Labour said cutting public health budgets during a pandemic is "unthinkable".
The secretively-funded Taxpayers Alliance think-tank has labelled Public Health England “bloated” in an email to supporters.
The think tank’s “grassroots campaign manager” Harry Fone called it a “bloated agency – financed to the tune of £4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money ever year”.
The Taxpayers Alliance has long campaigned against Public Health England which it sees as part of the “nanny state”.
Labour’s shadow minister for public health and patient safety Alex Norris criticised the think tank. He said that reducing public health spending during a global pandemic is “unthinkable”.
Public Health England was set up in 2013 and is tasked with improving the nation’s health.
Of the £4bn it spent last year, £3bn was granted to local authorities. The local authorities use this money to fund things like sexual health and drug and alcohol misuse services.
Public Health England’s budget is also spent on measures to reduce obesity and smoking rates.
The Taxpayers Alliance email criticised these measures in its email. “For too long, they’ve focused on lecturing the public about what to eat and drink,” said Harry Fone.
Coronavirus causes breathing problems and research shows smokers are more likely to get the disease and to die from it.
Obese people are also more likely to die from coronavirus. One of the government’s leading coronavirus experts, Professor Neil Ferguson, has recommended people lose weight so that they have a better chance of survival.
According to analysis by the IPPR think tank, the amount spent on public health services decreased by £870m between 2014 and 2019.
Alex Norris said: “Public Health spending makes a critical difference to our communities. This is spent primarily by local authorities on crucial, evidence-based local interventions around tackling substance abuse, reducing smoking, helping children get the best start and improving sexual health. The rest is spent nationally to protect our health from things like COVID-19. It is unthinkable that we would reduce this during a global pandemic.”
The Taxpayers Alliance was criticised recently after it called for “spending restraint” to pay off the government debts run up dealing with the coronavirus.
In November 2018 the Guardian revealed it had received US$100,000 from a billionaire-funded religious trust incorporated in the Bahamas.
It is one of nine think tanks linked to an address in London’s Tufton Street. These include the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the climate-change denying Global Warming Policy Federation.
Several former employees of the TPA and IEA are now in government. The TPA’s former campaign manager Chloe Westley is now a special adviser to Boris Johnson.
The IEA claimed in July 2019 that 14 of Boris Johnson’s cabinet ministers are alumni of IEA initiatives. They said it was the “most free-market cabinet since Thatcher”.
Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward