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Councils told to pay back £330m Covid funding to Scottish Government

IJBs have been told to return £331 million in Covid funding (Jane Barlow/PA)
IJBs have been told to return £331 million in Covid funding (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Scottish Government has been accused of an “outrageous raid” on health funding as they seek more than £330 million in unspent Covid-19 funding.

Integration joint boards (IJBs) – bodies made up of NHS and council officials to integrate health and social care – are being asked to return unspent cash from the Government intended to tackle the pandemic.

In a letter to the bodies, Richard McCallum, the director of health finance and governance, laid out the arrangements “to enable Covid reserves to be returned”.

The cash will be re-paid through a “negative allocation” from NHS boards back to the Scottish Government, the letter said.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie hit out at the plan, as health boards across the country struggle through the summer.

“This is an outrageous raid on social care funding,” she said.

“Care services are at crisis point and it is causing chaos across our NHS, but the SNP Government have decided this is a good time to pick their pockets.

“The SNP Government are always quick to remind us that the pandemic is still taking a toll on services – but their finance department seems to think otherwise.

“They must drop these reckless plans to reduce health board budgets and let local health and social care bodies use this funding to deliver the social care services we desperately need.”

The letter includes a breakdown of the amount owed back to Government – totalling £331 million including almost £45 million from Glasgow and £32 million from Edinburgh.

The Scottish Government said money being returned will not impact on wider NHS budgets.

A spokesman said: “We are proceeding in line with original plans and have not changed our approach.

“Most Integration joint board reserves are earmarked for specific purposes, in particular the ongoing response to Covid-19, and cannot be used to fund other spending commitments.

“The money being returned from IJB reserves does not affect wider NHS Board budgets. It is being used to fund Covid pressures across the sector and for no other purpose.

“Integration joint boards continue to have sufficient funding to cover their Covid costs in 2022-23.”