LABOUR has accused the Government of effectively cutting or freezing public health spending in areas where Covid cases are higher than the national average.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, who visited Hartlepool yesterday to campaign with Dr Paul Williams, the party’s candidate in the town’s by-election next month, said new pressure on public health spending would hit efforts to tackle the pandemic.

Labour said research by the House of Commons Library revealed that a total of 100 local authorities will receive no additional funding to their public health budgets per person once funding for the anti-HIV drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is taken into account.

The party said, although on paper public health funding for local authorities in 2021/2022 was £45.4 million 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.

Funding for PrEP has been allocated to local authorities from this month to cover costs associated with its provision – amounting to £23.4m, according to data released by the Government.

Labour said 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.

In the North-East, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Norhumbria and Redcar are among 31 local authorities to see a decrease in per capita funding this year, once PrEP is taken into account.

Per capita funding was static in County Durham, Darlington, Hartlepool and South Tyneside, according to the research.

According to the research, 20 per cent of councils in England will see a drop in funding for public health, with close to half of local authority budgets, remaining static.

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."

“Ministers promised to give councils the resources needed to protect their communities. 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.”

Labour has warned that without additional support there is a risk that some parts of the country could be left behind and potentially stuck in lockdown, should the regional tier system re-emerge.

According to the research commissioned by the party, 31 local authorities will experience a fall in per capita funding in this financial year.

Of the local authorities that will see a cut in allocation, two-fifths have case rates above the national average.

Almost 70 local authorities will experience no increase in per capita funding, the Commons Library research suggested.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are providing extensive support for directors of public health, and their teams, to protect and improve the public’s health and wellbeing during the current pandemic, and beyond.

“As well as making over £11 billion of funding available to local councils to support them with the costs and impacts of Covid-19, we are increasing the public health grant in 2021/22.

“This will ensure local authorities can continue to invest in prevention and essential frontline health services."