Councils face fresh confusion over their public health budgets, after the Department of Health cast doubt on a claim by the Department for Communities & Local Government that the funding would rise from £2.2bn to £2.6bn.
A press statement from DCLG said councils would “benefit from the Department of Health’s increase to its public health grant” which it said was “up from £2.2bn to £2.6bn.”
It said: “This additional ring fenced grant will give each authority more resources to spend on their public health priorities.”
However, a DH spokesman told HSJ sister title Local Government Chronicle that no final decision had been made about the budget.
Meanwhile, it is understood that the department will delay its announcement of councils’ individual public health budgets until next year, on the grounds that it needs extra time to put together a two-year - rather than a one-year - settlement.
The move will frustrate local authority finance directors, who are working to tight deadlines to put together next year’s budgets. It means councils will have just three months between learning of their public health budgets and becoming responsible for the services in April 2013.
Confusion was sparked this morning when the DH cancelled a briefing with senior local government and public health experts at the last minute.
A small group of senior local government and public health experts was due to meet officials this morning to learn the details of councils’ allocations for public health - which they are set to become responsible for in April. But the briefing was cancelled just hours before.
The budgets had been widely expected to be made public today, alongside the local government finance settlement.
LGC understands the department has put together a plan to address councils’ fears about gaps in public health funding, after it emerged that some councils would not receive enough money to cover all of the public health services that they would inherit from primary care trusts.
The plan is understood to be “good news” for local government, but it is not clear whether it is subject to last-minute changes.
The Department of Health has faced last-minute calls for a fundamental change to its planned approach to public health funding, including a bid from eight central London councils this month.