Setting out the allocations for the next years, the Department of Health said public health funding, which was devolved to local government in 2013, would be reduced by an average of 3.9% every year in real terms until 2020.
In cash allocations for the next two years, this means a total of £3.38bn will be available in 2016/17, £77m less than 2015/16, while the following year will see a cut of £84m to £3.3bn.
This comes on top of £200m in in-year cuts for 2015/16 announced last June following the Conservative’s election victory.
Responding to the figures, LGA vice chair Nick Forbes said it confirmed fears that public health budgets would continue to face significant spending reductions over the next two years.
“The government is finding billions of pounds for the NHS over the next four years and has even been forced to inject hundreds of millions of pounds extra into the health budget this year to help balance the books,” he highlighted.
“To then take vital money away from the services which can be used to prevent illness and the need for treatment later down the line and ease the pressure on the NHS is extremely counterproductive.”
These reductions indicate that the government views preventative spending as “nice-to-do” but ultimately non-essential, he added. “Interventions to tackle teenage pregnancy, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, sexually transmitted infections and substance misuse cannot be seen as an added extra for health budgets.”
Jane Payling, CIPFA’s head of health and integration added that public health cuts may save money in the short-term, but will only compound acute pressures for the NHS and other services further down the line.
“It is time the government looked to prevention, not cure, for delivering long-term savings and better services,” she added.