Pubdate: Sun, 29 Jul 2007
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Contact:  Telegraph Group Limited 2007
Author: Patrick Hennessy, Political Editor, Sunday Telegraph
Cited: Tackling Drugs, Changing Lives
Cited: DrugScope
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (psychosis)


The flagship government scheme for treating drug addicts faces
swingeing budget cuts of UKP50 million, it can be revealed today.

Drug treatment programme: Gordon Brown cuts UKP50m from drugs work
Spending on drug treatment programmes faces cuts

Plans to slash total funding by more than 12 per cent, outlined in an
email leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, come less than a fortnight after
Gordon Brown tried to show off his anti-drug credentials by signalling
his desire to reclassify cannabis from Class C to the more serious
Class B.

Last night, the Conservatives accused the Prime Minister of

The proposed cuts, phased over the next three years, would hit the
"Pooled Treatment Budget" (PTB), the Government's main funding stream
for drug treatment, which for this year is UKP398 million.

Alison Keating, the acting regional manager for the Government's
National Treatment Agency in the South East, disclosed the scale of
the proposed cuts in an email sent to colleagues across the country.

Admitting that there have been "some understandable concerns" about
future levels of funding, she adds: "Initial indications have been
that there will be a UKP50 million cut over the three years."

The period involved is 2008 to 2011, the years covered by the
Comprehensive Spending Review of government funding to be announced in
the autumn by Alistair Darling, the Chancellor.

The PTB receives its funding from the Home Office and the Department
of Health. Any cuts will awaken fears that overall expenditure on
health and crime will suffer in what is already expected to be a tough
public spending round.

The PTB channels money to locally based Drug Action Teams which make
funding decisions partly based on deprivation levels. The teams, of
which there are 150 in England, then commission services in their area.

Spending on drug treatment programmes is seen as politically sensitive
because of the links between drug-taking and crime. Mr Brown this
month signalled a clear about-turn from the Blair era, as well as
making a strong appeal to Middle Britain, by announcing a review of
the contentious decision taken by David Blunkett, the former home
secretary, three years ago to downgrade cannabis from Class B to Class

Government sources made it clear that Mr Blunkett's decision was
likely to be reversed. The announcement was quickly followed by a
string of cabinet ministers including Jacqui Smith, the Home
Secretary, admitting that they had tried cannabis in their youth.

Last week, a report commissioned by the Department of Health
underlined the risk of drug-takers suffering serious mental illness.
The study claimed a single cannabis joint could increase the danger of
schizophrenia by more than 40 per cent.

Chris Grayling, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said last
night: "When he was chancellor, Gordon Brown always used to hide the
bad news in the small print. Now he's Prime Minister, we're finding
the same thing.

"He's been making high profile announcements, like his war on
cannabis, but the reality is very different. This reeks of hypocrisy."

On its Tackling Drugs, Changing Lives website, the Home Office
trumpets successive increases in PTB funding. It boasts: "Drug
treatment continues to be a major priority."

Martin Barnes, the chief executive of the charity DrugScope, said: "It
is extremely concerning that the expectation among officials is of
cuts in funding. The Prime Minister has spoken of the need to improve
drug treatment, but this is difficult to reconcile with
behind-the-scenes discussion of cuts being on the table."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "No decisions have been made on
2008 and onwards budgets. The Government has spent record levels on
drug treatment - the number of people treated has doubled in five years.

"Tackling illegal drugs remains a Government priority, as illustrated
by the Home Office's consultation on a new strategy, launched this
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake