Candidate Information Pack
About West Berkshire and its Council
West Berkshire covers an area of approximately 70,484 hectares (272 square miles) and has a population of around 145,000 people. Due to the falling national birth rate, the number of younger people in West Berkshire is expected to decrease by around 6% over the next 20 years. The proportion of people aged over 65 however is expected to increase by two thirds and the number of people aged over 85 will double. This will take the number of people aged 65 and over to more than 33,000 by 2028.
Despite future demographic changes our population is relatively ‘young’ when compared with the rest of the UK. There are a significant proportion of people aged between 30 to 50 and a high proportion of couples living in the District – both with and without children. The District enjoys relatively low crime rates, although the fear of crime is an issue. Education in West Berkshire compares favourably with national trends and pupils make good progress with above national average results at Key Stage 4.
These issues will bring significant pressures on the provision of services in the area over the next few decades. The most obvious pressure of an increasingly older population is the additional demand this will place on community care and health services. The take up of community care services alone is, projected to rise by over 40% over the next 20 years. Falling numbers of school age children will put increasing pressure on the viability of some West Berkshire schools. Schools as a whole are looking at and reshaping the services they provide notably through the development of Children’s Centres across the District and, our Extended Schools programme.
Despite its overall affluence and prosperity, there are pockets of deprivation in West Berkshire – notably in some of the more urban areas and in some of the more isolated rural communities. There are significant issues in the District with regard to access to services and affordable housing. Although historically accommodation costs have been high in West Berkshire, the difference in property prices compared to the regional average has dropped noticeably in the last couple of years. The real cost and affordability of accommodation however, remains a major issue.
West Berkshire is well located in relation to the rest of the country with easy access by road and rail. As a consequence, commuting distances into, within and out of the area tend to be high – a factor compounded by high local accommodation costs. The rural nature of the area means that there is a high reliance on the car – indeed multiple car ownership is significantly higher in West Berkshire than many other areas.