A LACK OF CERTAINTY around councils’ public health funding this year risks exacerbating the growing crisis of demand for support services, including those for drug and alcohol treatment, which has built up as a result of the pandemic.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils across England, is calling on the Government to urgently publish the Public Health Grant funding allocations which councils will receive from April, as Covid-19 pressures intensify due to the Omicron surge.

The LGA said time is also running out with councils having to make critical decisions on renewing contracts for vital public health services, including for health visiting, sexual and reproductive health and suicide prevention, potentially leaving people without crucial help and support.

Drug and alcohol treatment, tackling obesity, and health visiting are among the vital frontline services at risk of being cut back or closing altogether, unless government urgently sets out public health funding for the next year.

Directors of Public Health and their teams, working in councils, continue to lead their communities through Covid-19, encouraging vaccine take-up, setting up contact tracing partnerships and tackling local outbreaks. The grant also crucially pays for councils’ health protection measures, such as in planning for, and responding to, incidents that present a threat to the public’s health.

Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Demand for vital treatment for drug and alcohol misuse, obesity, mental health and children’s health is rising and at risk of not being met, while we are still grappling with the impact of the Omicron surge. The unprecedented mental and physical health toll of the pandemic will mean we could be seeing many more people coming forward for support, in addition to an existing backlog which has built up over the last two years.

“It is wrong that we are still in the dark about how much there is to spend on this essential treatment and support, which will better protect our population from future pandemics. The Government should act now and publish councils’ public health grant without further delay, so that we can get on with planning ahead for an anticipated post-Covid surge in requests for help.”

Councils’ public health grant, which sets out how much each council receives to pay for these services, has been continually pushed back over the last few years, with the 2020/21 grant only being confirmed in March.

Public health funding grants to councils have been reduced by £700 million in real terms from 2015/16 to 2019/20.

* Source: Local Government Association