More than 75% of our borough is rural, but with around 60% of our population living in the main town of Basingstoke, the town has successfully established itself as a vibrant and successful economic centre in the Hampshire region. We expect to see continued growth, with our population exceeding 200,000 in the next ten to fifteen years. Ensuring that the borough’s infrastructure can support this population growth is vital. The council has been described by the Local Government Association as one of the most financially resilient local authorities in the country. We have a commercial property investment portfolio totalling circa £300 million, generating revenue returns which fund frontline services. As a consequence of sound financial management over the years, residents enjoy one of the highest rates of spend per head and one of the lowest rates of council tax of any local authority in the country. The result is a top performing council with 84% of residents agreeing that the council is ‘well run’ compared to 66% nationally, and 94% saying they like their local area.
The western part of our borough is home to the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Downs offer vast open spaces and immense open skies with panoramic views. There are also some well-known historic houses that will be immediately recognisable to television and movie buffs as the locations for the 2005 feature film version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the global phenomenon that is ITV’s Downton Abbey. You may also be surprised to find that Watership Down, immortalised in Richard Adam’s evocative novel, is a real place, and is a popular destination for cyclists, walkers and riders.
Basingstoke and Deane occupies a strategically important location in the south of England, with easy access to key transport and business hubs such as London, the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth as well as airports at Heathrow, Gatwick and Southampton. It also benefits from excellent road and rail services and this connectivity has played a vital part in establishing our borough as an important regional centre in Hampshire. Around 80,000 people work in the borough and we are home to around 6,500 businesses ranging from micro businesses to well-known multinationals.
Unemployment is relatively low at around 3.7% of the economically active working age population (aged 16-64), which is lower than the average rate of 4.2% for the South East, and well below the England rate of 5.1% (2015). Wage levels compare favourably with neighbouring areas in Hampshire, as well as with the South East and nationally. However, housing prices are currently rising faster than wage levels and demand outstrips supply, so getting on the housing ladder can be difficult for first-time buyers. We have a young population, with nearly 25% of our population aged under 20. It is predicted that the fastest growing group in our population will be in the over-60 age group, which is expected to equate to over 24% of our population by 2020.
The borough is home to 16 infant, 16 junior, 26 primary and 11 secondary schools supported by Hampshire County Council as the local education authority, as well as a range of independent schools. Post-16 education is served by the further education colleges of Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT) and Queen Mary’s College (QMC). According to the 2011 Census, more than 30% of our population aged 16 and over is educated to degree level or equivalent, and the number of those with no qualifications (17%) is lower than county, regional or national averages.