There are a number of deep-rooted inequalities across the borough. Financial deprivation, higher levels of crime and instances of anti-social behaviour blight a persistent minority of our residents and their communities. Many of them struggle with limiting health conditions, long-term disabilities and high levels of loneliness – the latter particularly evident amongst our older population. To compound these individual and personal inequalities, evidence suggests that there are widening disparities between areas within the borough, too, as those in need of more support are less well-served by the geographical location of services.
Challenges that have long faced other parts of London now face us, too. The London-wide housing shortage is biting across the borough, and we need more homes than we were previously planning to build. At the same time, rising rents and house prices are making it difficult for some people to remain in the borough. Many other residents find themselves struggling to make ends meet, the success story of London’s economy passing them by. Changing demographics, persistent levels of smoking, lack of exercise and associated health problems all present challenges to our local health and care services – as well as significant financial implications for the public purse. Our growing ageing population means that we need to urgently address how we support people to live healthy, active and independent lives for longer at home.
The size of Sutton’s ageing population is thrust into sharper focus by another demographic trend – the potential for a ‘missing generation’ of people in their twenties and thirties. The graphs on the left of the diagram below show Sutton’s population in 2015 and projected population in 2039; the graphs on the right show the corresponding figures for Greater London.
Whilst the capital attracts an influx of 20-40 year olds – and will continue to do so – Sutton appears to buck this trend. This trend could significantly affect the social and economic sustainability of the borough.
The perceptions of current students studying in the borough make for sobering reading and present a challenge for our borough’s future which we must overcome:
Looking to our place in the wider world, increasing environmental challenges, (including growing, tangible evidence of climate change, poor air quality from high vehicle use, and pressure on green spaces) mean that we must do more than ever to make Sutton a sustainable borough, and play our part in making London a more sustainable city.
All of these issues play out against the backdrop of shrinking public services that affect every public body operating within the borough. All of us – hospitals and health practitioners, the council and housing providers, employment support services and local colleges, police and emergency services – have seen a significant overall reduction in the public money at our disposal since the beginning of central government’s policy of austerity in 2010.
By 2019/20 the council alone will have made savings of £93m from its annual budget since 2010/11. Analysis of projected spending across local partners suggests that the decline in spending between 2016-17 and 2019-20 will be at least nine per cent per resident, whilst the rising population will compound the fiscal squeeze.