur­bu­lence with po­ten­tial con­flicts aris­ing over short­age of re­sources – wa­ter, food, en­ergy and cli­mate change.

This will have pro­found im­pli­ca­tions for the UK at both na­tional and lo­cal lev­els. There will be con­tin­ued em­pha­sis on eco­nomic growth to pro­vide the re­sources to main­tain our rel­a­tively af­flu­ent so­ci­ety but this will be ac­com­pa­nied by a rolling back of state in­volve­ment in peo­ple’s lives.

One of the big­gest chal­lenges in the next cen­tury will be the rapid in­crease in the num­ber of elderly, par­tic­u­larly the very elderly, who will place de­mands on our health and so­cial care sys­tems. The num­ber of peo­ple aged 85+years are ex­pected to in­crease by al­most 60 per cent over the next 20 years and one in three ba­bies born in the UK to­day are ex­pected to cel­e­brate their 100th likely to in­crease. There will also be an in­crease in young peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly in ar­eas of dis­ad­van­tage and im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, as well as in ar­eas of new hous­ing build­ing. Bal­anc­ing the needs of new hous­ing growth with pro­tec­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment in Buck­ing­hamshire will con­tinue to be a chal­lenge. Along­side this will be two ma­jor health chal­lenges – de­men­tia in older peo­ple and obe­sity in the young which will re­quire changes in life­styles – as well as in­creased men­tal health prob­lems caused by in­creased iso­la­tion.

It is likely that, given the fi­nan­cial pres­sures, lo­cal govern­ment will have to fo­cus on pro­vid­ing care ser­vices to the most vul­ner­a­ble adults and chil­dren and to pro­vide a safety net for those un­able to help them­selves. It will also have to ad­dress broader chal­lenges such as in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture and plan­ning for en­ergy se­cu­rity in­clud­ing al­ter­na­tive sources, and more ex­treme weather con­di­tions such as flood­ing. Peo­ple will be sup­ported to live in their own homes for longer through in­te­grated health and so­cial care but will have to pay for more ser­vices. Lo­cal govern­ment will be or­gan­ised into big­ger units, con­cen­trat­ing on wel­fare is­sues, in­fra­struc­ture sus­tain­abil­ity and eco­nomic growth. New forms of trans­port will be more ubiq­ui­tous such as driver­less cars.

The “lead­er­ship of place” across all of the pub­lic ser­vices will be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant as com­mu­ni­ties seek to have their voice heard in a more frag­mented gov­ern­men­tal sys­tem. There will be a much greater em­pha­sis on self-help for both in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties and a strength­en­ing of lo­cal parish/town coun­cils and res­i­dents’ as­so­ci­a­tions to rep­re­sent their com­mu­ni­ties. We are likely to move rapidly through the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion into a post-dig­i­tal era with re­mote ac­cess­ing of ser­vices and bio­dy­nam­ics mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant changes to ev­ery­day life.

Buck­ing­hamshire County Coun­cil is rapidly chang­ing in an­tic­i­pa­tion of these and other changes, and will have a struc­ture and staff with the right skills to an­tic­i­pate the fu­ture and be ahead of the wave of change rather than drowned by it!

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