'Give Hartlepool the funds it needs' says Labour's shadow health secretary as he fights for Covid-ravaged areas to get better budgets

Places including Hartlepool should not face health budget cuts as they battle back from Covid, a leading Labour member has said ahead of a visit to the town.

Monday, 5th April 2021, 10:32 pm

The opposition party says public health budgets are effectively being cut or frozen in a host of areas where Covid-19 case rates are higher than the national average – adding that Hartlepool is among them.

It said new pressure on public health spending, which has impacted 2021/22 budgets, will hit efforts to tackle the pandemic, especially in “red wall” areas of traditional Labour heartlands where the Conservative Party saw victories during the 2019 election.

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Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth appearing on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show, last month. He will visit Hartlepool in the run-up to the forthcoming MP by-election on Thursday, May 6. Picture: PA.

Labour warns without additional support there is a risk some areas could be left behind and potentially stuck in lockdown, should the tier system re-emerge.

It comes as Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, prepared to visit Hartlepool in the lead-up to the MP by-election on Thursday, May 6, sparked after the resignation of Labour’s Mike Hill.

Labour said research by the House of Commons Library revealed 100 councils will receive no additional funding per person once funding for the anti-HIV drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is taken into account.

One in six areas set to miss out on an increase in cash currently have coronavirus case rates of more than 100 per 100,000.

The party said, although on paper public health funding for local authorities in 2021/2022 was £45.4million higher than in 2020/21, the uplift was in fact less than half that once added funding for rollout of PrEP has been taken into account.

Mr Ashworth said: “A strong local public health response is crucial to getting on the front foot in the battle against Covid in local areas.

“Disgracefully the Tories are cutting or freezing on a head-for-head basis the budgets available for public health teams in 100 towns and communities.

“Many of these areas are more deprived, have more people suffering from long-term illness or battling high infections rates.

“To fail to invest in public health is dangerous and irresponsible, risking communities being left behind and not fully protected.

“Rather than cutting budgets, ministers should keep their promise and give towns, including Hartlepool, Wakefield and Rochdale, the resources they need to drive infections down and vaccination rates up.”

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