PAC: 20 per cent of local authorities are receiving the wrong amount of health funding

The PAC is concerned about high staff vacancy rates and a lack of money for incentives

 

Following a report by the IFS showing that spending cuts are continually hitting the poorest areas, the PAC has released an analysis of public health spending and how it is distributed between local authorities. The PAC concludes that:

“We are concerned that the Department of Health (the Department) is not getting local authorities to their target funding allocations for public health quickly enough, with nearly one third of 152 local authorities currently receiving funding that is more than 20 per cent above or below what would be their fair share.”

The PAC finds that although the Department has devised a funding formula to try to improve fairness after 51 of 152 local authorities were more than 20% above or below their target funding allocation in 2013-14, it has not increased its public health spend for 2015-16, leaving 41 areas with the wrong level of funding.

The report raises a number of concerns about the Department’s performance. They include:

  • High staff vacancy rates, which are undermining the profile and impact of public health work. The PAC finds that 20 per cent of director positions are filled by interim appointments, which weakens their impact and undermines consistency and development.
  • Some local authorities are spending relatively less on issues such as smoking prevention, leading to relatively poorer outcomes.
  • From 2015-16 there will be a be a new premium awarded to local authorities based on performance, a move designed to incentivise even better performance. But the PAC are concerned that, at £5 million in total, for the whole country, it is too small to make a meaningful difference.

The PAC also express concern about the uncertainty many local authorities feel regarding their future budgets, as the Department have stated that public health funding after 2016-17 will be decided during the next spending review

Furthermore, there is a lack of clarity about how money is being used. The PAC believes that it was not intended that local authorities should spend their ring-fenced money on services they had already been funding and providing from other budgets.

The Department was unable to give a figure for how much of the ring-fenced money had been diverted to support services previously funded by local authorities.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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