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