February 2020: Certainty needed on public health funding

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE is Leader of the LGA’s Liberal Democrat Group

As I write this, councils have been left waiting for a record time for national government to tell us how much funding we will get to tackle child obesity, smoking, sexually transmitted infections and drug and alcohol misuse in our communities.

These are just some of the vital preventative public health services councils are unable to plan for. Year after year, we get left in the dark about what we will get – and this year is the worst ever.

“The ad-hoc, short-termist way national government announces funding for local services makes it impossible to plan ahead”

This dithering means that we are unable to plan ahead for how and where we can spend money and allocate resources, leading to uncertainty about vital prevention services such as tackling teenage pregnancy, excessive alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity.

It is impossible to plan how we will deliver services to protect the health of some of our most vulnerable residents over the next 12 months. The Government must stop this uncertainty when funding public services.

Hopefully by the time you read this, the funding will have been announced – but it is a good example of why we need multi-year funding settlements across local government. We have been promised multi-year local government settlements year after year, and still do not have them.

Deadlines pass and nothing is said. This is no way to run a government, let alone a country!

The ad-hoc, short-termist way national government announces funding for local services creates major challenges for the sector and makes it impossible to plan ahead and put in place good preventative services.

So a plea to government: don’t leave us hanging by a thread.