Spending Review cuts cause concern for Shropshire women

Patrick Burns
BBC Midlands Politics Editor

Image caption,
The women fear what the future holds for their long-term care in light of the cuts

A week from now, we will finally know what George Osborne has in store in his long-awaited Comprehensive Spending Review.

Cuts "averaging 25%" have been trailed by his cabinet colleagues.

But, so too is their determination to protect the front-line services needed by weakest, the poorest and, not least, the elderly.

But how can you square the circle between spending cuts and providing care for what we all know is an ageing population?

Come to Shropshire if you want to get a measure of the scale of the challenge.

According to a recent survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the county's elderly population is growing at twice the national average.

Four years ago there were 7,000 over-85s in Shropshire.

The ONS has calculated that in 21 years time there will be 20,600, an increase of almost 200%.

Shropshire Council has contracted out care homes to the private sector, but they are still 60% funded by a local authority facing budget cuts averaging 25% over the next four years.

That could have serious implications not just now, but for the elderly generations of the future.

Last March, my BBC Midlands Today colleague, newsreader Kay Alexander, met a group of retired but extremely active women at the Horsehay Village Golf Centre in Telford.

They were becoming increasingly anxious about how they would pay for their long-term care, when and if the need arises.

The then Labour government was promising a consultation on the question.

But that, like so much else, now appears to have been kicked into the long grass wide of the political fairway.

Six months on, and after a change of government, I decided to retrace Kay's footsteps. What, I wondered, was their mood now that the Age of Austerity is almost upon us?

A "bunker mentality" perhaps?

In the event, they were unfailingly good humoured and cheerful.

But behind the smiles and jolly repartee, the rising anxiety was unmistakeable. They are still concerned about their long-term care.

But now they also have more pressing concerns - pensions being one of them.

The government recently announced they would be pegged not to the Retail Price Index (RPI) but, to the more miserly Consumer Price Index (CPI).

And even those who have put their own savings aside are having a tougher time than they had bargained for.

With interest rate remaining at record low levels, the incomes they had been hoping for have slumped to next-to-nothing.

You can see for yourself how the redoubtable golfing ladies of Shropshire view the forthcoming Spending Review on Midlands Today, BBC One 1830 BST on 14 October 2010.

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