Labour Councillors have reacted angrily to the news that there will be no extra money for Bedford Borough’s Public Health team next year.
After a year of tackling a pandemic which has exposed and exacerbated the health inequalities caused by a decade of austerity and a diminished public health system, the Tory Government has signalled that Public Health will receive a below-inflation increase of 0.7%, which is in effect, a real-terms cut.
After a year of waste, dither and delay resulting in 126,000 deaths so far, the impact of Covid-19 will likely be felt for decades, and a range of locally driven Public Health initiatives will be needed to tackle not only the aftermath of the pandemic, but the inequalities that have been highlighted by it.
Portfolio Holder for Public Health & Wellbeing, Councillor Louise Jackson said:
“Our officers have been working flat out with businesses, schools and communities to contain outbreaks and respond to the multitude of challenges that this pandemic has thrown their way. It is the local teams that have often found themselves picking up the pieces when the Government’s dubious policy choices have resulted in rising infection rates.”
“It is our team right here in Bedford Borough that is making a real difference with tracing contacts, and helping people not only to isolate but to access money, food and medical supplies when they need it. It is the local teams that are engaging with hard to reach groups and trying to drive up vaccination rates.”
“Throughout the last 12 months we have seen all to clearly how locally driven Public health responses are the ones that matter, and for that not to be recognised in this funding announcement is not only an insult to local authority Public Health teams up and down the country, but will prevent us from tackling the issues that we really need to address”.
Bedford Borough Labour Group Leader Sue Oliver added: “This Tory Government has totally failed to acknowledge how crucial the work and expertise of our Public Health Officers has been throughout the pandemic. Their refusal to give them sufficient resources to meet the immense challenges we now face, is a disgrace on a par with their insulting 1% pay offer to NHS workers.”