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Minister accused of ‘dumping’ alcohol misuse onto local authorities

A government minister has been accused of ‘dumping' the prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse onto local authorities.

Appearing before the Health Select Committee last month, public health minister Anne Milton was questioned by MPs over the budget for prevention, identification and advice and for treatment of alcohol problems currently managed by PCTs.

Ms Milton and her officials told the committee the alcohol budget would form part of a ringfenced £2.2 million budget to be given to local authorities which would also cover other areas such as drugs, sexual health and obesity.

But committee member, Rosie Cooper, Labour MP for West Lancashire said it was a mistake to think that ‘dumping' alcohol strategy on local authorities would solve the problem.

'The people involved here seem to think that the problem will be solved simply by taking it from the PCTs and dumping it on local authorities where the pressures are great. Social care is going to be a bigger and bigger problem and it is wrong to think that alcohol is going to be a really high priority unless somebody is in charge of actually making it happen.

'If we just say, 'The local authorities can do it' we are going to be still talking about this in 10 years' time with very little difference from where we are."

Anne Milton said it was ‘offensive' to say that public health had been ‘dumped' on local authorities.

But Ms Cooper added: ‘You have dumped public health on local authorities. They would need a massive injection of resources to make that really work. They are desperate in terms of social care and, because of the cuts that have been made to local government, they are in a really difficult position."

Ms Milton responded: ‘This is not dumping public health. This is putting public health where we think we can make a difference, not just improving the public's health but reducing inequalities in health which continue to rise. Public health has a good home."

The Local Government Association´s written submission which also gave evidence to the select committee said the public health challenges facing local authorities were ‘significant'.

Paul Ogden, senior health adviser at the LGA added: ‘The challenges have changed considerably since the nineteenth century but our role remains pivotal. Over recent years, public health policy and practice have become increasingly medicalised, narrowly targeted and fragmented. Local government is now reasserting its role in improving the health