Public health bosses have warned they will face “hard choices” over key front-line services amid concerns their budget will be cut by 12 per cent.
North Yorkshire’s director of public health Dr Lincoln Sargent issued the warning over services ranging from health visitors and sexual health clinics to treatment for drug and alcohol addiction ahead of the first reduction in the county’s £25m budget for the services since responsibility for them was transferred to it from the NHS in 2013.
Council officers say while the precise government funding has yet to be calculated, public health services are likely to lose £3m funding annually across rural North Yorkshire, which has historically had significantly less funding for the services than the surrounding urban areas.
Dr Lincoln Sargent told a meeting of the county council’s executive “continuous transformations and continuous efficiencies” had been implemented to maintain services on a similar budget for the past six years.
He added: “If you have less money you cannot continue to get the same activities level. There does come a point that if we don’t have the money to spend that you cannot expect the same level of high quality service.
“I think we are at that point where unless magically the spending power we have changes we are going to have to make some hard choices about what frontline services look like. What we cannot guarantee is that we will continue to have world class services if we can’t afford to pay for them.”
In a bid to avert major service cutbacks the authority will use funds saved from previous years and is holding talks with service providers about making efficiencies and saving funds by offering longer contracts.
The council’s executive member for public health Councillor Caroline Dickinson issued assurances that people in North Yorkshire would continue to receive a comprehensive set of services.
She said: “It is looking at how we can deliver what is needed in a different way. We have got to try and think outside the box so that these services can still be there despite having less money to do it.
“People see council tax go up and so they think councils have a lot of money.
“Over the past few years it has been reducing so we have had to keep seeing where savings can be made and a lot of savings have been made. Now we are coming down to having a serious look in other areas.
“We have always delivered high quality services in North Yorkshire and we want to continue to do that, but within a smaller envelope.”