The removal of the public health ring-fence is important if we are to take full advantage of the relocation of public health to local government.
In–year reductions in the public health budget may undermine the objectives to improve the public's health and manage pressure on the NHS. While measures need to be taken to reduce public debt, the reductions announced by the Treasury are based on a misunderstanding of how local authorities have managed their public health grant.
According to the Treasury, the reduction in funding was based on projected local authority underspends reported in 2013/14. In most cases, the underspend is, in fact, a planned approach to public health service development across several years. The ring-fenced budget and funding levels announced for multiple years were intended to incentivise exactly this approach and councils have therefore been taking time to plan spending, manage their new contracts and disinvest in services that are not delivering.