Rehab centre blasts Luton Borough Council's £1.2m budget cuts for drug treatment

A rehab centre in Luton has criticised the council for making "heartless" £1.2m cuts to its drug treatment budget in the past five years.

Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 1:43 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 2:00 pm
Liberty House in Luton

UK Addiction Treatment Centres (UKAT), based at Liberty House on Old Bedford Road, has slammed Luton Borough Council following the release of its 2021/22 budget report.

UKAT’s analysis of the report shows that in five years, the council has slashed its drug misuse treatment budget from £3.9m in 2016/17 to £2.9M in 2021/22, wiping off £1m for treatment.

Similar cuts to treatment of alcohol misuse have also been recorded - from £545,000 in 2016/17 to £273,000 in 2021/22, HALVING the amount spent on helping those with alcohol addiction in just 5 years.

A UKAT spokesman said: "Collectively, Luton Borough Council has cut £1,194,000 in just five years to potentially life-saving treatment services to those most vulnerable in its community."

Elsewhere, Professor Dame Carol Black’s independent review into drug treatment and recovery in the UK has urged the government for a cash injection into drug and alcohol treatment services.

Liberty House has seen a 15% rise in admissions since the start of 2021 compared with the same seven months of 2020.

UKAT has also criticised the previous coalition government's decision in 2012 to allow councils free reign over how to spend their Public Health Grants.

“Effectively what happened is that this ring-fenced, life-saving money just disappeared into Luton Council’s budget spreadsheets and was spent elsewhere," claims Nuno Albuquerque, head of treatment for the UKAT Group. "They didn’t have to spend it on drug and alcohol treatment services and so they didn’t.

“It doesn’t take a genius to work out that as less and less is spent on providing treatment, the problem worsens.

"Councils across the country - including Luton - are encouraged by government to invest in treatment; they know that for every £1 spent on drug treatment, £4 is saved and for every £1 spent on alcohol treatment, £3 is saved.

"Cutting these budgets is a false economy and is only unfairly hitting those who live in Luton the hardest.”

Last year, the council was forced to make over £22m cuts to services following the loss of Luton Airport revenue due to the pandemic.

A Luton Borough Council spokesman said: "We recognise the importance of substance misuse services and continue to invest in both prevention and support in a robust way.

"Financial support for these services is currently 27 per cent of our public health budget.

"Regrettably, due to financial constraints, we have had to make some reductions in the resources for these services in the last few years, as has been the case across a wide range of other services.

"Nevertheless, recognising the importance of support for drug and alcohol services we have been proactive in seeking and securing additional grant funding to tackle these issues which allow us to support the sector further particularly with some of the most vulnerable individuals. These grants mean that actually our budgets overall have not decreased in this area."

For 24/7 live chat on drug or alcohol misuse, or to find treatment options in Luton, visit www.ukat.co.uk/treatment-centres/v99/.