Public health budget cuts – failing council seeks protection

public_health_cuts10:34 Tuesday 4th August 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHARLIE THOMPSON: Producer Ben is in the studios holding a piece of paper. That can mean only one thing.
BENOIT STEVENSON: It certainly can. We have a statement to read out. And this is in regard to the public health story we’ve been discussing. So this is proposals from the Conservative Government. They would like to slash the public health budgets for local authorities across the board, across the UK, by 6.2%. It’s just a proposal at the moment. They’re asking councils to contribute their thoughts to this proposal. In total, we’ve worked out that that will mean £2.2 million less is going to be spent in Cambridgeshire. That’s across Cambridgeshire County Council (and) Peterborough City Council. So we’ve made contact with Peterborough City Council who as well from I think the Department of Health or Public Health England had given a report saying that it was struggling in certain indicators. Fifteen out of thirty two indicators they were below the English average. And a statement from Peterborough City Council today, .. .. a spokesperson says that essentially they think they’re getting a raw deal. Funding they say is based on need, which is defined by population size and premature death rate. The current public health grant for this city is about 20% below the average for councils with Peterborough’s level of health needs. So read between the lines there Charlie, they’re saying they need 20% more than they’re actually given. Their budget for next year is going to be about £10 million, so you do the maths. What’s that – around £2 million short. And as part of the consultation ” .. we will make the Department aware of the challenges we have in the city with regard to public health, remind them of our current low levels of funding, and we will argue that given these circumstances, Peterborough should receive some protection from the national reduction in public health grants.
CHARLIE THOMPSON: I wasn’t really aware what the public health budget was, but it deals with sexual health issues within a region, within a county, contraception, obesity, people giving up smoking, drug misuse as well. So it’s kind of guidance, it’s help for people who maybe one day want to give up smoking or unwanted pregnancy. So that’s what the public health budget covers. It’s surprising where the money is allocated. Locally 23% is spent on sexual health services, yet only 3% is spent on obesity. As we know obesity is one of the big problems of the county and indeed of the country at the moment. So OK, there are some cuts projected. Maybe Peterborough and Cambridgeshire need to look at how they spend money.
BENOIT STEVENSON: Well we will say this. We heard earlier from Liberal Democrat councillor Nick Sandford. We also heard from Nicky Hampshire I think it was, who’s part of a patients’ group in Peterborough, both saying that this was disastrous. We’ve gone to a couple of MPs from the Conservative Party locally. They didn’t want to come on. We’ve asked both of our councils, both run by Conservative groups to come on. So they have declined that and given us statements. So ..
CHARLIE THOMPSON: No-one wants to come on.
BENOIT STEVENSON: No-one wants to come on.
CHARLIE THOMPSON: Oh come on! It’s my first show doing the Big Conversation.
BENOIT STEVENSON: If there’s any one out there that thinks this is a great thing, that we shouldn’t be spending money on this, then please do come on. It’s not because we’ve not given the opportunity. The reason why they’re not on at the moment is because people don’t want to come on and talk to us.
CHARLIE THOMPSON: So we’ve tried to be fair to everyone.
BENOIT STEVENSON: We certainly have.
CHARLIE THOMPSON: We’ve tried to give everyone a voice, and that’s the way it should be.

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