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State of the Borough narrative April 2022

This summary complements the State of the Borough data dashboard and highlights some of the key trends emerging in Cheshire West and Chester. All notes on the sources of data, definitions and so on are available on the dashboard.

Context

Cheshire West and Chester

  • over 344,000 people
  • 354 square miles
  • 14,960 businesses
  • almost 200 square miles of grass and farmland
  • one walled Roman city
  • the UK's most popular zoo
  • one university
  • 37 million visitors a year
  • one of Europe's largest oil refineries
  • the first designer outlet in the UK
  • the oldest racecourse in the world
  • and the UK's largest salt mine.

Population

343,823 people are estimated to live in west Cheshire, with just over a quarter living in rural areas. Some 18 per cent of residents are 0-15 years old; 21.8 per cent are over 65; and 60.2 per cent are of working age (between 16 and 64 years old). This is an older population than the England average.

The population is forecast to increase by about 12 per cent to 381,000 by 2038. Older age groups will see the biggest increase, with the number of residents aged 65 plus expected to increase by 44 per cent. It is predicted that there will be more than 100,000 local people over 65 by 2038.

According to the 2011 Census around 5 per cent of local residents were from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, far less than the 20 per cent England average. Polish is the most frequently spoken non-English language.

COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic began to impact on the UK from the start of 2020, with a national lockdown declared at the end of March. Due to the time taken to collate and report much of the information within the State of the Borough, the impact of the pandemic is only slowly showing in the data. Examples where the impact of the pandemic can be seen include a drop in vehicle miles travelled along with fewer visitors to town centres, amenities and tourist attractions. The impact can also be seen on the number of local businesses and life expectancy.

Council Plan Priorities

Tackling the Climate Emergency

Per capita carbon emissions for the borough in 2019 increased slightly on 2018 to 11.2ktCO2, with the largest proportion of overall emissions and of the recent increase being attributable to industry. Whilst showing a 31 per cent reduction since 2009, local emissions remain more than double the national average. Across England as a whole, the greater part of emissions is accounted for by transport and household emissions.

More recent data shows the impact of the pandemic and national lockdowns, with vehicle miles travelled per 100,000 people falling from 791 miles in 2019 to 608 miles in 2020 - the first significant drop since Cheshire West and Chester was created. This will impact on borough-wide emission figures next year. Over 2.38 million trees have been planted in the borough since 1990/91.

Fairer Futures: tackling the Poverty Emergency

Whilst west Cheshire is an affluent borough the overall picture masks stark gaps between areas of prosperity and deprivation. The median local household income is £28,525 per year but 15 per cent of local households have an annual income of less than £15,000. Some 24,670 local people live in neighbourhoods ranked in the most deprived 10 per cent in England and 9,003 local children lived in low-income houses during 2019/20. Whilst female life expectancy in the borough continues to rise, for men it has started to fall. The inequality in both male and female life expectancy at birth has shrunk. Male life expectancy across the borough varies by up to 9.8 years for men and 7.8 years for women.

More recent information shows that visits to foodbanks increased from 16,494 in 2019 to 22,427 in 2020, the percentage of local pupils eligible for free school meals increased from 13.3 per cent in 2019 to 17.7 per cent in 2021 and unemployment increased from 2.1 per cent in 2019 to 3.6 per cent in 2020.

Average attainment eight scores at GCSE show that whilst non-disadvantaged pupils tend to do slightly better than similar pupils nationally (55.6 compared to 54.7) local disadvantaged pupils tend to do worse than disadvantaged pupils nationally (37.8 compared to 40.3, although that gap is narrowing).

Grow our local economy and deliver good jobs with fair wages for our residents

The largest business sectors in west Cheshire in terms of the number of businesses are professional, scientific and technical (2,800 businesses), construction (1,425) and business admin and support (1,285) all of which numbers have fallen slightly on the previous period. The sectors with the highest number of employees are retail (which has increased to 22,000 employees), health (which has remained at 18,000) and professional scientific and technical (which has fallen to 16,000). 2020 figures show business births increasing slightly (to 1,650) whilst business deaths fell slightly (to 1,590). The percentage of local businesses that survive two years has fallen from 77.3 per cent to 69.8 per cent in March 2021, likely reflecting the impact of COVID. Survival rates remain similar to the England and North West averages. However, the growth in Gross Value Added (GVA) in the borough over the last ten years (0.7 per cent) is lower than both the North West (1.6 per cent) and UK averages (1.9 per cent).

The local employment rate increased in 2021 to 79.9 per cent whilst the England average fell to 74.9 per cent. Whilst local unemployment benefit claimant rates are stable, model-based unemployment locally fell to 2.5 per cent whilst the England average increased to 5 per cent. Just over 32 per cent of local people are working part-time. Whilst 52,168 people commute out of the borough for work (with Cheshire East the most popular destination), 51,003 commute into the borough (with Flintshire the most popular source).

In 2020, as national COVID-19 restrictions came into force, the visitors to the borough fell from 37.4million to 20.1million. The economic impact fell from £2.2billion to £1.19billion. Chester Zoo was by far the most popular visitor attraction but saw a 43 per cent drop in visitors.

Support children and young people to get the best start in life and achieve their full potential

Whilst data shows that the borough infant mortality rate and the per centage of low birthweight term babies are better than the national average, the per centage of babies whose first feed is breastmilk in the borough is significantly worse at 63.1 per cent compared to an England average of 67.4 per cent. Most recent figures show that 9.1 per cent of local reception age (4-5 years) and 19.4 per cent of local year six (10-11 years) children were obese. Whilst remaining better than the England average, both measures are at their highest levels in a number of years.

The percentage of local school children with social, emotional and mental health needs fell to 2.43 in 2021 whilst the England average had increased to 2.79 per cent. Hospital admissions for alcohol and for substance misuse and the rate of teenage conceptions were all similar to the national average.

Overall absence from school is lower than the England average at primary age (3.9 per cent of sessions compared to 4 per cent nationally), but higher at secondary (5.7 per cent in comparison to 5.5 per cent). 89.9 per cent of primary schools in the borough, and 74.9 per cent of secondary schools, are rated as good or outstanding by OFSTED. The number of people starting in adult education at 19 has fallen from 23,842 in 2016 to 7,950 in 2020 and 7,044 in 2021.

To enable more adults to live longer, healthier and happier lives

Life expectancy in the borough is better than the national average; 83.4 years for women and 79.7 years for men. Whilst life expectancy has fallen nationally over the last year, female life expectancy has continued to improve in the borough, whilst it has fallen for men. Around 21,400 local people over 65 live alone.

Adults in west Cheshire are more likely to be obese than in England (69.1 per cent compared to 62.8 per cent) and whilst figures are reducing, pregnant women are more likely to be smoking at the time of giving birth (10.8 per cent locally compared to 9.6 per cent nationally). Local people are in line with England for other healthy behaviours: smoking, hospital admissions related to alcohol and being physically active.

Engagement with libraries, museums and leisure facilities fell in 2020 with the impact of the pandemic, but engagement with archives went from 1.7million visits in 2019-20 to 2.38million in 2020/21 as their online offer was extended.

Make our neighbourhoods even better places to call home

Some 80 per cent of the borough's residents are satisfied with their local area as a place to live and 73 per cent feel like they belong to the local area. Around 54 per cent of people feel that residents pull together to improve the area, yet 35 per cent think their local area has got worse over the last 12 months. Almost three-quarters of local people are involved with a group, club or organisation, with the most common being a sports club of some kind.

The numbers of people killed or seriously injured on west Cheshire's roads has continued to fall and is lower than the national average. The last twelve months have also seen a slight fall in the number of reported crimes locally, whilst the national picture has remained stable. When surveyed though, 63 per cent of local people said they felt very or fairly safe after dark.

Of the 161,900 homes and dwellings in west Cheshire , 30.3 per cent are rented, 29.8 per cent are owned with a mortgage or loan and 39.9 per cent are owned outright. Around 46,500 local people live alone. Median house prices are increasing and local house prices are now more than seven times annual earnings.

State of the Borough dashboard

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