Tower Hamlets residents are to fall victim to even more Tory austerity sanctioned by Labour Mayor John Biggs, this time as he passes on 100% of government cuts to health services. In a low profile Public Health mini-budget, Mayor Biggs is planning to chop £2.3million from the current year’s public health budget – with another £2.7 million due to be cut before the end of the financial year.
The Department of Health has cut its Public Health Grant to Tower Hamlets for 2016/17 by £5 million, reducing it to £36.9 million. Mayor Biggs decided to pass this cut directly on to the public. His draft cuts proposals were agreed at Cabinet on 10th May and were then put out to public consultation, which closed on 16th June. Final proposals are due to be presented to the Cabinet on 26th July, together with a formal Equalities Impact Assessment where it is anticipated that Mayor Biggs will endorse his own cuts options.
The cuts in government funding were made in the knowledge of concerning levels of bad health suffered by residents in Tower Hamlets, which is much worse than the national average. Tower Hamlets has among the highest levels of early deaths from conditions such as cancer, heart disease, strokes, lung disease and liver disease. Life expectancy in the most deprived parts of the borough is nine years lower in men and four years lower for women than the national average.
Investing in public health measures now (such as smoking cessation and health education) would save public money in the long term, as well as giving residents longer and more active lives.
Councillor Abdul Asad, the Independent Group’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Public Health, said: “These cuts will have a devastating impact on some of the neediest and the most vulnerable people of our community. The award-winning breast feeding support service is being slashed by 20% – resulting in 700 fewer women receiving support. The report itself states that cutting £200k from acute sexual health services for young people will be challenging. Services which have been successful, such as tobacco enforcement, are being cut back not because their job is done, but just to save money – so we can expect the good work to start unravelling.”
Cllr Oli Rahman, Leader of the Independent Group, said: “What is John Biggs playing at? These aren’t Labour values. He’s passed these government cuts on to the public without even protesting to the Government about them. He found the money to give himself a pay rise, but he didn’t even look for any money to mitigate this cut in funding. “The saddest part is that the savings which Councils deliver to the Tory Government today will be spent out tomorrow by the NHS. I’d rather see public spending going on helping people have longer active lives, but it seems John Biggs prefers to let local residents do without and then fall into the safety net of the NHS. What a waste.”