Fury at £1.6m cut to public health grant

Sir Ian McCartney
Sir Ian McCartney
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CUTS to Wigan Council’s public health grants have been described as a “smash and grab raid.”

The local authority is set to lose £1,635,661 from its public health payment from Whitehall next year as the Department of Health looks to save £200m, according to a consultation document released this month.

Wigan Council has been double-crossed by this smash-and-grab raid on its budget

Sir Ian McCartney

The document sets out how an equal percentage will be taken from each local authority in the last quarter of 2015/16, meaning Wigan will receive £1,635,661 less than its usual grant of £23,665,026 for the year.

Sir Ian McCartney, Chair of Healthwatch Wigan said: “Healthwatch Wigan is dumbfounded by Health Ministers’ decision to cut the already overstretched public health budget and that our local council are having to find almost overnight, £1.635.661.

“Wigan has already borne the brunt of government cuts, to the tune of more than £100m, and these further cuts are beyond unfair.

“The Public Health Grant is NHS funding and should be protected like other NHS budgets.

“We are concerned that the Department of Health is treating this grant differently just because the money goes to the Council.

“Preventing ill health in Wigan borough must be a funding priority, not a sacrificial cut leading to even poorer life chances and sadly premature deaths.

“At a time of increasing strain on the NHS we should be investing in preventative services in order to relieve pressure and save money.

“Doctors, staff, carers and patients are feeling the strain on a daily basis.

“Only by investing in public health will we see the improvement in people’s lives and a reduction in demands on GP, hospital and social services, which we desperately need in this borough.”

Former Makerfield MP and government minister Sir Ian has also criticised the short notice of the announcement in relation to when the cuts come into force.

“The late announcement of the cut has made it very challenging to reshape much-needed services at short notice and will have a negative impact on the future commissioning of public health services,” he said.

“Wigan Council has been double-crossed by this smash-and-grab raid on its budget.

“Meanwhile our citizens have become the victims of a public health budget pickpocket.”

But Wigan Council disagrees, saying the cuts will not have a big impact on services.

Coun Keith Cunliffe, portfolio holder for health and adult social care, said: “Looking after the health of Wigan borough is a key priority for us and we know that by helping people to make positive health choices such as quit smoking, reduce their alcohol intake, eat healthily and keep active has a huge impact not just on our residents but also helps reduce demands on social care needs and health providers.

“Despite the cut to our budget for 2015/16, this will not impact directly on any of the many services we provide which are helping our residents live a better quality of life for longer.”