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Business rates retention poses ‘some risk’ to core PH funding, says DHSC minister

Business rate implementation of public health may be delayed if risks to core health funding are not mitigated, a Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) minister has argued.

Speaking at yesterday’s LGA/ADPH annual public health conference and exhibition 2018, the under-secretary for public health and primary care, Steve Brine, said that the Department of Health and Social Care is working hard to make the transition from ring-fenced grants to business rate retention (BRR) a success.

But he cautioned: “BRR represents real opportunities, but also some risk to funding for core health services including, but not restricted to, substance misuse and sexual health.

“We’re working closely and constructively on BRR with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, but unless we’re confident that those risks have been mitigated, business rate retention implementation of public health may be delayed.”

Opening the conference, Jonathan McShane, cabinet member for health, social care and culture at London Borough of Hackney, and member of the LGA community and wellbeing board, had already warned that sexual health services are already feeling the pinch as he told delegates: “Pressures on sexual and reproductive health continue to be felt.

“We have warned that sexual health services are at a tipping point, we are concerned that this will see waiting times start to increase and patient experience deteriorate.”

Referring to the “tough fiscal constraints” faced by local authorities, Brine said that there is a need for creative thinking in order to address health inequalities: “There’s no denying that the 2015 spending review settlement for local government including public health didn't make things easier,” he argued.

“To be frank it was tougher than most of us expected. It still requires a flexible and pragmatic approach.”

The under-secretary pointed out that tackling the inequalities that are linked to economic deprivation is easier at times of economic growth, which he said the business rates retention scheme is designed to encourage.

“Local government is exceptionally well placed to deliver this ‘health is wealth’ agenda,” he added.

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