A PAYMENT of nearly £69million to Argyll and Bute Council was rubber-stamped by health chiefs last week.

But tough times were warned to be ahead for the area's Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) at its Integrated Joint Board (IJB) meeting last week after an overspend for the 2017/18 financial year of just over £2.5million.

As the Advertiser reported last week, the council was required to provide over £1million worth of funding to plug the financial gap, which it will receive back as part of its windfall.

An increase in the demand for supported living services for people with physical and learning difficulties was highlighted as a reason for the added expenditure, with the potential for reduced funding for these services in years to come.

Speaking at last week's meeting, Helensburgh Central Councillor Gary Mulvaney described the financial report by Chief Financial Officer Caroline Whyte as: "Not a particularly good paper to read however you look at it."

A total of £5.1million was overspent on adult care, including £1.5million on locum costs relating to services provided by GPs in several areas, including Garelochhead.

Ms Whyte said: "The board recognised the need for a better financial balance.

"The report has quite a lot of detail and outlines the main areas contributing to this position. These are areas where we have had pressures before.

"We had identified savings at the start of the year, so there is a shortfall. We did have a financial recovery plan by that was reduced due to demand for supported living services.

"So the overspend for 2017/18 is included for future years."

The payment to the council includes a funding transfer of £11.5million from NHS Highland, which along with the governing body, operates the HSCP.

The partnership's ongoing budget for 2018/19 was also debated at the meeting, with IJB members asked to note the remaining budget gap of £1.6million and the financial recovery plans in place to make it up.

Ms Whyte's report said: "An approach to financial recovery is proposed. This is in recognition that there are a number of recurring cost pressures which require to be addressed and also that the greater financial risk remains with the delivery of the savings included in the previously approved Quality and Finance Plan."