A growing asset

Too often the debate about ageing focuses on costs and burdens. So it was refreshing to see WRVS research showing that in 2010 over 65s made a net contribution of £40 billion to the UK economy. Through taxes, spending power, provision of social care and the value of their volunteering, older people are an asset, and one that is set to grow.

The findings suggest that as the ageing population grows so does their annual contribution to public life and therefore the UK economy:

  • Taxes paid by older people amount to around £45 billion, to grow to around £82 billion by 2030, growth of 82%
  • Spending power of over 65s is currently £76 billion, to grow to £127 billion by 2030, growth of 68% (nb: see p17 for clarification of figures)
  • Provision of social care by older people is £34 billion, growing to £52 billion by 2030
  • Hidden value of older people’s volunteering reaches £10 billion per annum
  • Annual contribution of £10 billion through charity and family donations Continue reading “A growing asset”

Will we know when we’re a Big Society?

Blancmange. That’s the latest definition I’ve heard for the concept of Big Society. I think the speaker at the Inside Government conference, was trying to explain that it can mean anything and everything. From wholesale public service reform to looking out for your neighbour. Indeed Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has said of the Big Society: “If I had a plan, it would be the wrong plan. The big society will look a bit chaotic and disorderly.”

Photo: Peter__Brown (Creative Commons)

Despite its comparison to a wobbly pink pudding, there are some concrete activities going on in the name of Big Society that has the potential to impact all of our lives. There are proposals in the Giving Green Paper to increase philanthropy and get more people giving their time and money. More power is being devolved to local government and communities through the Localism Bill currently going through parliament (more information in our second reading briefing). Radical public service reform is being debated through consultations on modernising commissioning and supporting a stronger civil society. Continue reading “Will we know when we’re a Big Society?”

Better local transport

‘Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon: Making sustainable local transport happen’ is the strikingly optimistic title for the new local transport white paper. The aim of the white paper is to encourage more people to use public transport, as well as walking and cycling more often. In line with the government’s localist approach, they are putting responsibility for improving local transport squarely at the feet of local government.

Announced alongside the white paper is a new sustainable transport fund. Councils will be able to bid for a share of the £560 million set aside for sustainable initiatives over the next four years. It is difficult not to feel that while the government is giving with one hand, they have already taken away with the other. Following the spending review, bus services have been particularly hit by a range of cuts – affecting a crucial link in an integrated and sustainable local transport plan. Continue reading “Better local transport”

Is there a limit to localism?

Yesterday I was giving evidence to the Communities and Local Government Committee for their localism inquiry, alongside Mencap, Sitra and Runnymede Trust.

On the whole, our position on localism is quite positive. The Localism Bill will give more freedom to local authorities and at the same time give local communities more ways to be involved in local decision making, with new powers for neighbourhood planning, to call local referendums and the chance to bid to run local services. We can see there are opportunities and risks in this new approach. But one of the MPs accused us of wanting our cake and eating it – holding on to some national requirements at the same time as supporting localising power, in particular giving communities a chance to get more involved. Continue reading “Is there a limit to localism?”

Big chill continues

Photo: Andy Wilkes via Flickr
Photo: Andy Wilkes via Flickr

Why does snow always seems to catch us by surprise? Once the joy of a pretty snow-filled landscape has passed the realities of getting out and about and keeping warm set in – and it’s hard work. This year, as we enter the third week of severe cold weather, it’s clear that the UK just isn’t built for this.

Over the past few years snow problems seem to point to one thing, councils having enough grit. But even if enough had been supplied, with this much snow and ice it will mostly be used on main roads rather than our residential roads. That doesn’t help if you just want to get to the corner shop for a few essentials while you wait for the thaw. It’s even worse if you’re venturing out on foot. The government’s latest response is to get the public to clear the roadsContinue reading “Big chill continues”

Repeating history: Floods hit Cornwall

Cockermouth floods, 20 November 2009
Cockermouth floods - 20 Nov 2009. Photo: TheNeoplanMan via Flickr

Almost a year to the day after floods devastated Cockermouth, today we see Cornwall facing a similar fate. News reports are showing all-too-familiar scenes of people trapped in their homes and closures to roads and rail cutting off access to Cornwall, because of heavy rains and gale-force winds.

Whatever your age, flooding significantly affects people’s lives. Older people are likely to face particular difficulties during and after floods. For example, floods can prevent people getting access to medicine, care and support which they are reliant on. Continue reading “Repeating history: Floods hit Cornwall”

Future of cities: you’re in control

When we think about the future of our cities we often imagine a dystopian, dysfunctional Bladerunner scene. With this in mind it’s not surprising that many plan for the idyll of escaping to the countryside. But shouldn’t our cities be as relevant and pleasurable to older people, as they are to the young professionals drawn there? This morning at the Future of Cities debate, speakers challenged the audience to be more optimistic: cities can change for the better if they put people in charge.

Echoing the government’s proposals for decentralisation and a Big Society, Doug Saunders (author of Arrival Cities) set out his vision for regenerating cities based on autonomous, self-governing neighbourhoods. Based on his research into immigrant neighbourhoods in cities around the world, he believes that, rather than regulation and grand plans for our cities, the people that live there should be freed to create their own social and economic paths.

Put simply, it’s the people and their networks, rather than big business and big government, that should shape cities. If you want to open a shop in your front room you can, you shouldn’t have to battle the planning and trading regulations to do so. The messages seem to point in the same direction – if you want your community, city even, to change then it’s over to you.

At the moment older people are less likely than younger people to feel they can influence local and national decision-making. But there are already ways you can take control. Our new Change One Thing campaign for instance can help you make your neighbourhood better. Take a look, we’re going to be supporting local groups of people in later life to campaign to make their neighbourhoods better.

But there was still a word of caution. An audience member at the debate reminded us that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell. The question still remains: can we all have what we want?