A multimillion pound cut to Public Health budgets has finally been confirmed – and Leeds will be a big loser. The cuts make a mockery of the Tories’ claims to be protecting health spending.
Seven months into the financial year the Department of Health has revealed that all local authorities will have their full year public health allocation (most of which has already been spent on front line health services) slashed by 6.2 per cent this year.
Leeds will see the largest financial cut in Yorkshire.
This is an allegedly ‘non-NHS’ cut. But the problem is the City’s Public Health budget actually funds important health activity, since the transfer of this to Local authorities in 2013. The public health budget covers things like sexual health, school nursing, health visiting, suicide prevention, domestic violence prevention and drug and alcohol treatment services and weight loss support as well as health protection services including immunisation programmes and infection control.
Leeds Labour Council has confirmed that the Public Health budget is already £6million short of what it should be. In view of this, during a four-week consultation the government undertook during the school summer holidays, the Council opposed the cuts outright and asked that their lack of funds be taken into account – but, as usual, the Tory Government turned a deaf ear.
Faced with the demand that they make £2.8m worth of cuts before the end of the financial year, the council has been forced to earmark £2.2m of savings in areas like smoking cessation, winter wellbeing services, oral health and healthy schools work. A significant share of these savings are having to come directly from NHS services provided by cash strapped NHS Trusts.
Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Labour’s Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults is clear about the situation:
“The government is not paying attention to anything that was said in going ahead with a straight percentage cut that will impact Leeds more than other areas. We knew the Government has complete contempt for local government but this shows complete contempt for the public as well and flies in the face of their attempt to protect all health services. They are not protecting the NHS: they are cutting it directly through us.”
The cuts are actually 7.5% of the Public Health Budget allocated to Leeds at the beginning of the year. The Tories 6.2% figure derives from including services that were transferred across to Leeds in October this year from the NHS (Health Visiting and Family Nurse Partnership both of which the Labour Council has excluded from consideration for cuts).
The effect of the Tory Government’s informing Leeds Council so late in the year of their eventual decision on how they want to implement their cuts means that there will be a far bigger percentage cut of the budget for the last quarter of the financial year!
6.2% is bad enough – 7.5% is worse – and the delay in telling Leeds what the final decision was just compounds the pain for all our citizens.