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Westcountry councils to get more funding for public health

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 11, 2013

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The Government is to increase funding to improve the health of Westcountry residents as it hands responsibility to councils.

Public health funding for local authorities will rise to £2.7 billion this year, the Health Secretary has announced, at an average rate of 5.5%.

Councils, rather than the NHS, will now be in charge of anti-smoking campaigns, drug and alcohol services and sexual health clinics.

Their budgets will then increase to almost £2.8 billion in 2014-15, Jeremy Hunt said, an average rise of 5%.

The figures are a significant increase from the £2.2 billion initially due to be allocated to local authorities in England for public health responsibilities, which come into effect in April.

Devon will get a 10% rise this year, bringing funding to £20.7 million. The pot will rise by a further 6.3% in 2014 to £22.1 million.

Cornwall will get £17.8 million this year, a rise of 2.8%, and £18.3million next year, also up 2.8%.

Plymouth's fund will rise by 10% this year to £11.2 million, and will go up an extra 10% again in 2014 to £12.3 million.

In Torbay, funding is £7.2 million this year, up 2.8%, and will hit £7.4 million the following year, also up 2.8%.

Building on advice from an independent expert group, funding will be specifically targeted for the first time at areas with the biggest health problems, ministers say.

This means that the areas with the greatest needs will receive more money. Public health teams who are currently working for the NHS, will be transferred to a council's employment.

Dr Virginia Pearson, Devon's director of public health, said: "Whilst this does represent an above-inflation increase on last year's budget, we are seeing an increase in demand on some of the services at an even greater rate.

"The allocation should allow us to continue to offer the same level of service across the county as well as to begin to develop approaches to emerging public health issues," she added. Health Secretary Mr Hunt said: "By putting local authorities in charge of public health, we are giving them the power, freedom and the funding to tackle the issues that blight their local areas and help improve the lives of their local communities."

Graeme McDonald, director of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, added: "Average annual increases above 5% over the next two years will help councils to plan strategically and invest funding prudently in preventative activities."

Read more from Exeter Express and Echo

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