St Helens hit with £1m public health funding cut

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Town hall chiefs in St Helens have called on the government to perform a reversal on its plan to cut the borough’s public heath borough by almost £1m.

In a motion carried at this week’s full council, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing Coun Jeanie Bell said that a new funding formula would effectively reallocate essential prevention funding from the most deprived local authorities to the least deprived.

She also urged the government to carry out an impact assessment on the proposals – so the consequences of the reallocation could be fully understood.

The Department of Health announced in June last year that it was reducing its spending on public health grants to local authorities by £200 million.

It amounts to a reduction of £909,000 for St Helens, with further cuts likely.

“The proposed formula changes and the other reductions central government are suggesting equate to the same cost as the Health Visitor and School Nursing services that we inherited from the NHS,” said Coun Bell.

“This will have a severe impact on many deprived authorities and will further exacerbate the health inequalities between St Helens and more affluent authorities.”

Coun Bell said public health funding was vital in improving the health and wellbeing of local communities and reducing the demand for social care and health services.

“Investment in programmes such as mental wellbeing, weight management and drug and alcohol treatment is essential to reduce the burden of preventable disease,” she added.

“Investment in health and wellbeing in early years and school age programmes provides the best start in life for our children and young people.

“The reduction in grant will subsequently mean a reduction in service locally and potentially the cessation of some services completely.

“This council firmly believes that it's more important that the distribution of available resources reflects the assessed needs of areas – including levels of deprivation and health inequalities.

“Given the already announced reduction in public health grant allocation and the proposed changes to the formula, we're extremely concerned about how we will continue to deliver our mandated public health services and functions - and improve the health and wellbeing of our residents.”