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Public health grant cut 'unnecessary, undesirable and unacceptable'

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Councils have described a £85m cut to public health grants next year as a “deep disappointment” and “incredibly short-sighted”.

In a written ministerial statement yesterday, public health minister Steve Brine confirmed a reduction in public health grant of £85m. This means there will have been a £0.7bn real terms cut between 2014-15 and 2019-20, according to the Health Foundation.

Nicola Close, chief executive of the Association of Directors of Public Health, described the government’s decision as “unnecessary, undesirable and unacceptable”.

She said: “Directors of public health have been relentlessly focussed on effectively managing funding reductions, in the context of increasing demand, whilst also modernising services.

“However, this is not sustainable, especially when combined with wider cuts to local government which have hit a range of community facilities that are key to improving public health, such as libraries and leisure centres.”

Ms Close said next year’s comprehensive spending review provided an opportunity for the government to invest in tackling the social determinants of health.

Chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board Ian Hudspeth (Con) said councils will have to make tough decisions on what preventative services will be scaled back.

He added: “Cutting the public health budget is incredibly short-sighted and will undermine our ability to improve the public’s health and to keep the pressure off the NHS and 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, air quality, child obesity, sexually transmitted infections and substance misuse cannot be seen as an added extra for health budgets.”

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock last month announced a prevention green paper would be published next year and pledged to “radically change the focus” of services. However, LGC has since reported how there is a large question mark over Mr Hancock’s pledge to realise councils’ “potential as leaders in local health improvement” due to public health grant cuts.

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