‘Tougher health cuts’ worry as budget faces overspend

Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership.

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Health chiefs in Argyll and Bute may be forced to find tougher savings if existing ones don’t progress faster, the council’s deputy leader has warned.

Councillor Gary Mulvaney was speaking after the area’s health and social care partnership (HSCP) revealed a projected overspend of more than £2.5million at the end of the financial year.

The figure is pending the receipt of Scottish Government funding, but Councillor Mulvaney expressed fears that not enough savings options were being sufficiently achieved.

Judy Orr, the HSCP’s head of finance and transformation, said finance committee members should see more progress at their next meeting in December.

The debate took place at a meeting of the HSCP’s integration joint board (IJB) on Wednesday November 25.

The £2.5m projected overspend relates to the figures as they were at the end of  September with six months left of the financial year to run for additional savings to be made.

Councillor Mulvaney said: ‘My concern is that there is still a gap there, and how long do we give it to see if any of the Scottish Government money plugs the gap?

‘If it doesn’t, then our financial recovery plan is not fit for purpose.

‘It is the same things that are there – learning disability, older people, physical disability – all chunky sums of money at circa £500,000 to £600,000.

‘We need some reassurance of the financial recovery plan today about what it is there to do.

‘I know there are Covid-related issues but the worry is that we are heading towards the end of the financial year, with six months to go, with a potential overspend again.

‘That is deeply concerning to me. I have mentioned it before – our pace of deliverability is not quick enough. That is the bottom line.

‘Audit Scotland has picked up that the pace is not quick enough, and if we cannot identify savings and deliver on what we have agreed as a board, that takes us into territory of looking for much tougher cuts.’

Council leader Robin Currie, attending his first IJB meeting in the role, added: ‘Here we are with a few months to the end of the financial year, with a projected overspend of more than £2m. To me, that is extremely worrying.’

Ms Orr said a meeting on Friday December 11 is likely to show further progress.

She said: ‘We have reviewed a lot of savings and the forecast is for more progress.

‘Our service improvement officers have been in place since July and we have undertaken activity on delivery of savings.

‘There is a lot of work under way which has not necessarily come through in the forecasts, but it will and we are confident it will continue for the rest of the year.’