Public Health Budgets press release

November 01, 2017 4:12 PM

 

Taxpayers footing big bills for nanny-state interventions View it in your browser.

Embargoed until Wednesday 1st November 00:01

Revealed: the £230 million bill for public health schemes

  • New research with local data shows that many public health programmes are not measured by whether they are cost effective, or even if they work at all.
  • In 2015-16, public health authorities in the UK spent an extraordinary £230 million on programmes to stop people eating sugary foods, drinking alcohol or smoking.
  • Bills for changing just one person's behaviour can run into the thousands.
The TaxPayers' Alliance has found that taxpayer-funded programmes - which seek to police our lifestyle habits - have proved to be remarkably bad value for money, with some costing more than £9,000 per person.  

The new report examines the spending and delivery of four public health initiatives in every public health authority across the UK. Out of 171 local public health authorities contacted, over 50 confirmed that they do not measure for cost effectiveness for any of their projects 
The paper has a full local breakdown of the data, including the highest areas of spending in each region of the United Kingdom.

Key findings: 
  • The total amount spent by public health authorities in the UK in 2015-16 was at least £235,160,984 on smoking, physical activity, obesity and alcohol reduction public health interventions.
  • The average spend for each of the 171 public health authorities assessed was £1,679,721.
  • 22 per cent of interventions did not use a cost effectiveness measure, or near equivalent:
    • Of the 146 who responded and had a smoking intervention, 31 did not list a cost effectiveness measure. 
    • Of the 114 who responded and had a physical activity intervention, 32 did not list a cost effectiveness measure.
    • Of the 127 who responded and had an obesity intervention, 28 did not list a cost effectiveness measure.
    • Of the 142 who responded and had an alcohol intervention, 28 did not list a cost effectiveness measure.
  • On average, each public health authority spent £718,634 on stop smoking programmes. This amounted to £568 for each successful quitter.
    • The City of London Corporation made the highest outlay per person for their smoking programmes, spending on average £2,407 for 182 people who stopped smoking.
  • On average, each public health authority spent £439,819 on physical activity programmes whose intention was to encourage residents to take up sport on a regular basis. This amounted to £484 for each person who subsequently took up sport at conclusion of the programme.
    • The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames made the highest outlay per person for their physical activity programmes, spending on average £2,212 for each person who subsequently took up sport.
  • On average, each public health authority spent £368,047 on obesity programmes which seek to reduce the weight of participants. This amounted to £912 for each person who lost weight.
    • Liverpool City Council made the highest outlay per person for their obesity programmes, spending on average £7,222 for each person who lost weight.
  • On average, each public health authority spent £1,059,136 on alcohol intake reduction programmes. This amounted to £4,601 for each person who reduced or stopped their consumption of alcohol.
    • The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea made the highest outlay per person for their alcohol programmes, spending on average £9,957 for each person who reduced their alcohol intake.
Whilst many public health authorities do not go into particular detail about the specific programmes that are provided, there are some examples of arcane spending which stand out:
  • Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council gave £75 to the Knowsley Flower Show as part of its physical activity spending within public health.
  • Bury Metropolitan Borough Council gave £7,500 to the 'Bury’d Treasure' scheme. This is “a pirate adventure game that’s perfect for families to have fun together.”
  • NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde used a portion of their £158,000 Healthier Inverclyde Project budget to deliver alcohol education and awareness sessions to primary school children.
This research calls into question the rationale for expensive government interventions. Public health officials and campaigners will argue that such interventions can save taxpayers’ money in the longer term, and reduce the ‘societal cost’ of such apparent behavioural ills.  Yet societal costs of alcohol, smoking and obesity can be defined very broadly. Savings to taxpayers are often lazily lumped together with other things, such as being a nuisance drunk.
 
CLICK HERE TO READ THE PAPER
The paper has a full local breakdown of the data, including the highest areas of spending in each region of the United Kingdom.

John O'Connell, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

"Taxpayers have had enough of being told what to eat, drink and how to spend their leisure time. Those who do want to make lifestyle changes are free to do so if they choose - there is no need for bureaucrats to blow our taxes on good behaviour schemes, especially if they are not measured for cost effectiveness. Education and information will mean that people can make up their own minds without the need for expensive and meddlesome projects."

 
TPA spokesmen are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast interviews via 07795 084 113 (no texts)

Media contacts

James Price
Campaign Manager, TaxPayers' Alliance
james.price@taxpayersalliance.com
24-hour media hotline: 07795 084 113 (no texts)

Notes to editors

1. Founded in 2004 by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum, and now with 80,000 supporters, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) fights to reform taxes, reduce spending and protect taxpayers. Find out more about the TaxPayers' Alliance at www.taxpayersalliance.com

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