Local Authorities: Public Health

House of Lords written question – answered on 2nd July 2012.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they will ensure that in local authorities without a chief executive there is direct accountability of the Director of Public Health to the council leadership.

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they will ensure that local authorities follow Government guidance so that there is (1) direct accountability of the director of public health to the chief executive of the council, and (2) direct access for the Director of Public Health to elected members.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The organisation and structures of individual local authorities are matters for local leadership. However, later this summer we will publish guidance that local authorities must have regard to on the role and responsibilities of directors of public health. This will state that all directors of public health should have a direct line of accountability to their chief executive (or if their local authority has no chief executive, to the head of paid service) for the exercise of the local authority's public health function. It will also state that all directors of public health should have direct access to elected members of the authority.

This may or may not mean that the director is a standing member of their local authority's most senior corporate management team. That decision is for local authorities themselves and will be influenced by a number of factors. For example, the scope of the role of directors of public health may vary locally if an authority decides to extend their director's role beyond its core statutory responsibilities.

From April 2013 directors of public health will be appointed jointly by local authorities and the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will have a general statutory duty to promote local autonomy in so far as that is consistent with the interests of the comprehensive health service. This means that he may not intervene unnecessarily in decisions about matters such as the role or position within local authorities of directors of public health, but may intervene-and ultimately may refuse to agree a joint appointment-if he has reason to believe that an authority's proposals for the appointment would be detrimental to the interests of the local health service.

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