At what age do we become ‘old’?

Here’s the column I wrote for the EADT and the Ipswich Star newspapers last week:

 I’d like to begin this week’s column with a question.

At what age do we become ‘old’?

As language changes and adapts, we as a society are good at filtering out certain anachronisms. The use of the word “elderly”, for example, is less common now. But we frequently use such catch-all terms as “older people” which, after all, is so general as to be almost meaningless.

We are all ageing and I would claim with some confidence that we all want to age well. So, if we are not “older people” now, we will all fall within this category one day.

We know that more of us in Suffolk will be aged 65 years or over in the coming years as a proportion of the population. We’re also living longer, with the gap between male and female life expectancy closing.

In addition, Suffolk is a fantastic county, with incredible assets, so it is no surprise that many people enjoy living here, retiring here and ageing here.

Unlike many other parts of the UK, we are a county without a city. Many of our greatest strengths centre around rural, country living with the benefits this provides as we support one another and look out for our neighbours. We enjoy significant formal and informal networks of support that see old and young living and working together, bringing out the best attributes of supportive communities.

I would argue our rapidly ageing population can be viewed in one of two ways: as an insurmountable, growing threat to our health and social care services, or as a great opportunity to adapt, innovate and prosper as a county.

I see this as an opportunity to be a forward-thinking county that values and welcomes its growing older population.

No single authority, organisation or sector can create this environment alone. We must work together and engage our communities if we want to see meaningful, sustainable change.

The last 10 years have seen major change. We have seen a move from centralised control to more personalised support and care delivered in the community. The coming years will bring about increasing change to our health and care services.

Inevitably, we will be working later into life which means the nature and shape of the county’s workforce will change.

Our predominantly rural setting also provides a challenge to the way  we reach potentially isolated communities. But we are already seeing examples of this in abundance, from well established schemes such as the Debenham Project to emerging opportunities created by social prescribing.

Thanks to the foresight of our health and care teams, we are already seeing the benefits of  learning what works well elsewhere. In the west of the county, we are testing out the Buurtzorg model of integrated health and personal care delivered by small teams of self-managed nurses working in the community, based on an approach developed in the Netherlands.

One issue that is perennially in the headlines is housing; more specifically, the need for more housing that caters for the changing needs of the UK population. If we are to curb the trend of 30-40 year olds living at home because they cannot afford to join the property ladder at one end of the spectrum, and 80 year olds living on their own in a five-bedroom home at the other, we all have to act now.

But the need is wider than this: as we build and adapt our homes, we must ask ourselves if they are they hardwired for the needs of an entire population. Is the surrounding transport network responsive to the needs of an ageing society? Above all, are we providing affordable, shared space that encourages an active lifestyle at every stage of an individual’s life?

Ultimately, we need to provide support for those with more complex needs, while enabling others to remain active and independent, without the risks of becoming isolated.

When it comes to being connected, the myth of an older generation out of touch with modern technology is not borne out by the facts. Nationally, more than three quarters of 65-74 year olds and over 40% of those aged 74 and over used the internet in the last three months.

From open access at our libraries and other information points, to the investment in countywide broadband, our older population is more switched on to new media than ever. This is clearly not the case for all, but the many advantages this brings – from online shopping to connecting with family – are often a valuable antidote to social isolation.

Which brings me back to my question: what we mean by “old”? There’s the old cliché that you are only as old as you feel, and that age is just a state of mind; with people living and working longer, and the cultural changes that this entails, we may be moving  closer to a society in which we need to reconsider and redefine every aspect of what we mean by ageing.

Most of us enjoy better life chances, and a higher life expectancy, than previous generations. Though not without exceptions, this affords us the opportunity to think about ageing differently.

 

 

 

Remembrance weekend

Time flies by and it hardly seems a year since the last Remembrance weekend. Across the country millions turned out to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and in my Division of Row Heath it was no different.  There are 6 Parish War memorials and one War Graves and wreaths were laid at each.

On Saturday morning, I joined small crowds of residents and old military personnel and laid wreaths at West Row, Tuddenham St. Mary, Eriswell and Kenny Hill.   On Sunday morning, I joined others at Beck Row’s Parish Memorial and then onto the War Graves Memorial at the side of St. Johns Church before a Remembrance Day Church Service.  In the afternoon, in Lakenheath, we all assembled including children from the primary school, Beavers, Cubs, Brownies, Girl Guides and Scouts before marching behind Lakenheath’s splendid Silver Band up the high street to the War Memorial to lay wreaths before marching to the church for the Remembrance Day service. It’s always a rousing occasion with crowds lining the route and then walk up to witness the laying of the wreaths including many children taking part in the parade and ceremony. many hundreds lining the high street to see the march pass, gather at the laying of the of the wreaths and then into Church for the service with the Silver Band providing the musical compliment to the more military Hymns sung on such occasions.  It’s also an occasion when we remember those whom we have all lost and in church I sat next to Alex who knew my parents well and who lost his dear wife this past year, so a time to remember our own families as well.

These small acts are important and that’s why when I because Leader of Suffolk County Council I actively encourage all Councillors to be involved in these ceremonies and I am really please that more than ever Councillors represent the county and wreaths are laid across Suffolk on behalf of the county council.  It also about building community resilience as the more people who turn out to pay their respects the more they are involved in community life and this is the very synapsis of more resilient communities.  People coming together, talking to their neighbours and sharing a common purpose alongside other things like going to a camera or gardening club or helping a neighbour once in a while.  It’s really easy in these fast-moving times to simply sleep somewhere and not get involved but it does not have to be a massive commitment simple small acts, that can, if everyone did them, make a big difference and a powerful force for building stronger communities.  In part, this is also role of Councils and Councillors to try to nurture this sense of involvement and community.

On Saturday evening myself, Lisa and good friends went to see the fireworks at Ely. They are held in the Cathedral grounds and beforehand we have a quick drink in the Fountain, a pub opposite my old school, Kings Ely, and my 6th form study.  It’s the pub we never drank in, as it was where the teachers congregated in the evening and indeed at lunchtimes!  After that trip down memory lane it was through ‘The Porta’ building to the Bishop’s meadow. I can’t remember when they first held the fireworks but I was at school – so a few years ago now and I have been going every year since hence something of a tradition with me and for these past 20 years, Lisa as well. The event has never fallen on Armistice Day and it was very poignant that as a mark of respect, a minute’s silence was observed at the start by setting off a single firework and another to mark the end of the silence and the beginning of the display. Very well-done Ely fireworks organisers.

And just to ‘cap’ the weekend off, on Saturday afternoon we made our way to the railway station to see the Flying Scotsman pass by and whilst it was travelling far too fast for an old lady, it was wonderful to see her in ‘full flight’.  We all of course took pictures but what a picture can’t give you is the sound and smell of this great bygone age powerhouse.

All in all, my favourite civic weekend of the year, where young and old come together to remember what it is to be British and pay our respects to those who have laid down their lives for us to live in such a wonderful peaceful country.

My bi-weekly Newspaper column

 

Here is last weeks column I wrote for the EADT & Ipswich Star, enjoy, or least I hope you’ll find it worth a read:

Savings are, unfortunately, part of life working in the public sector.

Every authority is having to do it, including us. There’s no shying away from it. But as we continue to work on forming the budget for next year, there’s a chance to reflect on where we are and how we need to continue to work to deliver the best services for the best value.

Since 2011, we’ve saved £236.2million – no small feat. However, we do still need to save more. By April 2021 we plan to have saved an additional £56million.

These savings will help us prepare for the future. While we’re in a good place, Suffolk will change massively in the next 20 years, therefore we all need to do what we can to ensure the public purse is in the best position to face the challenges predicted.

Life expectancy in Suffolk is higher than the national average already and one in five people are over the age of 65 and by 2037 that is estimated to increase by 50% to one in three.

This is a success story in itself that people are and will be living longer, but Suffolk, its communities and its economy will change – along with the demand on the public sector.

The cost of caring for over 85s will be nearly £300million and the number of people living with dementia in Suffolk is likely to almost double in the next 20 years – 24,300 people. Most of these diagnoses will be in those older than 85 years old.

Based on current admission rates and lengths of stay, an additional 792 acute beds will be needed – that’s nearly enough to fill another two West Suffolk Hospitals.

And while we have a higher percentage of people employed when compared against the rest of the county, but wages are low. This results in lower labour productivity and when you also factor in rental prices, which are forecast to rise twice as fast as incomes, by 2030 around 40% of under-40s will be living with their parents, compared to 14% now.

There are also other statistics that mean we need to prepare for the future. It is estimated that by 2037 the working age population will be similar in size to the dependent population. At the moment, there are around six people of working age to just over four dependent people – in 20 years it is estimated to be closer to five people of working age to five dependents – three older people and two children.

These figures show how different the county will be. We need to be prepared, but also look at what can be done at this point of time.

We must also to ensure the benefits of economic growth in the county – of which there can and will be plenty – are shared by all. We, along with our partners, must also look at addressing housing provision because the current approach will not compete with future demands.

Everything is being looked at. Funding, grants, provision. We’re having to be innovative in how we work, and instead of going it alone, we’re having to work collaboratively with our partners to get the best possible outcomes for the people of Suffolk.

For those starting out in life, we need to continue our focus on the value of a good education. For those carrying out their business, or working in Suffolk – we need to make the county as attractive as possible in order to create jobs and investment. For those retiring, we need to look at how we currently provide health and care. Our current models will not be able to cope with the increases predicted.

One way that we’re looking at changing how we provide health and care is using the Buurtzorg model of care, delivering dedicated personal and healthcare to patients in a neighbourhood. We’re working with our partners in health to deliver this in the west of the county. We’re leading this nationally I’m proud of the work we’re doing so far to change things for the better.

These are challenges that won’t be easy to tackle. But we are ready to face them, head on, with our partners, and get the best for those living, learning, working and retiring in Suffolk.

 

Re-elected

SCCCG Campaign 2017 - Manifesto Front PageOn Friday morning I was honoured to be re-elected for my Division of Row Heath and my home village of Lakenheath on Suffolk County Council. Representing my community is a privilege and I will continue to work hard to be a strong voice for Row Heath at the County Council. The results were:

Myself – Conservative – 1362
David Gathercole – Independent- 386
John Smith – Independent – 279
Jack Fawbert – Labour – 313
Ralph Brownie – Lib Den -164

My majority was over 50% of the vote at 979, the turn-out was 32.4% which whilst not high is about the average for Row Heath.

Thank you to all those who voted for me and I am looking forward to representing everyone in Row Heath for the next 4 year.

Across the county, Suffolk Conservative held and won 52 out of the 75 seats, there are many reasons we had such a massive victory and tomorrow I shall blog my thoughts and reflections on the election.  We now have a strong mandate to delivery our Conservative manifesto and help transform Suffolk with quality frontline services for our most vulnerable residents, protecting our wonderful place to live, delivering housing growth and growing our economy.  As our campaign slogan says Caring and Campaigning for Suffolk.

Suffolk Decides

7%&93%

Tomorrow is Poll Day in our Suffolk County Council elections and in some ways, its been a strange election and in other ways a traditional one at the same time.  Of course, it’s been slightly overshadowed by the General election but that has not stopped Suffolk Conservatives getting out across Suffolk and fighting in every Division to win, each of our candidates have been involved in our campaign from last September irrespective of their seat and our election material and campaign has been a collective effort across Suffolk.  Our opponents are clearly far more tactical or cynical, in many areas across Suffolk they have simply disappeared, in some failing to put out a single leaflet or knock on one door.

In any Division, it’s a challenge to call at every single house and catch every single resident in for a conversation, but that’s the task we set our candidates across Suffolk in every single Division, to get out there and engage.  Voters appreciate the chance to meet and talk with those who would represent them.

The Lib Dems have not bothered to field a candidate in every seat and have left many of them to fend for themselves with some of the worse literature I have ever seen a party put out, yet at the same time they have flooded their existing seats with A3 glossy literature in a desperate attempt to hold them.

To watch the Labour campaign is quite pathetic, you would think Suffolk consisted of Ipswich, Lowestoft and Sudbury.  Its Leader seems more focused on fighting a Parliamentary seat than the County elections and they have a set of promises which clearly means they have learnt nothing, simply put they are as Financially Dangerous locally as they are nationally.  Promising you everything under the sun and not a clue how they are going to pay for it.  They are as financially incompetent as they were when they were kicked out of office both nationally and here in Suffolk – the Chart above says it all.

Our manifesto is about Strong and Stable Leadership of Suffolk, with Suffolk Conservatives Caring and Campaigning for all of Suffolk’s communities.  Its filled to the brim with new ideas but at the same time its fully costed.  Council are not businesses but they can be run in a business-like manner.  It’s about balancing the need to properly fund the services we provide, and for those services to find new ways of doing things that cost less, with respect for your hard-earned money.

Please Vote Conservative tomorrow.

Locality Budgets

Each year I have the great pleasure to be able to help support various projects and community groups across Row Heath with my Suffolk County Council Locality Budget and in Lakenheath village with my Forest Heath District Council budget.

With both I try to work with community groups to build the capacity of our communities to get things done for themselves and support the network of groups who great volunteers’ commitment significant time to make them a success.

Wherever I go and whenever I speak about Local Government I speak of the great community sprint that existing in my Division and my home village, and how this impacts the lives of residents as much formal services provided by Councils.

For me this is more than just words, as I have in the past sat on the Think Local Act Personal National Board and represented Local Government on its Building Community Capacity Subgroup, which worked to share what community capacity is all about and how to enhance it.  I instigated the Suffolk County Council programme called Supporting Lives and Connecting Communities which at its heart is about understanding how communities are able to do things for themselves and how SCC can support them better. Councillor locality budgets should be a integral part of that stratergy and I work for mine to be.

Here is a list of those groups I have supported in the past year.  In the majority of cases my locality funding has been matched funding with the groups own fund raising efforts.

Current commitments:

  • Lakenheath Parish Council – matched funding for Speed Indicator device – £1,890.00
  • Cavenham Parish Committee – Post for play equipment – £320.00

In the past year I have been able to provide funding to the following groups:

  • Friends of Lakenheath Library – Let’s Read Campaign – purchase of IT equipment – £247.50
  • Lakenheath Community Speedwatch – Purchase of speedwatch equipment – £400.00
  • Lakenheath Silver Band – Community Event – £350.00
  • Brendan Fulham Centre – Assistance with disabled adaptations – £1,300.00
  • Lakenheath Sunshine Corner – Toy Bank – £300.00
  • West Row School PFA – Folding tables, cool boxes, etc for garden party event -£250.00
  • Bury St. Edmunds Scout District – Scoutfest 2016 – £2,000.00
  • West Row Primary School PFA – Static bus to be used as a library and learning resource by the school and community (Committed 2015-2016) – £5,000.00
  • West Row The Shed Wellbeing project – £350.00.00
  • Cancer Campaign in Suffolk – Sun Awareness Programme for Schools – £1,280.00
  • West Row Village Hall & Playing Fields Association – Renovation of the Tennis courts – £3,000.00
  • Lakenheath Angling Club – Otter-proof fencing around club waters – £1,000.00
  • Lakenheath Cricket Club – Contribution to new Roller – £1,500.00
  • Rural Coffee Caravan – Contribution to new Vehicle – £1,000.00
  • Beck Row Methodist Church contribution towards heating in the Church Hall – £500.00
  • West Row Village Hall and Playing Field Association a contribution towards the new kitchen equipment – £2,000.00
  • Beck Row Parish Council with a contribution towards outdoor exercise equipment – £2,000.00
  • Friends of Beck Row Primary School with a contribution towards outdoor playground equipment – £4,500.00
  • Newmarket Town Band contribution towards charity concert – £200.00

Suffolk County Council Conservatives – End of Term Report

29.03.2013 SCC campaign 2013 0%, 0%, 0%, 0% Council tax pledge

Our promise 4 years ago – Kept

Suffolk Conservatives are proud to have led Suffolk County Council for the last four-year term, ensuring that vital services are retained and keeping tax as low as possible.

Suffolk Conservatives have lived up to their pledge of freezing base Council tax since the last election, meaning that the residents of Suffolk are not paying a penny more than they did in 2010.  That’s a 7- year freeze!  We are committed to running a low-tax county council and maintaining services by being more effective and efficient with our resources rather than making the residents pay more.

In 2016 Suffolk Conservatives renewed more than 300 miles of roads across the county after an investment of an additional £10 million.  We implemented an online reporting system for potholes which has seen over 70% of customers move online where they can receive updates on works, greatly decreasing the response time.

Caring for Suffolk’s elderly and vulnerable residents has remained one of our highest priorities.  With an aging population, we have supported residents to live active and fulfilling lives.  To honour Suffolk Conservative’s commitment to adult social care, this administration has taken all opportunities presented to it to invest in front line services, for two consecutive years (2016/17 & 2017/18) we introduced the adult social care precept at 2% and 3% respectively.  This money is ring-fenced and goes directly to front line services.  In the 2017/18 budget the Conservative administration will be investing £12.3m in full to front line services and to those hardworking people who care for our elderly population.  We will target this money into the care sector to provide a sustainability and safe, high quality care.

Since the last election in May 2013 Suffolk Schools have gone from 60% ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ rating by OFSTED to an amazing 90%.  This means that 9/10 children in Suffolk now have access to the highest standards of education thanks to the tireless work of Suffolk’s Conservatives.  We are now ranked in the top half of all authorities in the country for GSCE results.

Suffolk Conservatives are dedicated to keeping the residents of Suffolk healthy. We have established sporting events across the county, which have inspired thousands of people, including “Park Runs”, almost 150 walks, the Women’s Tour of Britain and the inaugural Great East Run.  We continue to work closely with the NHS Mental Health Trust and with other services and charities to help support the most fragile.

Over the past four years we have managed to work with partners to secure millions of pounds of improvement to the rail network, with brand new rolling stock and reduced journey times under the new rail franchise with Greater Anglia.  Our continued investment in community transport through our Connecting Communities scheme has extended services in rural areas, allowing everyone to access public transport no matter how remote their location.

Suffolk Conservatives have worked closely with our MPs to secure money for two large bridge projects in Ipswich and Lowestoft.  These nationally significant pieces of infrastructure will help to ease congestion and attract economic investment.  The Upper Orwell crossing will be a bridge of international architectural significance after the announcement of Norman Foster + Partners designing it.  This will truly be a legacy bridge for all the residents of Suffolk to be proud of.

Suffolk is a beautiful county of rich green countryside and breath-taking coastlines and the Conservatives are proud to protect our county’s environment. We have invested in our historic market towns and the re-generation of Ipswich waterfront. The county’s energy from waste plant has enabled us to save money on landfill tax, generate electricity and earn income.  The plant was built to budget and on time. It takes all Suffolk’s domestic waste for incineration and powers 30,000 homes. As a result, waste going into landfill in Suffolk has been cut from 44% to just 1%!

Over the past four years of Conservative Administration at Suffolk County Council services have been not only maintained but in many cases improved.  We have greatly improved Suffolk’s schools and protected those most vulnerable in our society. We have invested heavily in our road and transport network, ensuring that they are fit for purpose for growth in the future.  We have protected all of our libraries, secured nationally significant infrastructure projects and taken huge steps in preventing damage to our environment.  We have achieved all of this without raising our base Council tax by a single percent.  Suffolk Conservatives remain dedicated to serving the people of Suffolk and providing the services, prioritising our spending on protecting the frail, elderly and young who are at risk.

Conservative leadership delivers.  We are proud of our strong stewardship of Suffolk. If we form the administration in May 2017 we will continue to work in the best interests of all who live and work in our county.

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