Health chiefs likened to ‘child running away with credit card’

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A councillor has compared the financial situation at Argyll and Bute’s health and social care partnership to ‘a child running away with a credit card’.

Gary Mulvaney’s scathing criticism came as a key Argyll and Bute Council committee considered a report predicting a £2.8 million overspend in the local authority’s budget – £2.4m of which is forecast to come from social work services.

The council’s chief financial officer Kirsty Flanagan told the authority’s policy and resources committee the total projected overspend has now been reduced to £2.4m.

But Councillor Mulvaney, who is vice-chairman of the committee and sits on the HSCP’s integration joint board, warned of tough financial times ahead.

He said: ‘I think the paper is in line with a comment at the last meeting whereby a child has run off with a credit card. We have got to be focused on the overspend, of which £2.4m is down to the HSCP being the child running off with the card.

‘It is a stark reality check for the council – however well we manage our resources. Difficult decisions have to be taken in terms of service choices and budget challenges. We have to work to see how we can remedy that position.

‘When a report comes back to us in October, we should be asking that our officer has discussions with the chief financial officer of the partnership on how the overspend will be managed.’

Councillor Robin Currie said at the meeting: ‘If the health and social care partnership was a child, we would have some sympathy and give them a hand, but the harsh reality is it is a grown-up.’

Another part of the projected overspend was £350,000 of extra funding towards additional support needs for school pupils.

A spokesman for the HSCP said: ‘The HSCP continues to face increasing demand and cost pressures across both health and social care and we are working hard towards achieving a balanced budget through our quality and finance plan which has identified savings of £10.6m against an existing budget gap of £12.2m.

‘We are also undertaking a focused review of budgets to identify further savings to address the remaining £1.6m.

‘At the same time, even with these financial pressures, we are continuing to meet our commitment of ensuring the delivery of high quality, safe and sustainable health and social care services for the people of Argyll and Bute.’