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The government’s radical public health reforms could stall unless new Health and Wellbeing Boards are given greater legislative clout, localism think tank NLGN warns today.
To succeed, the new boards need to be able to influence everything from social care and planning to school immunisations and housing. But NLGN’s new report finds scepticism among councils about whether the boards can survive on ‘soft power’ alone, combined with concerns about a potential lack of public engagement in the work of the new institutions.
Drawing on a new survey of over 50 councils and interviews with 28 senior officials involved in setting up the new boards, NLGN’s new report Healthy Places: Councils leading on public health, calls for a range of new powers:
- A explicit ‘duty to cooperate’ with HWBs for public bodies such as free schools
- Call-in powers that would give HWBs a say in the health implications of major commissioning decisions by other council departments
- “Health and wellbeing deals” with central government to support budget pooling around the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy
- An explicit strategy for increasing public engagement in the agenda.
Report author, Daria Kuznetsova, said:
“Health and wellbeing agenda boards offer a real opportunity to reshape local public services, but without tougher powers they risk falling between organizational silos. A small number of hard, statutory powers could turbo charge the new boards and ensure the emergence of a new generation of health improving councils.”
The report also calls for much greater joint working in two tier areas, where district councils control many of the services that the county’s health and wellbeing board needs to influence.