Cuts in local government funding over recent years have cost lives and reduced life expectancy, academics have warned in a new study.
The research, conducted by the University of Liverpool and published in The Lancet Public Health found that between 2013 and 2017 council funding decreased by 33% or £168 per person. For every £100 reduction in funding, life expectancy fell by 1.3 months for males and 1.2 months for females.
The study found that funding cuts were associated with an additional 9,600 deaths in people younger than 75 years old.
Corresponding author Dr Alexandros Alexiou said: ‘Our research shows that cuts to local government over recent years have probably cost lives. We found that, during a period of large reductions in funding for local government in England, areas that experienced the greatest cuts also experienced slower improvements or a decline in life expectancy. As funding for the most deprived areas decreased to a greater extent, they experienced the most adverse impact – widening health inequalities.
’This has important implications for current policy and for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.’
The study found that cuts in funding increased the gap in life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas by 3% for men and 4% for women.
Dr Alexiou added: ‘Our study suggests that reduced funding for local services that disproportionally affected deprived areas have had a significant impact on health. The UK government has declared that austerity is over and has committed to investing more to "level up" those places that have previously been ‘left behind’. Fair and equitable investment in local government services can redress these inequalities, enabling the country to "build back better".