UKAT claims lives are being put at risk as Blackpool’s drug and alcohol treatment budget cut by £1.3m

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Lives are being put at risk by a £1.3m cut to drug and alcohol treatment budgets in Blackpool, a rehab group has claimed.

UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT) says its figures show that Blackpool, which has been plagued with problems linked to Spice and other illegal drugs, has suffered one of the biggest relative drops in treatment funding out of 152 councils.

It lodged a Freedom of Information Request which showed that Blackpool Council, which receives Public Health England grants, in 2013/14 spent £4,956,380 of their grant upon substance misuse strategies.

Budgets this financial year for 2017/18 have been cut to £3,646,792, representing a cut to services of £1,309,588 or 26 per cent in just four years, before the effects of inflation are taken into account.

Collectively, the results show that councils nationally have been forced to slash budgets for drug and alcohol treatment by a 15 per cent, spending over £100m less on those most vulnerable in society.

The news comes at a time when the number of people dying from drug-related abuse in England is the highest since records began.

The alarming correlation between the real term cut to council budgets and the rise in drug-related deaths across the country needs to be addressed and this vicious cycle needs to end.

It is 30 per cent more than when the budget for drug and alcohol treatment was protected by Government, with alcohol being labelled in the House of Commons last month as the leading risk factor for ill-health and disability.

In Blackpool, deaths pertaining to drug misuse have increased by 25 per cent over the past four years, according to recent data released by the Office of National Statistics.

While Blackpool’s Public Health Grant has risen from £17,457,000 four years ago to £18,914,000 this year, there has been a transfer of new responsibilities to all councils during this period, equating to a real terms cut to their budgets.

London-based UKAT says that the data disclosed to them shows that during 2013/14, 28 per cent of the grant was spent on drug and alcohol strategies across Blackpool, but this has fallen to 19 per cent this financial year.

Speaking to the Gazette, a spokesman from Blackpool Council confirmed emphasis had been made on cutting building costs and overheads to preserve treatment budgets as much as is possible.

Population across Blackpool has decreased by 2,647 people since 2013, and the drop off in spend on drug and alcohol treatment equates to £1,309,588 according to UKAT’s Freedom of Information request.

At the 2015 Spending Review, the Government announced a 3.9 per cent real-terms cut in public health funding over the next five years with UKAT fearing this will exacerbate Blackpool’s drug and alcohol dependency issues and put further strain on the already stretched emergency services.

Eytan Alexander, founder of UKAT, said: “What our Freedom of Information Requests reveal is that since the Government made the decision to remove the protected drug and alcohol treatment budget, Blackpool Council has been forced into spinning even more plates with even less money. .

“Slashing budgets on substance misuse is a false economy as it piles pressure on our stretched emergency services. The alarming correlation between the real term cut to council budgets and the rise in drug-related deaths across the country needs to be addressed and this vicious cycle needs to end.”