SWIMMING pools and libraries should be saved using NHS cash, council critics have said.
Newcastle Council is one of many in the region to be handed a say over how millions of pounds of NHS cash will be spent in future.
The money comes from that previously spent by PCTs on local health issues, with the seven North East councils handed more than £136m.
In Newcastle this will mean an extra £20m a year, money campaigners and some councillors say could be used to save pools from the axe.
The money is currently spent on other health demands, meaning any change to support one service would have to come at the cost of another.
But, Liberal Democrats say, even with this mind there will be ways to safeguard healthy living activities at swimming pools or increase the health role of library buildings.
Former council leader David Faulkner said: “Such a large amount of money must allow scope for improved value for money, greater efficiency and more targeted commissioning. Why can’t some of the money go towards saving swimming pools as a direct way of tackling obesity and improving health?”
Newcastle Council has said the money cannot be used to cover budget issues elsewhere.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Too many people die too early from diseases that can be prevented. I want more people to be able to look forward to an independent and active old age and developing high-quality public health services is essential to make this a reality.
“This announcement is a major investment and a step toward securing these services for the areas that need them most.
“By putting local authorities in charge of public health, we are giving them the power, freedom and the funding to tackle the issues that blight their local areas and help improve the lives of their local communities.
“Improving the health of local people will be at the heart of everything they do, from social care to transport, housing, planning and environment.”