William Eichler 29 January 2019

Councils need £8.7bn to fund preventative services, survey reveals

Local government leaders estimate that they should be spending almost twice as much on preventative services than is currently possible after nearly a decade of austerity.

A quarterly survey of all chief executives, leaders and mayors has found that councils estimate they are currently spending 28% of their resources on prevention.

However, when asked to estimate what they would ideally be spending on prevention, the figure rises to 47%.

The New Local Government Network, the think tank that carried out the survey, calculated that plugging this gap would require an extra £8.7bn funding for local government.

Despite the Government emphasising the importance of prevention in its recently launched Prevention is Better than Cure strategy, Whitehall cuts have undermined the ability of councils to focus on preventative services.

The Early Intervention Grant for councils stood at £3.2bn in 2010 but was cut to £1.5bn by 2015, and spending on public health has also fallen by £900m since 2014.

A 2018 National Audit Office report found that councils were increasingly focused on providing acute statutory services in social care at the expense of preventative services due to central Government cuts.

‘The Government’s aspiration to shift towards prevention is admirable but this survey shows that underfunding local government will make that aspiration much harder and probably impossible to achieve,’ said Adam Lent, the director of NLGN.

‘It is the height of irrational policy-making to invest £20.5bn in the NHS to enable a shift to prevention while starving councils of the £8.7bn they need to achieve the same goal.’

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