Somerset County Council is putting the health of Somerset’s residents first with a £10m boost to embed public health across all areas of council services.
In announcing its spending plans for 2021/22, the County Council has confirmed investment to keep our residents safe, improve people’s physical and mental wellbeing, and help the county recover from the unparalleled impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cllr David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “As we look ahead to the next 12 months there is nothing more important than the health of our county – whether that’s physical, mental or economic.
“We’re today setting out our top priorities and I’m pleased to confirm we will be investing more than £10m in key public health areas to help our residents and communities on the road to recovery.”
The major investment will include £2m to support Somerset communities – helping address anxiety and those with mild mental health issues. There will be programmes to help people who have been shielding to regain their strength and physical conditioning, as well as encouraging everyone to either keep healthy habits or to lose unhealthy ones they may have picked up during lockdown.
There will a further £2m expanding Somerset’s expert health protection programme – this is the hugely-successful work carried out by SCC’s public health team and redeployed staff throughout the pandemic. As society opens back up, the key focus will be on controlling outbreaks, managing testing, providing localised contact tracing, and supporting businesses and communities.
Although the situation in Somerset and further afield is improving, some funding will be invested in research and work to improve our understanding of Covid and the changing needs of the Somerset population as a result of the pandemic. Other funding will be reserved in case infection rates rise again and further response is required.
Another major investment will be working with businesses and communities to tackle the inequalities in vaccine uptake, both for Covid and flu – vital to reduce pressure on the NHS next winter. By tackling health inequalities such as heart and circulatory disease we can help reduce the impact on those who are unfortunate enough to catch Covid.
A further £500,000 will be made available for town and parish councils to help them reconnect with their communities by safely reopening facilities like halls, rooms and other sites with good prevention control measures in place.
Cllr Fothergill added: “This is a big set of spending plans – investing to keep our county as safe as possible and to improve people’s mental and physical wellbeing. But there is more to come and we’re acutely aware of the impact of lockdowns on our economy, on jobs and on people. We’re working on a further plan to support local businesses, to help people get on the jobs ladder and to kickstart Somerset’s recovery. More on this will follow soon.”