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Caithness News Bulletins November 2003
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TACKLING THE IMPACT OF FALLING AND AGEING POPULATION IN THE HIGHLANDS
Promoting the Highlands as an exciting place to live and work is a key priority if the area is to combat a significant projected fall over the next 20 years in young and economically active people.
Highland Councillors are eager to counter the impact of a projected decline in the Highland population – from 208,914 in 2001 to 202,490 in 2016.
The projections suggest that over 65 year olds will outnumber children up to 12 years of age by 75% with a 35% increase in the number of older people by 2016. Highland’s working population is projected to decline by 7.6%.
The need to tackle the impact of demographic trends is featured prominently in the Council’s Corporate Plan, which sets out the Council’s priorities for its four-year term of office and targets for spending the £1.5 billion it will spend between now and May 2007.
Convener Councillor Alison Magee said: “Highland has experienced a sustained period of population growth in recent years. However along with the rest of Scotland, recent population projections are less positive. The statistics present a real challenge for the Council and its partners. The Corporate Plan will focus our energies and resources on improving the quality of life in the Highlands, which will help attract businesses to the area, retain our active young people and persuade families to come to our area. Tackling issues such as the lack of affordable housing and insufficient investment in water and sewerage services which are holding back economic development and threatening rural communities will be key priorities over the next three years."
"The opportunities presented by these trends also need to be grasped, in particular that people are living longer and that Highland will be able to draw upon an even greater resource of life skills and accumulated wisdom amongst its older population."
A report considered by the Council stated: “Unless more people choose to come and live here than leave the area, particularly families and people who are economically active, Highland’s population will be a declining and ageing one over the next 20 years. The impact of these changes will also be felt far more outwith the travel to work area for the City of Inverness. This has significant implications for the economy as well as the planning and delivery of essential services such as schools and community care services.
“People’s decisions about where to live and work will undoubtedly be affected by policies such as public sector jobs dispersal and employment opportunities in developing areas such as decommissioning at Dounreay or the renewable energy industry. Perceptions of the quality of life offered here and satisfaction of existing residents with Highlands as a place to live will also be important. Providing more and better transport services, job opportunities, housing, leisure facilities and activities for young [people will need to be achieved whilst maintaining and enhancing the qualities that make Highland a special place – the quality of its environment, strong cultural heritage and community spirit.
“The Council is responsible for a wide range of services that impact on people’s quality of life such as education, support to children and families, community care, housing, council tax and housing benefits, planning and development, roads and transport, environmental services, leisure facilities, refuse collection and waste disposal. As well as providing direct benefits to the public, many of these services also underpin the Highland economy, providing jobs, work for local businesses and an attractive environment for business development.
“Particular groups of residents and communities find it more difficult to take advantage of the quality of life offered in Highland. Our aim is therefore also to reduce inequalities within Highland, ensuring the most vulnerable people in our communities are supported. Some of our priorities include tackling homelessness, improving benefit take up levels, enabling more people with support needs to live at home or close to their communities, improving education and health outcomes for children who are looked after by the Council and ensuring the safety of children in need of protection.”