Local authorities to take charge of public health budgets

A new ring-fenced public health budget for local authorities was announced by the Government in January, as a key part of devolving responsibility for public health from this April.

The creation of a £5.45 billion two-year budget will see local authorities take the lead for improving the health of their local communities and driving their areas’ efforts to improve health and wellbeing by tackling the wider determinants of poor health, according to the Department of Health.

In 2013/14, the total budget for local public health services will be just under £2.7 billion, rising to just under £2.8 billion in 2014/15.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “By putting local authorities in charge of public health, we are giving them the power, freedom and funding to tackle the issues that blight their local areas and help to improve the lives of their local communities.

“Improving the health of local people will be at the heart of everything they do – from social care to transport, housing, planning and environment.”

Penelope Toff, the British Medical Association public health medicine committee chair, welcomed the move: “The key thing now is how the money is used by local authorities. That provision reflects the needs of their populations and the thinking behind those allocations. We should see a significant proportion going into prevention and services that are used by children and young people.”

But an analysis by Local Government Chronicle magazine has suggested the change will mean some councils’ public health allocations will double while others will do less well, with the relatively wealthy councils in the South and East of England benefiting more than their poorer northern counterparts.

In the analysis, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “Areas in the north are traditionally higher funders of public health, so other areas will need their budgets to rise faster.”

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