GOVERNMENT promises of extra cash for public health services have been branded "perverse" by council spending chiefs.

Durham County Council looks set to receive an extra £2.5m from ministers next year, following the announcement of a "real terms increase" to the Public Health Grant.

But it has prompted bosses to repeat fears that the short term boost could be quickly followed by a cut of about £18m.

“The government has announced, and this is slightly perverse, a real terms increase in the public health grant next year,” said Jeff Garfoot, the council’s head of corporate finance.

“For us that is about £2.5m, which is great news. But we probably dare not spend any of that because next year we could also lose £18m.

“I’m sure our public health team will welcome any increases and find interesting and innovative ways of investing that, but it will probably have to be on one-off things.”

Mr Garfoot was speaking at a meeting of the council’s Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Management Board, which also heard the spending bosses at County Hall expect to lose about £10m from budgets over five years following the completion of the government’s Fair Funding Review, which has faced several delays and is currently expected to be published in 2020.

The Public Health Grant is given to local authorities every year to support long term health initiatives not directly linked to NHS services, such as obesity, drug and alcohol services and sexual health programmes.