Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board – Supplementary written evidence (INQ0087)
Letter from Cllr Ian Hudspeth following his evidence session on Tuesday, 28 January 2020
Thank you for your kind invitation to provide evidence to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into Ageing: Science, Technology and Healthy Living. During the evidence session I was asked for examples of prevention services that have been affected by the public health funding cuts, and I am writing to provide some further information on this.
As I alluded to during the evidence session, public health funding in England has been cut in real terms by £700 million between 2015/16 and 2019/20. Although councils have been acting to manage these funding reductions without impacting on outcomes, they have reached the limit of available efficiencies.
As evidence provided to the Committee noted, it is vital that we take a life course approach to promote healthy ageing. Yet non-statutory interventions to address issues such as teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug misuse, physical inactivity, and sexually transmitted infections have been placed under huge strain in recent years due to a lack of funding.
For example, demand for sexual health services is continuing to grow. Attendances at sexual health services have increased by five per cent in the last year and by 20 per cent over the last six years. Drug misuse deaths have been increasing in recent years. Services need to be adequately equipped to cater for the needs of an ageing cohort of opiate users, as well as emerging trends such as chemsex and the use of Novel Psychoactive Substances. Councils have been working hard to manage the double challenge of increasing demand and budget reductions so that they don’t impact on patient care, but without additional investment it will not be possible to maintain the same level of service and tackle these new threats. This will lead to longer waiting lists and lower availability of service provision.
The LGA is continuing its calls for the Public Health Grant to be restored and placed on a long-term sustainable footing for the future, with the additional money used by local authorities to help avert the onset of disease and reduce the burden on NHS and social care. At the time of writing, the Government is yet to publish the Public Health Grant for 2020/21. This delay is making it extremely difficult for councils to plan effectively, and we are calling on Government to provide urgent clarity on this.
During the session, Lord Browne also asked whether councils ever revoked licences where premises had served alcohol to people who had already consumed too much and I wanted to further elaborate on my answer. Whilst it is an offence under the Licensing Act to knowingly serve alcohol to a drunk or to obtain alcohol for someone who is drunk, in reality licensing authorities have struggled with enforcement around this and prosecutions are very low.
Councils are working hard, in partnership with local businesses, to raise awareness of this issue, share best practice, and provide training for bar staff. More could be done by the licenced trade around social responsibility.
Ultimately, councils need greater powers to consider health in licensing decisions and we have consistently called for a health objective to be included in the Licensing Act. There is strong support for a health objective among Public Health Directors. In 2016 an LGA survey of Directors of Public Health revealed that many were finding practical barriers to effectively contributing a health perspective to licensing decisions. 89 per cent of Directors of Public Health who responded said a health objective would be helpful to them.
I hope that this further information is helpful to the Committee, and if the LGA can be of further assistance please do let me know.
5 February 2020
 Local Government Association. (2019) ‘Health and local public health cuts’. https://www.local.gov.uk/parliament/briefings-and-responses/health-and-local-public-health-cuts-house-commons-14-may-2019
 Local Government Association. (2019) ‘LGA responds to latest sexually transmitted infections data’. https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/lga-responds-latest-sexually-transmitted-infections-data
 LGA (2016) ‘LGA Survey: Public Health and the Licensing Process’ https://local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/public-health-and-licensi-27d.pdf