November 3, 2015
Council counts the cost of Burnham and Highbridge's aging population

Burnham and Highbridge will have one of the oldest populations in the whole of Somerset by the year 2033 according to new figures from Somerset County Council this week.

The authority says the aging population across Somerset will add around £5m to its costs next year as it works on ways to balance its budget.

The county’s population is growing by around 3,400 people a year and getting older, it says.

Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge will have over 50% of its population aged over 65 by the year 2033, says the council. Other areas in Somerset with similar populations are Watchet, Minehead and Frome.

Estimates put the cost of this ‘demographic pressure’ at around £5m with inflation adding a further £3.5m to 2016/17 costs across the county.

At the same time the authority says it is facing "major reductions" in its direct funding from Government.

The County Council said on Monday (November 2nd) that it needs to bridge a budget gap of around £27m for 2016/17. Between 2014/15 and 2019/20 its direct funding from Government is expected to have fallen by around £63m.

Councillor Harvey Siggs, Cabinet Member for Resources, told "People living longer in Somerset is great news and should be celebrated. But for a local authority this demographic pressure makes the difficult job of balancing our budget even harder."

"We cannot ignore the fact that having more older residents, often coping with a number of complex health issues, poses a significant challenge as demand for services, particularly social care support, increase year after year. It’s a nationwide issue but one that is particularly pronounced in Somerset."

Estimates show that by 2030 there will be an extra 56,000 people aged 65 and over living in Somerset – 30 per cent of the population compared to 23 per cent today. In less than 20 years there will be some communities where people aged 65 and over make up more than 50 per cent of the population.

The Council has a number of long-term initiatives to manage demand for services and make its funding go further.

"We have to look at balancing our budget not just for next year, but for years to come," said Cllr Siggs. "Reductions in funding combined with our population profile mean some fundamental changes are needed. The most vulnerable will always be prioritised, but part of the change has to be greater emphasis on us helping people help themselves wherever possible."

"I would also ask people to support us in our push for fairer funding for Somerset from the Government," he said. "The current formula for allocating funds does not do enough to recognise the challenges and costs of providing services in a sparsely populated rural setting where the population is becoming increasingly elderly."

Readers can visit for more information and to fin dout about the 'Fairer Funding for Somerset' petition.


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