Tackling child obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, sexually transmitted infections and drug and alcohol misuse are just some of the vital public health services councils are unable to plan for, as they wait for government to tell them how much funding they will get, town hall leaders are warning.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils, said local authorities are still to be formally told their individual public health funding settlements for 2016/17 and 2017/18.
With just weeks to go until local authorities have to set their budgets, plans about how they will deliver services to protect the public’s health over the next two years have been thrown into uncertainty as a result.
Councils had previously expected to find out before Christmas, but will now face a race against time to plan services, once their settlements are eventually announced, warns the LGA.
Cllr Richard Kemp, LGA Lib Dem Group Spokesperson on Care and Health said:
“Councils have been left in the dark by government as the wait goes on for them to find out their individual public health funding settlements for the next two years and beyond.
“This means they’re unable to plan how and where they spend money and allocate resources, leading to uncertainty about vital prevention services such as tackling teenage pregnancy, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, sexually transmitted infections and substance misuse. Reductions to public health funding are already going to make life difficult for councils to keep providing the vital public health services crucial to ensuring people stay healthy, and reduce the strain on the NHS and social care. Not knowing how much funding they are going to get, undermines councils’ efforts in relation to improving the public’s health and keeping the pressure off the NHS and adult social care services.”
Government announced a 9.7 per cent reduction in public health funding between 2016/17 and 2020/21 – which in cash terms is more than £330 million. On top of this is a further £200 million cut in-year in 2016/17, as announced in November.
Cllr Kemp added: “The existing reduction in expenditure announced by the Government on Public health is short sighted, and if this goes deeper it is really bad news. It is not a saving but a cut in expenditure now which will lead to much, much greater expenditure later. In the light of the recent report on childhood and adult obesity and continued problems caused by alcohol and tobacco we need to be spending more on illness prevention than we do. A number of recent studies have shown that every £1 spent on public health activities saves £15 in future years. This cut shows that the Tory Government has no understanding of how to deal with health in the long-term but know seeks to manage cost pressures in an inappropriate way in the short term”.