Localised Widening Participation Strategies – a data-based approach

The results of a year-long study by the Southern Policy Centre, supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and GuildHE.

The study has used ‘open data’, and data held by local councils, to explore why able young people may miss out on university. The data has been used to suggest possible local widening participation strategies.

Central South England needs to plan for an aging population

The scale of the aging challenge facing central southern England is highlighted by new research from the Southern Policy Centre. The research also reveals the scale of the care costs facing the region and its people.

By 2039 the number of over 65s will increase by 56.3%: up from 1.25 million to 1.95m.  Over 65’s will make up 1 in 4 of the population, up from 1 in 5 today. By comparison the total population will increase by 14.7%.

The changes will be most noticeable in Berkshire, where both Bracknell Forest and Slough will see a predicted increase of over 80% in the number of older people. Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and West Sussex will all see increases of over 55% in their older population. Even cities such as Southampton and Portsmouth will see around a 50% growth in the number of older people. In every part of the central South over 65s will be a bigger proportion of our communities by 2039.

Our planning will have to take these changes into account. The economy will change with more older workers, we will need to make sure we are building the right types of homes for this shifting demography. And we will need to look carefully at how we can meet the inevitable demands an aging population will place on health and social care.

There are currently around 119,000 people aged over 65 receiving some form of home or residential care across the central South. We estimate that by 2039 the number of people receiving home care will be over 102,000 and the numbers receiving residential care will be around 83,000. Towards the end of their lives up to 30% may require care.

Whilst many people will be able to fund their own care if the current mix of privately and publicly funded care* is maintained nearly 90,000 people, or around a half of those requiring care, will be publicly funded. That represents a significant increase on the 57,000 people received publicly funded care in 2015/16. Councils in the central South currently spend over £825m on services for those over 65, including contributions from the NHS and the clients themselves. As the population grows and demand increases, so costs will become a bigger part of Council and NHS budgets.

Advances in care can only add to cost pressures, and central government, local government and the health sector will need to work together to manage those pressures. With our political leaders struggling with policies to address care costs, individuals will also need to think about the costs of care they might have to meet personally as they age.

The cost of social care, and the extent to which homeowners should be required to fund their own care, has become an important issue in the general election campaign. The SPC estimates that over 75% of those over 65 own their homes. By 2039 older people across the central South will own nearly 942,000 properties whose value, depending on future policy, could be taken into account to cover care costs.

John Denham, former Southampton Itchen MP, Government minister, and now Chair of the Southern Policy Centre, said:

“The social care system is widely acknowledged to be under real stress. Many approaches to funding social care rely on the value of the homes of older people. With so many older residents, and such high levels of home ownership, we need an urgent debate in southern England on the best and fairest approach to funding home and residential care.”


Notes to Editors

The Southern Policy Centre was established in 2014 to provide an independent voice for central southern England, covering the area from Dorset to West Sussex and from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight north to Oxfordshire. We have undertaken a variety of projects on topics from devolution to Higher Education, with local businesses, councils and universities, see www.southernpolicycentre.co.uk.

These data are based on ONS population projections.

* previous SPC research has shown that the numbers receiving publicly funded care has fallen in recent years – see ‘Health and Social Care in the South: http://southernpolicycentre.co.uk/2015/04/beyond-caring-the-south-and-the-collapse-of-adult-social-care/  Changes to Government policy may also affect that ratio.

Press contact Simon Eden, 0780 254 3618 or edens@southernpolicycentre.co.uk.

What do Hampshire businesses want from local government?

Hampshire businesses have had their say in what they want to see from local government and from any devolution deal done with central government:

Hampshire businesses want to see a single, simple to engage with local authority, with a more ‘can-do’ approach to business.

There is overwhelming support for the devolution of more powers and resources from central government and for a more strategic and integrated approach to economic development, infrastructure, housing, transport and planning. These are two of the headline conclusions of a survey of business attitudes towards local government and devolution undertaken by the Southern Policy Centre for Hampshire County Council. There was no clear consensus on the most appropriate geography for single local government structures. Businesses tended to identify distinct economies and characters of the north and south of Hampshire (including the cities and the Isle of Wight), although there was some support for a ‘single county’ approach. Business also wanted to see better links between the cities and their hinterlands. While there was little support for the current two-tier structure, businesses recognised that large authorities would still need localised democratic decision-makng structures. The interest of small businesses needed to be protected in any change to large authorities. Businesses generally enjoyed a positive relationship with local authorities although concern was expressed that some councils were losing key business facing officer expertise as a result of spending cuts.  The biggest frustration was the inconsistent policy approaches of different local authorities, while there was a perception that within local authorities economic development and planning were often badly coordinated. The majority of businesses support elected mayors, though they stressed the need for strategic leaders rather than personality-based candidates. The report was based on nearly 50 one-to-one interviews with business leaders and six focus groups covering different sectors of the economy and different parts of Hampshire. The report sets out a number of guiding principles that should be taken into account in any future decision-making:


  • Business would welcome single-tier authorities, but there was no clear consensus over their size and geography. Any proposals should set out how they relate to recognized economic areas. The key choice would appear to be between a binary structure, based on the southern urban area and the north and more rural parts of the county, and a single ‘county, cities and Isle of Wight’ structure
  • The need for a strategic approach on development and infrastructure favours larger authorities. Any proposals for larger authorities should set out how local democratic decision-making can be retained on appropriate issues
  • Businesses were concerned about the loss of capacity and expertise amongst officer teams in some smaller local authorities. Any proposals for reform should show how sufficient capacity and expertise would be retained and strengthened, and care should be taken not to seek cost savings at the expense of the quality of business engagement with local government
  • Any proposals for larger authorities should show how the interests of small businesses in local decision-making and as suppliers would be protected
  • The retention of business rates can potentially strengthen the relationship between local government and business, but business rates themselves were widely seen as unfair. Local government must plan now to ensure it is far more accountable to its business rate payers once this change is implemented
  • Devolution presents a genuine opportunity to grasp the nettle and become significantly better at planning and delivering transformational infrastructure projects. Any proposals for change must show how a new local authority structure will be able to exercise powers that are now (or in the future may become) available in an efficient, effective and democratic way
  • Any proposals for change must be sensitive to the wider uncertainties affecting business, including potential changes to business rates and the UK’s exit from the EU. Any reorganisation of local government and/or devolution deal needs to be executed as quickly, cleanly and clearly as possible, across an economic geography that ‘makes sense’
  • A majority of businesses would support an elected mayor, and there do not seem to be substantial business objections to the creation of such a post


Widening participation in Higher Education

New study sheds light on why Southern students miss out on university

Over 50 young people every year are missing out on university from just five local government wards in Poole, Hampshire, Southampton, Isle of Wight and Portsmouth. And over 100 more should be going to university, according to Government targets.

These stark figures were at the centre of a ground-breaking conference being held at Southampton Solent University on Friday 28th October. The conference heard the results of a year-long study by the Southern Policy Centre, supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and GuildHE.

The study has used ‘open data’, and data held by local councils, to explore why able young people may miss out on university. The data has been used to suggest possible local widening participation strategies.

Issues identified include:

• Students who get good GCSE results are less likely to go to university than their peers elsewhere
• In some areas, poorer students get markedly less good results at GCSE
• The number of students going to college at 16 varies widely, as do drop-out rates
• Areas where parents work in less skills jobs or have fewer qualifications have lower levels of participation in higher education

The analysis has been used to suggest local interventions including:

• Targeted support for able students from local areas
• Support for parents to raise aspirations
• Engaging the assistance of employers, community
organisations and social housing providers

Chair of the Southern Policy Centre, John Denham, said:

“This is an innovative and ground-breaking project that suggests practical ways to reduce the number of able young people who may feel that university is ‘not for them’ and are currently missing out on higher education.”


The data analysis toolkit is here: hefce-toolkit-october-2016

John Denham’s slides are here: jd-hefce-slides-27-oct-2016

Ceri Nursaw’s two presentations are here: ceri-pres-1 ceri-pres-2

Mark Frank’s presentation is here: the-data-analysis-toolkit-v2

The full report can be read here: hefce-report-october-2016

Assembly South report


Assembly South was part of an important new experiment in how to organise democracy effectively. It consisted of a group of 23 citizens and 6 councillors from the Solent and Isle of Wight area who met in Southampton over two weekends in October and November 2015 to discuss the future of local governance. The aim was to select the citizens randomly to be broadly representative of the local adult population. During the two weekends, they learned about the different options, consulted with advocates of a range of views, deliberated on what they had heard, and formed recommendations.

Read the full report here

Assembly South was one of two citizens’ assembly pilots organised by Democracy Matters, a collaboration of university researchers and civil society organisations supported by the Economic and Social Research Council. The second pilot assembly, Assembly North, ran over the same period in Sheffield and has produced its own report.

The main aims were:

  1. To assess whether the creation of citizens’ assemblies could improve the operation of democracy in the UK and to build knowledge on how such assemblies might best be run;
  2. To investigate what members of the public in England think about devolution when they are given the opportunity to learn about and debate the issue in depth.

Participants voted that if there were to be a new devolved body:

  • It should cover the Hampshire and the Isle of Wight area, instead of other options like the South East or Solent
  • Health and social care integration should be the most important priority for the body, followed by public transport, business support and housing investment
  • There was a dead heat on the question of whether participants would vote for or against the current deal on the table

A key finding of the research team is that randomly selected citizens are ready, willing and able to engage with complex policy and governance debates when given appropriate support and opportunity.

This report sets out the background to the creation of Assembly South. It describes the Assembly in terms of its composition and working methods. It then presents a detailed outline of the Assembly’s discussions and recommendations. It concludes by briefly reflecting on lessons learned and next steps.

Devo-South: a report on devolution and business

What are the challenges facing southern England, how can devolution empower local leadership to tackle them, and what do business leaders make of the opportunities offered by the government’s decentralisation agenda?

Download the full report here

BUSINESS is backing the idea of devolution in the South and wants to have a say in what it could mean for the region, according to a major new report commissioned by Business South.

Business leaders across the south have taken part in the study conducted by the Southern Policy Centre – the think tank for southern England – and the findings have been released at the same time as crucial discussions this week between Hampshire and Isle of Wight with the Government.

The report:

  • backs the case for devolution to the south
  • urges the government to concede a fuller programme of fiscal devolution
  • argues that as an area of business rate surplus, the combined authorities should be able to take on more services in order to be freed from the need to contribute to other areas

Sally Thompson, CEO of Business South, said: “This is the first time the voice of business has been heard on the subject of devolution in the south.

“We welcome the findings  of the report and look forward to seeing a shared economic vision for the region being  developed by the proposed combined authorities and LEPS with business.”

The report highlights that many businesses do not feel well informed about devolution,  and have not been consulted. Many also feel that the capacity of current local authorities needs to be improved to take advantage of new powers.

And it underlines the desire from business for simple and speedy decision-making from new combined authorities.

John Denham, Chair of the Southern Policy Centre, said: “It’s clear the south’s local authorities, LEPs and other organisations have worked hard, against a demanding timetable to put their proposals to government.  Our analysis backs their ambition. We highlight some weaknesses in their plans – these are probably inevitable given the haste but they will need to be tackled in the months and years ahead. One of the top priorities must be to consult with business to ensure the simple, speedy, decision-making that local businesses would like to see.”

The report acknowledges how quickly authorities and partners have had to move but urges potential combined authorities to consult more quickly and deeply with business, and to ensure that the new combined authorities do provide the clear, simple and accountable leadership that is required.

More on devolution in southern England

Beyond Caring? The South and the collapse of Adult Social Care

Using data reported nationally, and drawn from council and administrative systems, the briefing identifies a major drop in the number of adults being cared for by local authorities suggesting that those who are old or face disabilities will encounter increasing challenges in the coming 5 years.

Notably SPC observes that where you live really matters: for example Bournemouth Council has successfully collaborated with Dorset and Poole councils to respond to the increasing needs it faces. Meanwhile in other areas the tightening up of criteria, increased use of volunteers and a heavy emphasis on charging have had very different impacts.

The briefing, commissioned by the BBC South, was widely covered on BBC radio Solent, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Dorset and BBC TV in the run up to the General Election.

Download full report