The independent watchdog for Northamptonshire patients has had its council funding cut by almost a fifth.
Healthwatch Northamptonshire - which has statutory powers to hold the NHS and local authorities to account - has had the money it relies on from Northamptonshire County Council reduced by £80,000 to £335,000 for the coming year.
Healthwatch Northamptonshire would yesterday only say that it will be working with County Hall to ensure the reduced funds would allow it to carry out its functions as set out by law.
But Healthwatch England was much more abrasive, demanding justification from the county council.
Anna Bradley, chair of Healthwatch England, said: “On average local Healthwatch across the country receive less than the cost of single first class stamp per person to spend on ensuring the views, experiences and needs of the public drive change in how services are delivered.
“So to see even this modest amount being cut by up to 50 per cent in some areas raises serious questions and will undoubtedly impact on the effectiveness of local Healthwatch.
“We recognise that local authorities are having to cope with their own cuts but the majority of councils have recognised the value local Healthwatch bring and have managed to maintain investment.
“We urge those councils that have decided to impose such severe cuts to outline why they have made this decision and to provide the public with the voice they need to influence the big decisions to come about how local health and care services are delivered.”
The Government was criticised when Healthwatch groups were first set up for allowing the watchdogs to be funded by councils. one of the organisations they were to stand up to, and who continue to have their own financial troubles.
County Hall said the previous level of funding was aimed at establishing the watchdog and said its own budget constraints made such cuts unavoidable.
A Northamptonshire County Council spokeswoman said: “We recognise the extremely valuable work carried out by Healthwatch as consumer champions for health and social care services.
“However, the council’s ongoing financial challenges mean that it is necessary to reduce the amount of funding given to Healthwatch for 2015/16.
“Healthwatch in Northamptonshire has been funded over the last two years at a level to establish the organisation and develop its networks.
“The budget reduction was implemented by the council following its 2015/16 budget consultation and reflects the need to balance investment in the valuable work as consumer champions, and investing in care and support services.”