Formula funding is unlikely to rank high in the list of popular conversation topics. It is not something that comes to mind, even when we are pleased with or concerned about our local public services. Given the technicalities involved in setting funding formulae, it is not unreasonable to assume that the government is getting it right: that robust mechanisms are in place to ensure that services that are ultimately paid for and owned by the public are being resourced in ways that concur with public values. Yet, as Professor Sheena Asthana and Dr Alex Gibson have discovered over many years of researching this area, formula funding is not an exact science. It is a process that has been subject to a lack of clarity with respect to the objectives of resource allocation, to technical errors, a lack of transparency and considerable inequality regarding per capita allocations against underlying service need. With the exception of the NHS, coastal communities have been arguably underfunded across a range of government sectors. Our work explores why this is the case and how unfair funding is related to other coastal challenges, particularly those relating to the economy.
Digital inequity: a major health risk in coastal Britain
“Coastal communities [...] include many of the most beautiful, vibrant and historically important places in the country. They also have some of the worst health outcomes in England, with low life expectancy and high rates of many major diseases.”
Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer's Annual Report 2021
Researchers at the University of Plymouth, including Professor Ray Jones and Professor Sheena Asthana – who contributed to the Chief Medical Officer's Report – and Professor Katharine Willis have been working to address digital inequities and poor health outcomes in our coastal communities.
Promoting policy to end coastal poverty
The Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research brings together world-leading research from across the University to improve the health and care of the South West and beyond. Professor Sheena Asthana, the Institute's director, is a leading advocate for improved distribution of funds to ensure fairer access to healthcare for all, focusing her attention on communities disproportionately lacking in support.
"We need to make a better clarification between addressing health inequalities and promoting equal access to equal need; making sure that the people who need the healthcare access are able to get it, and it’s not dependent on a postcode lottery." – Professor Sheena Asthana