Public health funding for councils will be cut by £77m in 2016-17, the government has confirmed.
More than six weeks after they were initially expected, public health allocations were finally published yesterday by the Department of Health.
A total of £3.38bn will be available for 2016-17, which is £77m less than 2015-16. The following year indicative allocations suggest a further cut of £84m to £3.3bn, meaning a total reduction of around £160m across both years. It comes on top of the £200m public health in-year budget cuts for 2015-16.
However, ministers have decided not to apply a proposed new formula for public health cuts and have instead applied a flat 2.2% cut to public health grants for 2016-17.
This is in line with the approach set out by Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie in a letter to councils before Christmas.
Nick Forbes, vice chair of the Local Government Association, said: “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, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, sexually transmitted infections and substance misuse cannot be seen as an added extra for health budgets,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Public health funding comes out of the Department of Health’s budget. Earlier this year the ringfence around health spending was limited to NHS England’s budget.
Mr Forbes highlighted the fact that the government had found extra funding for the NHS and earlier this week the Treasury made a further £205m available to prevent the Department of Health from overspending.
He said: “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.”