GOVERNMENT cuts totalling £3.3million to Worcestershire’s public health budget have been labelled ‘harsh’ by county council bosses.
The authority uses its Public Health Ring-fenced Grant to help people suffering from domestic abuse, homelessness and drug and alcohol addiction.
However, that support is set to be reduced and, in some cases, discontinued following Chancellor George Osborne’s plans to save £200million nationwide from the grant.
The news has left councillors in Worcestershire in ‘shock’ as they usually receive £26.5million from the Government which also offers provide financial support to community safety projects.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on July 17, Coun Adrian Hardman, leader of Worcestershire County Council, said he was disappointed with the announcement as he revealed the authority was facing double the size of cuts compared to others, such as Somerset County Council which is only seeing a £1.5million reduction.
“On average, across all the authorities, the cut is somewhere in the region of seven per cent whereas in Worcestershire it is 12 per cent,” he said.
“It does seem to me that the county is being treated really quite harshly compared to some of our neighbouring authorities.”
The county council has managed to maintain funding for some services but Coun Marcus Hart, cabinet member for health, said it was ‘exceptionally difficult’ to manage ‘in-year’ cuts as many services have had their funding reduced by ten per cent.
“These are initial proposals and over the course of the next few months as part of a consultation I will want to be engaging with our service providers.
“I want to talk through some of the proposals. For example, we are looking at reducing and removing the funding for community safety projects.
“What I wish to ensure is that we manage any reduction incrementally and in a measured way and importantly that any reductions don’t impact on our responsibilities.”
He also revealed they would be contacting Worcestershire’s six MPs in a bid to lobby the Government over the proposals.
Coun Sheila Bragg added: “This in-year cut came as a very unwelcome surprise when it was announced in June.
“I could even go as far as to say it was a shock.
“The implications of the cut will impact on our ability to deliver the duties as well as negatively effect other organisations involved in the areas of work and of course the providers of contracts.
“But we do need to actively manage the situation we find ourselves in.”