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Local authority spending on drug and alcohol misuse cut by 15% over four years

Local authority spending on drug and alcohol misuse cut by 15% over four years

Figures published by Labour show the extent of cuts to local authority spending on drug and alcohol misuse services in recent years.

Total local authority budgets on drug and alcohol misuse fell from £762.37 million to £689.76 million in 2019/20.

In real terms this means a 15% cut over four years, the analysis done for the Labour Party by the House of Commons library shows.

Four local authorities – South Tyneside, Wiltshire, Staffordshire, and Medway – saw real-terms budget cuts of more than 40%, Labour said.

Overall just ten local authorities had increased their spending in this area since 2016.

Yet in 2020, a record 7,423 people in England and Wales died from diseases that were a direct consequence of alcohol; and 4,561 people died from causes related to drug poisoning.

Research from Public Health England has shown that alcoholic liver deaths accelerated like never before during the pandemic rising 21% between 2019 and 2020.

The PHE report also found that deaths from mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol increased by 11% between 2019 and 2020 compared to a 1% rise the year before but also that hospital admissions fell.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, said: ‘The UK’s tragically high Covid death tally brings into sharp focus the importance of improving people’s health. But years of Tory cuts to vital public health services have seen sickness increase and health inequalities widen.

‘It’s unacceptable for public health services that tackle alcohol and drug addiction are left so weakened because of deep cuts when we know that they can cause huge harm and death.

‘We need a new settlement for public health services, a clear target to reduce inequalities and action to minimise harm and help prevent so many dying from addiction.’

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said: ‘With deaths linked to alcohol and other drugs at an all time high, urgent action must be taken to save lives.

‘Treatment is essential to help those with alcohol dependence towards recovery but has long been underfunded and inaccessible to many. In England, only one in five dependent drinkers are in treatment and continual cuts to services denies help to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.’

He added they would be working with the Government on the forthcoming Addiction Strategy to ensure that the epidemic of alcohol harm gets adequate resources for prevention and treatment.

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