Councillors to call for U-turn on health cuts

Sheffield Labour councillors are set to lobby Government to reverse a decision to cut £2.1 million from the authority’s public health budget.

The council has lost£300m from its budget since 2010, and chiefs expect more cuts of around £50m in 2016, although the accurate figure will not be known until later this year.

Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for public health and equality, said such funding was targeted at preventing health problems from developing.

Life expectancy is now ten years lower for men and seven years lower for women in the most deprived areas of Sheffield, compared to the least deprived areas, and Coun Iqbal said the cuts would disproportionately affect the worse off.

He said: “This is not money for money’s sake, we need this money to help us tackle huge issues like illnesses related to obesity, alcohol, smoking and a lack of exercise.

“This is money that is targeted at early interventions to prevent problems occurring in the first place.

“It’s about improving, and in some cases saving lives, and it saves money for the NHS later down the line.

“The Government needs to listen to what health professionals are saying and reverse these ill-timed and damaging cuts.”

A recommendation outlining Labour opposition to the cuts - as part of a report on the city’s public health - was passed at the most recent full meeting of Sheffield Council, but Liberal Democrat and Green councillors abstained froma vote, which Coun Iqbal said was ‘staggering.’

Coun Penny Baker, deputy leader of the Sheffield Liberal Democrats, said it voted for the other recommendations.

She added: “We decided to abstain on recommendation four because it was a new addition to recommendations. Labour told us this was based on information they had just received and they linked it with an attack on the Coalition Government. We hadn’t had time to read and confirm it so we had no choice but to abstain.”