SENIOR Tory councillor John Slater has criticised Blackburn with Darwen borough for underspending its new public health budget by £1.28 million.

He asked council finance boss Andy Kay to explain the shortfall which he said was ‘a matter of concern’.

Coun Kay replied: “The underspend in public health is significant but is not unexpected given that this was the first year of transfer of this whole service area to the council.

“It also follows a similar pattern of expenditure in all authorities across the country.

“We have reduced the cost of inherited contracts with health providers ensuring payment by results.”