Campaign launched for ‘fairer’ public health funding

Enfield Civic Centre

Enfield Council expected to lose millions from dealing with pandemic, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Enfield Council is stepping up its campaign to get a better funding deal for public health from central government.

The local authority has launched a website where people can back its efforts to secure more money for public health and greater support for the costs of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Enfield receives significantly less public health funding than neighbouring boroughs, according to a council report. It gets just £50.01 per head, compared to £71.90 for Haringey and £108.14 for Islington.

Previous efforts by the council, local MPs and community groups to address local disparities in public health funding have only resulted in small increases.

The council is also down by more than £30million because of the cost of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic – and unless the government provides more help this may need to be covered by increasing fees and charges, making more cuts and using reserves.

It comes on top of the £193m cuts to spending the council has made since 2010, offsetting the cuts to grant funding from government and growing demand for services.

Council leader Nesil Caliskan wrote to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak in January to raise concerns over the government’s proposal to allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 5%.

Cllr Caliskan wrote: “This council tax increase will place the burden unfairly on our residents and communities, making it increasingly difficult for families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

“At a time when so many have lost their jobs or are earning less as a result of being on furlough, this is totally unacceptable.”

During a full council meeting last week, Cllr Caliskan claimed the government had failed to keep a promise made at the beginning of the pandemic to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with local councils.

Community First – a group of four ex-Labour councillors – backed the council’s lobbying efforts, but the Conservative group voted against, claiming the Labour administration had conflated several separate issues. The Tories said they had previously backed campaigns for more public health funding and would continue to do so.

Shadow cabinet member for finance James Hockey said the government had stepped up to address Covid-19 costs and that it was the local authority’s decision to increase council tax. The government has so far given Enfield Council £30.9m, while the current estimated shortfall to be met by the local authority is £64.6m

Cllr Hockney said: “Let’s focus on one issue – addressing the public health damping, rather than these political attacks that the administration keeps making on the government.”

For more information on the campaign:
Visit
 enfield.gov.uk/fairfunding