Suffolk’s £25m grant to tackle county’s health issues

Waveney MP Peter Aldous.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous. - Credit: Archant © 2012

SUFFOLK has been given £25.6million to help fight obesity, alcohol misuse and other health issues in its most deprived areas.

The award, from the Department of Health, is part of Whitehall reforms that has transferred public health budgets from the NHS to county councils.

The amount given to Suffolk in 2013/14 represents a 2.8pc increase on last year and equates to £35 per head, with the county council also to receive £26.2m the following financial year.

Welcoming the news, Waveney MP Peter Aldous said a large chunk of the money would be going directly to Lowestoft, Beccles and Bungay to help improve the health of local people.

Mr Aldous said: 'We want everyone to have a long and healthy life in Suffolk, but in spite of the many initiatives launched in the last two decades, previous Governments have failed to tackle the causes of ill health and premature death.

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'People are still smoking, consuming high-fat foods and drinking too much, and we need to change this to help everyone live healthy, and longer lives. We need to be smarter in how we tackle the causes of ill health,' he added.

'Local councils are best placed to understand local health challenges and, given that they also have a responsibility for education, this £26m of ring-fenced Government funding means there is now a real potential for properly targeted and co-ordinated public health interventions in our schools, which will help our children to make a healthy start to their lives in Suffolk.'

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Colin Noble, cabinet member for health at Suffolk County Council, said the money would be targeted to improve the county's health inequalities.

He added: 'It would be reasonable to say when you look at figures for childhood obesity, smoking and drinking you find in the more deprived areas these rates are higher so we are looking to be that targeted.

'One of the biggest problems for any authority, including Suffolk, is the difference in life expectancy, there's a 10 to 15-year difference depending on where you are in the county.

'We deliver sports facilities and help community groups and we have a massive preventative agenda so public health coming across to us fits really well.'

Kathy Pollard, health spokeswoman for Suffolk Lib Dems, said: 'There are advantages to giving county councils control of public health budgets in terms of joined-up services with social care and education in particular.

'However what will be needed is very strong scrutiny of that expenditure to make sure that it's being targeted effectively.

'The county council has been preparing but I don't feel as a county councillor that we're prepared.'

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP, Dan Poulter, a junior health minister, said: 'Suffolk will be receiving £25,600,000, and Suffolk County Council will have a new responsibility to improve our health and wellbeing – from better looking after older people, to transport, housing and planning, everything will be designed to get people healthier.

'Exactly how Suffolk County Council do this will be up to them. The council understands the needs of our different community in Suffolk and will be well-placed to work with local schools to ensure that young people get the right start towards a healthy life.

'Suffolk County Council will be able to focus on those issues that affect local communities the most, and for the first time, will have the money and the power to make a real difference to improve the health of the people of Suffolk.'

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