Eric Ollerenshaw column

Eric Ollerenshaw.
Eric Ollerenshaw.

As I am sure many of you are aware it is currently conference season and last week saw me down in Birmingham for this annual event.

If you have never been to conference and have been watching the coverage on the news you might quite rightly have the impression that all the business goes on in the main conference hall and is a series of debates and speeches.

However, the reality is that they are a series of meetings and discussions outside of the main debates and these meetings are often where the real work gets done.

Over the last couple of days at conference I have had the opportunity to chair a meeting about how local communities can have a greater voice in planning which explored, along with Civic Voice, the National Body for Civic Societies, how critical it is that local people have a real say through Neighbourhood Planning in their local area.

I was part of a roundtable discussing cancer survival rates with all the major cancer charities and was extremely interested to note that thanks to new drugs and treatments it is estimated that the number of people that are currently living as survivors of cancer will double within the next 20 years and for 10 year survival rates more people survive cancer than die from it.

Unfortunately as yet this isn’t the case with all cancers and pancreatic cancer only has a 1 per cent ten year survival rate and brain tumours, lung cancer and oesophageal cancers are all still under 15 per cent.

Clearly there is still a lot of work to be done in these areas, but the key point that came out of this meeting was that this increase in the number of survivors will need to be planned for, because many will still require regular monitoring and support.

I was also on the panel discussion on the future of higher education, where the key point was how to further integrate these establishments into the local economy. This is not only a subject of interest to me as a former teacher but also because of our two good universities – Cumbria and Lancaster – which go from strength to strength.