Wirral MP seeks clarification from health secretary on government’s public health spending for next year
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16 Dec 2020
Margaret Greenwood, MP for Wirral West, has written to the government’s health secretary Matt Hancock to seek clarification on the amount of funding local authorities will receive through the public health grant for 2021-22 following an exchange with him in Parliament.
On 25 November, as part of the government’s Spending Review, it was announced that, “Local authority spending through the public health grant will continue to be maintained” over the next financial year.
That prompted Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, the President of the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), to issue a statement saying that, “In the current circumstances, and following years of cuts to public health, it is completely incomprehensible that the Government is not increasing the public health grant” to local authorities next year.
Margaret Greenwood raised this matter with the health secretary in the House of Commons, asking him to “pay heed” to Dr de Gruchy’s comments and urging him to call on the Chancellor to give local public health teams the funding they need both to continue the fight against Covid-19 and for the longer term.
In his reply, the health secretary Matt Hancock stated: “We are increasing the public health grant next year…”
This response appeared to be at odds with the Chancellor's statement. As a result, the Wirral West MP sought further information from the Department of Health and Social Care in the form of a written parliamentary question on what the magnitude of the increase to the 2021-22 public health grant will represent in relation to this year’s funding.
However, the response which she received from a junior health minister, confirmed what the Chancellor had initially stated, i.e. that local authority spending through the public health grant will merely be ‘maintained’; there was no mention of an increase.
Margaret Greenwood MP said:
“This year it has been clearer than ever that the public health teams working in our local authorities do an incredibly important job.
"It's vital that they receive the funding they need to carry out their work, which is why I asked the Secretary of State if he would call on the Chancellor to give local public health teams the funding they need.
"10 years of austerity have really damaged our public services and the crisis that we have been dealing with this year makes the case for additional funding for public health departments all the more compelling.
"I am very concerned that the answer that the Secretary of State gave me did not tally with the Chancellor's statement or the response I have subsequently received from a junior health minister. We need answers from the Secretary of State about precisely what it is the government intends to do.
“I have written to Matt Hancock to ask him to set out clearly whether the public health grant will be increasing for next year and calling on him to ensure that public health departments receive the funding that they need to carry out their extremely important work.
“It is of vital importance, and indeed crucial to the public interest, that government ministers are fully transparent when answering questions from MPs in the House of Commons.
"The Secretary of State should sort out the confusion in his department and come forward and make a statement to clear this up."
You can read the statement from Dr de Gruchy, the President of the ADPH via this link: https://tinyurl.com/y29acjdn.
Margaret Greenwood MP’s exchange with health secretary Matt Hancock in the House of Commons can be read here: https://tinyurl.com/y3jm82jf. The response to her written parliamentary question can be read here: https://tinyurl.com/y8efo2m3.