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Call for public health funding review

The Secretary of State for Health is being called on to urgently review the system used to calculate how much public health funding is allocated to local authorities.

Waltham Forest Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Ahsan Khan, has warned Jeremy Hunt MP that the way the funding formula has been applied in the latest round of allocations will leave the borough under resourced and without a fair share of the money available.

Despite the national formula indicating that Waltham Forest should receive £68 per resident – equivalent to £18.6million in total – the Council was recently told it is in line to receive just £45 per head in 2015/16, which comes to £12.27million overall with no change from the previous year. This £6.3million funding shortfall is the highest of any London borough by more than £3million.

In response to the Government’s funding announcement, Cllr Khan has written to Jeremy Hunt MP urging him to reconsider Waltham Forest’s funding gap in the short term while taking steps to overhaul the formulas used to calculate future funding allocations.

Cllr Khan said: “No other borough in London has a funding gap of more than £10 per head – our allocation falls short by £23 per head. Add to this the fact that a number of boroughs are currently receiving more funding than their target allocation and there’s no doubt that the system isn’t fair on Waltham Forest and needs changing.

“We’d have a challenge to address all of the borough’s health issues even with the funding we’re supposed to get, so giving us even less has severe implications. And while we’re doing what we can to introduce trailblazing health initiatives like Our Parks - a free programme of outdoor activities for residents of all ages - and free swimming for under 18s, over 60s and disabled residents, there’s so much more we could do if we had more funding, especially in tackling our growing obesity crisis.

“Our community should not face missing out on the resources needed to improve public health outcomes because of ill-equipped funding arrangements that are in desperate need of review.”

Waltham Forest experiences high population churn, migration and diversity which make it more challenging, and more expensive, to deliver services and educate local people about public health issues.

The borough faces similar public health challenges as neighbouring boroughs like Hackney, which is receiving significantly more funding – £29.8million or £117 per resident. Meanwhile, wealthier and healthier boroughs like Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea have been allocated £133 per head, three times as much as Waltham Forest gets.

The Council continues to believe prevention is better than cure and key to delivering good local health in the long term will be taking action to prevent people from getting ill in the first place.

Cllr Khan concluded: “Preventative action will save both lives and money and the Government must recognise this going forward and ensure that local authorities receive the funding they need to make this possible. The current allocations of public health money will only serve to widen the health inequalities present across London.

“The Council is committed to securing a better deal for its residents and last year, after significant pressure from Waltham Forest, the Government agreed to increase the borough’s public health funding by about £2.6million.”

Responsibility for public health transferred to councils in April 2013.

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