Martin Ford 21 December 2018

Councils warn of impact of public health funding cuts

Councils have reacted angrily to ‘short-sighted’ cuts to public health funding next year by the Government.

In a ministerial statement, public health secretary Steve Brine said councils in England would receive £3.134bn ring-fenced for public health in 2019/20.

It amounts to an £85m reduction compared to this year and a fall of £531m since 2015/16, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

Chairman of the LGA's community wellbeing board, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, said: ‘Cutting the public health budget is incredibly short-sighted and will undermine our ability to improve the public’s health, and to keep the pressure off the NHS and social care.

‘Further reductions to the public health budget reinforce the view that central Government sees prevention services as nice to do but, ultimately, non-essential.

'Interventions to tackle teenage pregnancy, air quality, child obesity, sexually transmitted infections and substance misuse cannot be seen as an added extra for health budgets.’

London Councils has costed the reduction for its member boroughs as £18.5m.

Executive member for health and care, Cllr Ray Puddifoot, said: ‘The public health services provided by London boroughs play a key role in preventing illness and promoting wellbeing.

‘The long-term sustainability of health and social care services depends on us all leading healthier lives.'

Cllr Hudspeth warned of the consequences of reducing funding after increasing councils' responsibilities.

He added: ‘Local authorities were eager to pick up the mantle of public health in 2013 but many will now feel that they have been handed all of the responsibility but without the appropriate resources to do so.

‘Many councils will be forced to take tough decisions about which services have to be scaled back, or stopped altogether, to plug funding gaps.'

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