Addiction treatment specialists have slammed as ‘heartless’ Wiltshire Council’s £3m-plus cuts in addiction treatment funding since 2017.

Now UK Addiction Treatment Centres (UKAT) is calling on the council to bolster the services’ budgets for next year.

Figures show council bosses have slashed the budget from £7,007,000 in 2016/17 to £3,042,000 for 2020/21 – a 57 per cent reduction in funding.

UKAT’s group treatment lead, Nuno Albuquerque, said: “We get no joy from calling out Wiltshire Council. It is abhorrent that as the number of people living across Wiltshire die from drugs and alcohol rises, the amount of money spent on trying to save them reduces.

“We urge Wiltshire Council to not make the same mistake again next year, and to instead show heart and support those most vulnerable living in their local communities.”

This year the council has given £1,457,000 combined on drug and alcohol treatment – 30 per cent less than in 2016/17, while the number of alcohol related hospital admissions has risen by 13 per cent since 2017.

Last year 23 people in Wiltshire died as a result of drug misuse. Nationally, the number of deaths related to drug misuse increased by 17 per cent between 2017-2019.

In 2018, Public Health England urged councils to invest in drug and alcohol treatment and interventions. According to the PHE guidelines alcohol treatment reflects a return on investment of £3 for every £1 invested. For drug treatment the return on investment is £4 for every £1.

Commenting, the council said in 2016/17 the budget for these treatments was £4.2m - although its submitted budget figures for that year show it spent £4,481,000 on drug misuse treatment and £2,095,000 on alcohol treatment. It also spent £175,000 on drug misuse prevention and £256,000 on specialist services for children and young people.

The authority also said demand for addiction services increased over the pandemic but feels it has managed the services ‘effectively’.