SUFFOLK has been given £25.6million to help fight obesity, alcohol misuse and other health issues in its most deprived areas.

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The award, from the Department of Health, is part of Whitehall reforms that has transferred public health budgets from the NHS to county councils.

The amount given to Suffolk represents a 2.8% increase on last year, while Essex’s figure has risen 3.2% to £48.8m.

Colin Noble, cabinet member for health at Suffolk County Council, said the money would be targeted to improve the county’s health inequalities.

He added: “It would be reasonable to say when you look at figures for childhood obesity, smoking and drinking you find in the more deprived areas these rates are higher so we are looking to be that targeted.

“One of the biggest problems for any authority, including Suffolk, is the difference in life expectancy, there’s a 10 to 15-year difference depending on where you are in the county.

“We deliver sports facilities and help community groups and we have a massive preventative agenda so public health coming across to us fits really well.”

Kathy Pollard, health spokeswoman for Suffolk Lib Dems, said: “There are advantages to giving county councils control of public health budgets in terms of joined-up services with social care and education in particular.

“However what will be needed is very strong scrutiny of that expenditure to make sure that it’s being targeted effectively.

“The county council has been preparing but I don’t feel as a county councillor that we’re prepared.”

Suffolk MP Dan Poulter, a junior health minister, said: “Suffolk will be receiving £25,600,000, and Suffolk County Council will have a new responsibility to improve our health and wellbeing – from better looking after older people, to transport, housing and planning, everything will be designed to get people healthier.

“Exactly how Suffolk County Council do this will be up to them. The council understands the needs of our different community in Suffolk and will be well-placed to work with local schools to ensure that young people get the right start towards a healthy life.

“Suffolk County Council will be able to focus on those issues that affect local communities the most, and for the first time, will have the money and the power to make a real difference to improve the health of the people of Suffolk.”

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