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Public health pledge in wake of Government funding blow

The Council’s commitment to support and improve the health and wellbeing of its residents has never been stronger despite a Government decision that leaves Waltham Forest facing a multi-million pound funding gap more than double that of any other London borough.

“We’ve seen a lot of positive work carried out in the borough in recent months to help residents stay healthy, whether it’s our free vitamin scheme for every pregnant woman and new born child, wide range of healthy weight initiatives or free health checks for local people aged 40 to 74,” said Cllr Ahsan Khan, Waltham Forest Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing.

“But our efforts are not being helped by the fact we are suffering at the hands of an ill-equipped funding arrangement used by the Government to decide how much public health money to award a given area.”

Waltham Forest is set to receive grant funding totalling £16.8million for 2016-17, which represents a reduction of £1.3million compared to the Council’s budget for last year, and a massive £7.5million less than the Government's own estimates of Waltham Forest's funding need.

Waltham Forest has the health needs of an inner London borough with regard to issues like sexual health and substance misuse. However, the funding it receives is on the level of an average outer London borough.

The Council continues to look for efficiencies in public health spending – having already made significant savings on substance misuse services and health visiting services last year – but these further cuts ultimately risk leading to the reduction or closure of some public health services.

Waltham Forest's budget of £16.8million is less than half that of neighbouring boroughs with similar needs including Tower Hamlets (£36.9million), Hackney (£34.1million), and Newham (£32.7million).

Cllr Khan continued: “Our £7.5million gap between funding and identified need is more than double the gap of any other borough in London – and looking across the capital, roughly a third of boroughs are receiving millions of pounds more funding than their level of need requires.

“When allocating funding, the Government is failing to take into account our borough’s high population churn, migration and diversity – all of which make it more challenging, and more expensive, to deliver services and educate local people about public health issues.

“We’re absolutely clear that in order to deliver good local health in the long term, prevention is better than cure – as this kind of work will save lives and money. However, we can’t do this effectively without adequate funding to develop preventative services and launch more support initiatives.

“We believe that the current allocations of public health money will only serve to widen the health inequalities that exist across London.”

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