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Councils hit back at government over ‘counterproductive’ public health grant cuts

The LGA has heavily criticised the government for its “short-sighted” stance on public health grants.

Health minister Lord O'Shaughnessy announced yesterday that the funding for such grants would total over £16bn between 2015 and 2020, but the LGA says this is a cut of more than £500m across that period.

Its Community Wellbeing Board chair, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said the decision would put even more pressure on health services, a counterproductive decision when compared to the extra £2.8bn announced for the NHS in the Autumn Budget.

Lord O’Shaughnessy said a total of £3.2bn would go into public health in 2018-19, working alongside NHS preventative efforts to try and combat health issues within communities.

“The indicative allocation for 2019-20 will help local authorities to develop and extend their planning, including initiatives better delivered across more than one year,” he explained.

“The grant in both 2018-19 and 2019-20 continue to be subject to conditions, including a ring-fence requiring local authorities to use the grant exclusively for public health activity.”

However, Seccombe hit back at the Department for Health, remarking: “The government announced an extra £2.8bn for the NHS in the Autumn Budget. But to then take vital money away from the services which can be used to prevent illness and the need for treatment later down the line and ease the pressure on the NHS is extremely counterproductive.

“Cutting the public health budget is short sighted and will undermine the objectives we all share to improve the public’s health and to keep the pressure off the NHS and adult social care.

“Further reductions to the public health budget reinforces the view that central government sees prevention services as nice-to-do but ultimately non-essential. Interventions to tackle teenage pregnancy, child obesity, physical inactivity, sexually transmitted infections and substance misuse cannot be seen as an added extra for health budgets.”

Earlier this month, the Design Council’s Abid Gangat, wrote for NHE on the preventative measures councils are taking on health, emphasising the design approach which can help carry such schemes.

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