Funding for health action zones will rise by 37 per cent this year - but some local projects face budget cuts as the government directs cash at national priorities such as heart disease and cancer.

The Department of Health has issued letters to all 26 HAZs, setting out their budget allocations for the current year. Just under half are receiving less money for programme budgets.

But a DoH spokesperson stressed that total funding was rising from£87m to£120m.'This may be less than the HAZs were hoping to receive but it is still a substantial rise, ' she said.

Among the main areas affected are Tyne and Wear HAZ, where the local programme budget has been cut by£1.2m to£3.5m, and Manchester, Salford and Trafford HAZ, down by£1m to£2.8m.

Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham HAZ expressed disappointment at the announcement.

'It's rather disheartening as we haven't had enough time yet to really turn things around, ' said acting director Catherine MacDermott. 'We're a 'children first'' HAZ, but the government's national priorities are more concerned with adult health. Our budget for pilot projects has been cut by around 25 per cent so we're going to have to refocus what we're doing.'

Caroline Regan, chair of East London and the City HAZ, said she was relieved to finally receive notification of this year's funding.

'Our budget is up£1.6m for schemes targeted at cancer, heart disease and mental health. But we're disappointed that our 14 per cent increase is well below the average'.

Sandwell HA chief executive Neil Lockwood said his HAZ received a letter from health minister John Hutton in April praising the organisation for its 'leading edge' work.

'We believe we're on the right lines. Our mainstream programme has taken a drop in the order of£300,000, but we're not too worried. It doesn't matter where money comes from as long as it comes from somewhere - and we believe it will.'

John Nicholson, chief executive of the UK Public Health Association, said: 'The government desperately wants HAZs to be effective, but it also wants to achieve its national priorities and the two don't always add up.'