Falling population is a dangerous myth
I’m extremely proud of our lively, vibrant city – its history, its heritage and the wealth of opportunities that it offers its residents. We are fortunate to have such a mix of people from the students who come to our wonderful universities, to those moving in for new jobs and families who relish the quality of life Cambridge can offer.
I’m very conscious of the fact that the city is growing fast and the challenges that brings. There is a desperate need to increase affordable homes, provide more school places, improve our transport systems and infrastructure and make sure we are keeping pace with the demands on our services.
So I was shocked to find that according to a new formula, the Office of National Statistics believes that our population is falling. They’ve come up with a new way of working out populations which led them to claim that we had fewer residents now than in the 1991 Census – and that the population keeps going down!
This is clearly ridiculous and not borne out by local evidence from our electoral role, GP patient growth figures and the supply of jobs. It would be laughable if it were not for the serious fact that, left unchallenged these figures could have an impact on our city. If they were taken into account when providing services to new communities or allocating resources, they would not give a true picture. The city council, county council, fire, police, NHS and all other public bodies would get less cash than they need and deserve.
We’ve been fighting this for a while – the city council has done an excellent job so far – and helpfully, the latest census results fit with what we all know to be true – the population of Cambridge has gone up. So far, the government seems to have accepted that the census is correct, rather than their wild estimates; that’s gained millions of pounds for our local public services.
But even so, they plan to use the new formula to calculate future payments, and because they think there are fewer people here each year, we’ll get less money. This is wrong and simply doesn’t fit with what we see around Cambridge.
I’d already spoken to the Minister responsible for this – he’s now been reshuffled, so I’ll have to start work with a new one – but this is essential and urgent, if any of our public services are to have the support they need for the people who live here.
Statistics often matter – but this one matters more than most. Cambridge should be funded according to what we need, not some erroneous calculation. The fight continues.