South Gloucestershire councillors were advised yesterday that spending on alcohol and drugs misuse work in the district faces large cuts, and that this could have a knock-on effect on acquisitive crime rates. The district’s Director of Public Health was reporting on the measures he has had to take to manage an in-year cut of £557,000 in the public health budget.
The £557,000 cut is South Gloucestershire’s share of a £200 million nation-wide reduction announced by Chancellor George Osborne at the end of 2015, which has resulted in public health professionals up and down the country having to take a knife to budgets that they thought had been agreed for the year. Last month the Chancellor piled on the misery by imposing an additional £228,000 cut in the coming financial year, with another £242,000 on top of that the following year.
The council’s Adults, Housing and Public Health Committee was told that drug and alcohol services, and public health nursing which provides health visitors and school nurses, would bear the brunt of the cuts. When questioned by councillors, the Director conceded that the alcohol and drugs misuse cuts could lead to an increase in acquisitive crime and that the cuts could prove to be “a false economy” as costs are likely to rise in another part of the system to deal with the fallout.
Labour’s Lead Member on Adult Care and Public Health issues, Councillor Andy Perkins, comments:
“George Osborne likes to pretend that the Tory Government is safeguarding health spending but the truth is that non-NHS health budgets such as public health are being slashed. In all likelihood the NHS will have to pick up the needs and the costs associated with those cuts.
I am particularly alarmed by the possible impact on the level of acquisitive crime once these services are reduced. This comes just after the ruling Conservatives voted to scrap 9 Police Community Support Officers in our district. Our communities just aren’t safe under the Tories.”