PETER Nutting, leader of Shropshire Council has been to Ludlow to explain that the ageing population of the area is the biggest single challenge.

The man who was elected as leader of the controlling Conservative group at Shirehall presented his view of the challenges facing the area when he spoke at a meeting of Ludlow Town Council.

He said that Shropshire Council spends in the order of £600 million a year and has an annual shortfall of £20 million.

Mr Nutting said that every year the cost of adult and social care went up by £8 million as a consequence of the ageing population and that it is an important priority to enable more young people to stay in the area and therefore created a more equal balance.

“The baby boomers are getting to the stage where they have increasingly complex health problems,” said Mr Nutting.

This he said was putting increasing pressure on health and social care services.

Ludlow has one of the oldest age profiles in the country and it is estimated that there are in the order of nearly 500 people in a town with a population of about 10,00 that have a diagnosis of dementia.

There is a move to make Ludlow a ‘Dementia Friendly’ town and a group is working on initiatives with the Alzheimer’s Society that includes providing specialist training for businesses and individuals.

A special helpline for people with dementia and their carers has been set up to offer advice and steer people in direction of agencies where help is available.

But the Shropshire Council leader said that if a better population balance is to be achieved then changes needed to be made to the economy.

“Ludlow does not have an unemployment problem but it has a poor jobs problem,” said Mr Nutting.

He believes that if younger people are to stay in the area to build their lives then there needs to be many better paid and higher skilled jobs.

Many of the jobs in the Ludlow area are in agriculture, retail, tourism and hospitality sectors where pay is often at or around minimum wage and there is little security.

This often means that young people have to move away to find work and those that go away to University will often stay away.

There is also a need for the infrastructure to support the changes including more schools and homes.

This would involve looking at the needs of the area over the next 20 or 30 years,” said Mr Nutting.