Councillors ‘reluctantly’ approved Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) public health budget for the next three years at Monday’s Policy committee, on April 8.

Changes to the budget include a £353,000 reduction in funding for health visits, a £153,000 cut to sexual health services and a £118,000 drop in drug and alcohol treatment funding.

An extra £474,000 will go into non-voluntary sector support delivered by adults care and health services.

The council has drawn on all of its contingency budget of £168,000 to ensure financial sustainability.

The Public Health Grant Budget has reduced by £1.6 million since 2014, with a 2.6 per cent reduction for 219/20.

Councillor Graeme Hoskin, lead member for Health and Wellbeing, said the council want to invest more in public services but has less and less money available to it.

He added: “I think it is the best we can do in very difficult times for public health.

“After about a hundred years of increasing life expectancy, as a result of cuts to council services, that progress is stalling. People are starting to die younger than they used to.

“What we really want to do is look at how we can invest more in essential public services, preventative services that we know will pay off.

“But we have less and less money available to us due to the drastic government cuts.”

Councillor David Stevens said it is ‘over simplistic’ to say that government spending was driving the reduction in life expectancy.

The Public Health Grant is provided by the government to support local authorities in improving the health of people in their areas.

Councillor Rob White criticised the cuts and voted against the budget, calling for the government to adequately funding public services ‘for a healthier town’.

Councillor Liz Terry, lead member for Children, said she is also against the cuts ‘but the council has to be responsible’.

Jo Lovelock, leader of the council, concluded the debate, criticising the government for forcing councils to cut back on preventative work due to budget reductions.