NHS-Council clash over drug funds

Cllr Hunter

Cllr Hunter

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CASH-starved drug and alcohol groups are breathing a sigh of relief after being given an unexpected second chance to apply for funds.

But the decision, made by the Health and Social care Partnership last week, surprised and angered NHS Fife’s chief executive George Brechin, who declared it left him in an “invidious position”.

The meeting was held at Fife House, Glenrothes on Thursday to ratify controversial recommendations by the Alcohol and Drugs Partnership (ADP) to award £10 million to national providers such as Barnardos and Addaction - instead of local voluntary organisations.

Opening the meeting with an impassioned plea, Levenmouth councillor Ally Hunter argued a funding process which had given local groups just five weeks to prepare an application had to be rejected.

“This timescale is an appalling way to treat the providers who have worked on the ground in Fife for many years and placed them at a serious disadvantage to the national companies who have professional tender writers and corporate departments, whose job it is to tell us what we want to hear rather than based on hard-won experience on the streets of Fife,” he said.

The ADP had argued that, to meet new Government targets as well as accountibility and monitoring standards, the national providers were best placed to provide services.

After lengthy discussion, Fife Council leader Peter Grant stated that, in June, he would be inclined to agree but had since seen signs local groups would be more likely to work in partnership to provide a possibly better service for vulnerable people in Fife.

His motion to re-run the funding application process attracted cross-party support by elected members.

However, George Brechin backed the ADP and said: “That is not a proposal I can support.”

He added: “It worries me greatly as to the future.”

The partnership will reconsider funding allocations on February 23, with a progress report scheduled for November 24.

Martin Denholm, service co-ordinator for counselling agency DAPL in Leven, welcomed the news.

He said: “The right decision has been reached.

“There’s a true willingness for local services in Fife to learn from this process and prove we can work together to best serve the region.”

In the meantime, services continue in status quo.

“We are open for business,” he said.