Town halls could be forced to cut back on immunisation campaigns and work to prevent teenage pregnancy and the spread of diseases such as HIV and TB after the Government announced plans to axe £40 million from the capital’s public health budget.
Council leaders, including Tories, said the move by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was “very disappointing” and a “false economy”.
The Department of Health has announced it is going ahead with plans to cut public health grant allocations by £200 million nationwide this year.
London Councils, which represents the capital’s local authorities, warned that the cut to its £578 million budget would disproportionately affect the poorest boroughs.
More than a fifth of the national cuts will be made in London, with 30 per cent higher cuts per head for the average Londoner compared with the rest of England. Seven of the 10 authorities losing the most are in the capital.
The boroughs share responsibility for HIV prevention — more than 30,000 Londoners are living with diagnosed HIV and more than one third of new diagnoses in 2013 were in the capital.
They are also tasked with halting the spread of tuberculosis — London has one of the highest rates of the disease in western Europe.
Councillor Teresa O’Neill, London Councils health spokesman, said: “It is very disappointing to hear the Government is going ahead with these in-year cuts to public health budgets. This will mean London boroughs have to find a further £40 million of savings within this year.
“Everyone agrees that more focus and funding should go on prevention — helping people to avoid ill health and thereby reducing pressures on cash-strapped NHS and council services. It is a false economy to cut these budgets.”
The capital’s town halls believe it is more important than ever to invest in public health.
London has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity among similarly sized cities; 8,400 Londoners die because of a smoking-related illness every year; and there were more than 113,000 new sexually transmitted infections diagnosed in the capital last year.
The move could also hit Health Visitor and Family Nurse Practitioner services for children under five, which transferred to councils last month.
London Councils has already warned that handling public health funding differently to the wider NHS, simply because it moved across to councils in 2013, was “unfair and short-sighted”.