FUNDING for treatment of drug and alcohol misuse in York is to be cut by more than half a million pounds.

A report before City of York Council’s health and adult social care committee next week said the authority is set to slash its contributions by £545,000 by 2021/22.

The decision has been made following research which showed on average local authorities in the region spend around 30 per cent of their public health grant allocation on substance misuse.

Leigh Bell, public health improvement manager for the council, wrote in the report: “City of York Council’s substance misuse budget for 2016 is £2,385,000 which comes to 35.97 per cent of the equivalent public health grant (£6,631,000). This is considerably higher than the regional average.

“The prevalence of substance misuse in York does not justify this higher level of spend. therefore it is proposed to set aside a budget for substance misuse services which is equal to 30 per cent of the public health grant, excluding 0-5 service allocations, over the next five years. The total budget savings generated by this proposal will be £545,000 realised over four years.”

Ms Bell said a new contract would be sought for the next three years, with an option to extend it by up to four more years, depending on quality and performance. She said: “This is considered to be the option which will lead to the council obtaining best value for money and will provide a stable and supportive environment for service users”.

The council estimates there are 840 opiate users living in York, and 42,202 adults in York who have problems with alcohol. In the last year there were also 72 people aged under 18 who were receiving treatment for substance misuse.

Ms Bell said there substance misuse in young people was declining locally and nationally, and said: “York has a lower prevalence of drug and alcohol misuse than many other parts of the country”. But she said substance misuse remained a cause of "considerable harm to the health and wellbeing of York residents and an important cause of health inequalities”.

A study by the National Audit Office suggested that for every £1 invested in substance misuse treatment, £2.50 is saved in costs to wider society, and one crime was prevented for every £100 invested in drug treatment.

Ms Bell said there were “significant risks inherent in reducing the level of investment into substance misuse services in York”, but she said the risks would be minimised by changing treatment systems.