For most, Cheshire West is a great place to grow up, live, work and play. Many of our villages, towns and neighbourhoods are amongst the most attractive and dynamic communities in the country. We have a thriving economy and cultural sector, and our parks and green spaces are second to none. Compared to England, quality of life is generally good for many people across the borough, with lower levels of deprivation, higher incomes and generally, good health. However, there are pockets of significant disadvantage, where residents experience poorer living conditions, educational attainment, economic prospects, and more years of poor health.

Against this background, our population is set to increase by about 10 per cent by 2035, (to 367,000). Numbers of children will increase by 8 per cent and most of this increase will have happened by 2027. By 2035, there will be 3,000 more children aged 11-15. Ellesmere Port will see the largest increase in children. Older age groups will see the biggest increase, with the number of residents aged 65 plus expected to increase by 46 per cent, and the numbers of people aged 85 and over forecast to more than double. This presents real opportunities for the borough, but also some challenges.

We have all been affected by the impacts of COVID-19 and our more disadvantaged communities have had a disproportionate experience of the pandemic. COVID-19 is the most significant public health emergency for a century; something that we had not experienced or had to respond to before. Sadly, some of our residents have died, and others have lost loved ones. Many of our citizens now face new or increased challenges with their physical health, mental health, and financial security. The impact of Long COVID is yet to be fully understood. The effects of COVID-19 will be felt for years to come.

The NHS and social care, together with the crucial support given by volunteers, has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response. As we move out of the acute phase of the pandemic, the health and care sectors are planning for the future, recognising the ongoing need to restore services, meet new care demands and reduce the care backlogs that are a direct consequence of the pandemic. Underpinning these plans are the Health and Care Bill which gained Royal Assent on 28 April 2022 and the NHS Planning Guidance 2022/23.  Both are key to the planning and delivery of services going forward, leading to further integration of the NHS and social care, so that care becomes less fragmented, and people are looked after in the right place for their needs.

The challenges we face locally are set within a broader, global context. Previous improvements in our well-being, economic prosperity, and lifestyles have taken place largely through an increase in consumption, leading to growing environmental problems. Breaking the link between increased carbon emissions and other environmental impacts and improved human well-being is the fundamental challenge of sustainable development across the world. This necessitates urgent action both globally and locally to reduce greenhouse emissions and adapt to our changing environment.

The way forward must therefore be ambitious, placing sustainable development, recovery from COVID-19, tackling inequalities and improving population health at the very heart of our Place Plan.