DoH consults on £200m public health cut

3 Aug 15

The Department of Health has set out options to achieve the planned £200m in-year reduction in public health spending, with an across the board 6.2% cut for all authorities emerging as its preferred proposal.

The consultation called for views on how the controversial saving can be delivered most fairly and effectively.

It said the money would be cut from the January 2016 installment of public health funds given to councils.

Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the DoH document stated it intended to apply a standard flat rate percentage reduction of 6.2% across local government.

“It is the simplest and most transparent option to implement and would enable the department to provide local authorities quickly with certainty on what would be required of them,” the document stated.

However, three other options are set out. The department said it could allow for a “hardship allocation” in the standard percentage reduction, which could take account of a council’s inability to legally deliver savings due to binding financial commitments. This could also include an adjustment for any “substantial, disproportionate and unavoidable adverse impact” under the Equality Act 2010.

Options to identify councils that carried forward unspent reserves into 2015/16 and claim a larger share of the savings from them, or to claim a larger share of the saving from authorities that are significantly above their target allocations, were also set out.

However, the consultation reiterates that the total savings required under all options would remain at £200m. “If any local authorities are eventually asked to save less than 6.2% it follows that others would be required to save more.”

Responding to the announcement on Friday, the leader of Liberal Democrats in local government, Gerald Vernon Jackson, said the cut to public health spending would mean that local residents were less likely to make good decisions about their health.

“Cutting the budget in the middle of the financial year means it will be really difficult to make these cuts. Liberal Democrats say these are the wrong cuts, made in the wrong way and they will end up costing the government and the NHS more than is saved,” he added.

The consultation will close on 28 August.

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