HEALTH chiefs have been warned it is “absolutely critical” that work to reduce a budget gap and overspend moves quickly.

Lesley MacLeod, chief financial officer of Argyll and Bute’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) delivered the warning at last week’s meeting of the integration joint board (IJB).

The Advertiser reported last week that the board was required to plug a £1.6m black hole in the HSCP’s budget, with no plan currently in place on how to do so.

Ms MacLeod was speaking following the presentation of the HSCP’s audited accounts for the previous financial year.

She said: “We recorded an overspend of £2.5m-£2.8m for the past financial year.

“We have also started to look beyond the current financial year and there is still a bit of work to be done, but by the time we concluded our annual accounts, we calculated a significant figure of recovery.

“Moving out of 2017/18 into the current financial year, as part of my report I have enclosed a budget monitoring report up to the end of August.

“Funding offers have not yet been accepted and we have a budget gap of £1.6m with a forecast overspend of £4.2m.

“I think what this board wants to concentrate on is how we manage the overspend and how we can get assurance that officers are doing what is required to manage the financial position.

“Board members are concerned about the pace and accountability and I am delighted with Joanna’s opening comments about working with myself and the senior membership team.

“The 2017/18 financial year is gone and has been recorded, we have quite a lot to do in a short space of time and it is absolutely critical we move forward quickly.”

Councillor Aileen Morton questioned whether discussion had taken place with the Scottish Government on the financial risks to the HSCP.

She also sought assurances after the forecast overspend rose from the £4m put to the board at its previous meeting on Wednesday, August 1.

Ms MacLeod replied: “I may ask others to contribute in terms of discussion with the Scottish Government.

“The volatility of our financial position, we were forecasting an overspend of £4m which has now gone up to £4.2m.

“That is driven by activity – we have had some in the care home sector where we are doing a piece of analysis.

“We have made an improvement in the strike rate of savings and the finance teams have identified underspends which have been removed.”