Cuts to public health budgets are impacting on efforts to tackle obesity, reduce smoking and improve children’s health, new figures show. Councils across the UK have spent £96m less this year than last on a range of preventive measures. Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said the cuts would ‘have a devastating effect on the longer-term health of the nation.'
‘Cuts to sexual health, stop smoking and drug misuse services will save money in the short term, but will cost far more over coming decades.’
A Labour Party analysis of the figures released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government found that 130 of 152 local councils are spending less than they did in 2017-18. By 2021 it is estimated that ministers will have chipped away £800m from public health budgets. Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the country faced ‘a public health crisis’.
‘When drug related deaths are at their highest ever, when rates of STDs are rising, when more children are leaving school obese than ever before and when improvements in life expectancy have slowed, then these swingeing cuts to public health budgets are shortsighted, cynical and wrong,’ he said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said its strategy was working, claiming: ‘Significant improvements in public health since 2010, with robust government action leading to a fall in rates of smoking and drug use.’
‘There is always more to be done, which is exactly why we are giving £16bn to local councils to fund public health services over the current spending period. We’re supporting them with our world leading childhood obesity plan alongside measures to halve child obesity by 2030, and work is underway to develop a new alcohol strategy.’