The handover of responsibility for public health from primary care trusts to local authorities could be a “car crash”, the Labour party has warned.

The responsibility and budgets for public health transferred from the NHS to local councils this week.

Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott has warned about disparity in the distribution of money to local authorities.

The pot to cater for public health needs of people who live in Westminster stands at £132 per person for the next financial year, she said.

By contrast, in Leicester there is only £60 per person for 2013-14.

Ms Abbott said: “In principle I support the handover of public health to local authorities. But in practice, because the government has been so preoccupied with the wider NHS re-organisation, this handover could be a car crash.

“The government only announced the public health financial allocations a few weeks ago. This was far too late and has made it impossible for local authorities to plan properly.

“The distribution has been blatantly unfair. The amounts per head of population will vary wildly, from £22 per head in Windsor and Maidenhead to £132 in Westminster. There is also no weighting towards the public health needs of children and young people, whose frontline services are already being cut in some areas.

“It is wrong that this government is unleashing this careless lottery.”

The Department of Health said that for the first time health and social care services will be “designed around the needs of the local community”.

Public Health England, one of the new organisations set up under the health reforms, said that local government is the “natural leader” for improving the health of local communities.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said: “For the first time in 40 years local authorities will have a legal responsibility for improving the health of their communities.

“Local government is the natural leader for this task - they will be able to place health and wellbeing in the wider context of the local economy, housing, leisure, education, crime and community resilience, and have the skills, knowledge and passion to provide public health services designed for the needs of their local population.

“PHE’s role will be to encourage and inspire. We will support national and local government and the NHS by providing professional advice, knowledge and evidence, and help people to make healthier choices. We will also nurture the development of the public health system and the professional workforce, and regularly report on outcomes and progress - promoting success and having the courage to challenge where required.”