Reading Borough Council has had a rethink on how it is spending its public health budget for the next year, following a public consultation.
A weight management support service which had been stopped in late 2018, will now be able to run from this April. Plans to reduce a stop-smoking service will also be delayed, while more effort is put into getting people from disadvantaged communities to give up the habit.
However, other services will be taking a large cut, including health visitors, down by £266,000 to £2,947,000. Spending on a drug and alcohol service will also go down by £118,000 to £1,831,000 and sexual health services will lose £53,000.
People who responded to the council’s consultation mostly mentioned the importance of parks and open spaces for keeping residents healthy. Swimming was also mentioned, in the wake of some pool closures in the borough. Around 260 people gave individual feedback and 35 people and organisations – including Healthwatch Reading - attended a consultation meeting in December.
The proposed budget and results from the public consultation, are set out in papers being discussed at the council’s policy committee on 8 April. They state that Reading will receive a Public Health grant allocation for 2019/20 of £9.500m, a 2.65% reduction of £258,000k on the £9.758m 2018-19 grant.
Councils took over responsibility for public health budgets from the NHS in 2012.
Reading people to be surveyed further
The council's public health budget plans commit to carrying out further research into what local people think about activity and exercise in general, their local leisure centres/facilities, and what would encourage them to use them to use these facilities in the future. It will also identify barriers to activity.
This research will include an online survey, a 500 sample face to face street survey, followed by a series of ten in-depth focus groups. The aim is to target particular groups of residents whose views are less often heard via traditional consultation routes, e.g. older people, BME groups, people with disabilities, inactive young women etc, the council says.