More mental health cash needed?

By RYAN TAYLOR and PETER JOHNSON

Larger budgets could be needed in future to help treat those affected by mental health issues, a councillor has warned.

Allan Wishart says more resources are likely to be required as attitudes change to what was once a “hidden illness”.

His comments follow a report before members of a special development committee yesterday which highlighted a projected overspend in mental health of £403,000.

The figure relates to increased staffing at Viewforth, amounting to £289,000, plus addi-tional one-off redundancy costs of £101,000 that had not been budgeted for.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Wishart reiterated his view that he expected demand to increase thanks to three separate reviews on mental health that are currently in the pipeline.

“The point I was trying to make was, with the dementia review and the mental health review coming along and then the mental health strategy that’s been prepared, my own personal view is that it’s going to need more resources put to it – particularly in staff, and that means cost and finance.

“For years and years, even nationally, mental health has been the illness that I would call the ‘secret illness’ because it’s one that nobody wanted to discuss.

“I think as a result of that the trend has been to keep squeezing the budgets for obvious reasons.

“Now, with far more attention being paid to mental health and it being treated as an illness …  I think people are a lot more open and it will reverse the trend of it being the budget that was always shunted to the side and cut.”

Overall, management accounts for the third quarter show the social services committee is facing a projected £563,000 deficit.

That is made up of a likely overspend in community care of £896,000, which is offset by projected underspends in community planning and development, housing and sports and leisure.

Meanwhile, an overspend in capital expendi-ture is likely to reach £33,000. That is due to an overspend in the new Independent Living Centre, offset by slippage on the Edward Thomason and Taing House extension.

Director of community health and social care Simon Bokor-Ingram said he recognised the high numbers involved in community care. But he was confident of working within budget for next year, and said many of the costs were one-offs.

Earlier it emerged ports and harbours are set to cost below budget. A special harbour board meeting heard that there should be an increased revenue surplus of £1.775 million for 2013/14 and a capital underspend of £669,000.

The savings are being made from within the council’s draw from reserves of £27.768 million for the year for the general fund, harbour account, trading accounts and “spend to save”, a figure which is described as still “unsustainably high” in a report by head of finance James Gray.

Councillors said that the savings were “excellent news”, although they asked for reassurance that the positive figures would not pressurise future budgets.

Towage and storage work for Total at Sullom Voe will generate £521,000 more than budgeted while a harbour agreement will take in £303,000, vacant posts will save £328,000 and the under-spend on the non-operational tugs will save £388,000. This is offset by reduced tanker income of £328,000 and lower ship-to-ship transfers of £101,000.

Scalloway was meanwhile on course to generate £474,000 more than expected thanks to the Bibby Challenge flotel while other piers would cost £217,000 less than budgeted for, largely thanks to delays to maintenance and improvement work.

Although “other piers” were to cost £217,000 less than their budgeted £386,000, this was due to slippage in maintenance and repair work.

Alastair Cooper questioned the sustainability of spending “£300,000” on piers that barely raised “£30,000” in income. “We need to look very carefully at this. It is a waste of money in fact,” he said.

The board also heard that there would be a 78 per cent saving on remedial works for the Sullom Voe tugs, which were now tabbed to cost £218,000, £785,000 less than expected. “We should not see much of a fluctuation from that [estimated figure] in the future,” Mr Gray reassured councillors.

There is a 27 per cent projected underspend of £19,000 on replacement vehicles and plant, but Walls Pier was expected to show a 14 per cent overspend of £135,000 more than anticipated, though this was still within the full project budget.

The harbour board meeting was the first in a string of budgetary meetings held by the SIC yesterday.

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