Asymptomatic Covid-19 testing centre Lambeth
Asymptomatic Covid-19 testing centre Lambeth

Lambeth Labour’s Health Lead, Cllr Jim Dickson, is today calling on government to finally publish this year’s public health funding allocation to give Lambeth time to prepare for the year ahead. The new financial year begins in fewer than 10 weeks, yet incredibly government has still not published the public health allocation for Lambeth.

Lambeth Council is providing a range of services to help tackle Covid-19 infection rates, support the roll out of the vaccine and protect the vulnerable, yet Ministers have failed to publish the 2021/22 public health funding allocation – making detailed planning for the year ahead impossible.

The prolonged uncertainty comes at a time when councils across the country are facing wider budget cuts and pressure from central government to raise Council Tax by 5%.

  • In Lambeth, Covid-19 has cost the council £69 million.
  • Government has refused to fully reimburse councils for their work to protect vulnerable residents from Covid-19 and has forced them to increase council tax instead of providing government funding.

Issuing the call for government to finally publish the figures, Lambeth Labour’s Cllr Jim Dickson said:

“We are in the middle of the worst public health crisis in a hundred years, and yet the Government are forcing us to fight with one hand tied behind our back. The ongoing silence on public health is holding us back and that puts lives at risk. We need answers – now.

“From test and trace, to rolling out the vaccine, and now giving councils certainty in public health funding, this incompetent Conservative Government has repeatedly refused to work with local communities to deliver the best results. That means they have too been slow to act, systems have failed, and lives have been lost.

“Council budgets have been ripped apart by the cost of Covid, and now the Conservatives are asking local people to pay more and get less with a Tory Council Tax hike and reductions in services demanded from Whitehall.”

As the independent SAGE report advocated as far back as June 2020, ‘the most effective implementation of Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, Support is led locally through integrated services coordinated by Directors of Public Health’. Here in Lambeth we launched our own local contact tracing service in November 2020 which means we can contact residents which the national service has not been able to reach. The local scheme has improved contact tracing, enabled increased and targeted testing, including asymptomatic testing and also be better integrated into existing Council COVID support services. If local government is going to continue to step up where the government is failing, we need certainty and a proper funding commitment via the grant.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, has said that directors of public health and their teams desperately need certainty on how much they can budget for in 2021/22 to help their communities deal with the immediate impact of COVID-19.

According to LGA figures, public health funding grants to councils have been reduced by £700 million in real terms from 2015/16 to 2019/20. The lack of any new money for public health in the recent Spending Review will also likely lead to greater demand pressures on the NHS, which is already facing unprecedented challenges.

The Conservative-led LGA issued the following statement in frustration at the lack of clarity:

“Councils have been leading their communities throughout the pandemic. In the midst of the biggest public health crisis we have faced for generations, it is wrong for councils to be left in the dark about how much money they will receive for vital services which could further reduce the impact of coronavirus through keeping people healthy and well.

“It means that directors of public health and their teams, who have already done so much to protect their communities, cannot properly plan how to fund services to tackle excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, or meet the increased demand for health visitor or school nursing support.

“Only by investing in these services now, can we help prevent our residents from being more vulnerable to this deadly disease and any future such outbreaks, due to preventable health risks such as excess weight and other underlying conditions related to drug and alcohol abuse.”

ENDS

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