Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Health, Cllr Ron Aitken, has expressed serious concerns after the Social Services and Health Scrutiny Panel were told last month that almost half a million pounds could be withdrawn for mental health care for the elderly in the London Borough of Haringey.

The panel heard from officials of the Haringey Teaching Primary Care Trust that £400,000 allocated by them to Haringey Council for use in providing mental health care for the elderly may be withdrawn “if appropriate use cannot be demonstrated”. During a presentation by the PCT about their funding position for the coming year it emerged that there is a dispute between the PCT and the Council as to whether the money has actually been spent on its intended purpose.

The dispute arises from the long-running saga of Haringey Council’s contracting out of elderly and learning disability homes, which the Lib Dems have repeatedly criticised, as the homes were eventually taken back into direct Haringey management.

“The Council told us that this problem was all taken care of,” said Cllr Aitken, “yet here we find that Haringey may have accepted money to provide care for vulnerable, mentally ill older people and may not be able to prove that it was used for this purpose. If this is the case then there will be a funding gap for next year and future years.”

In a Draft Report provided to Members of the Scrutiny Panel at the meeting in December the PCT say they are trying to resolve the issue of how the money has been spent, but that if the issue is not resolved vital services for older people with mental health problems may have to be withdrawn. Cllr Aitken asked for an update of the position shortly before Christmas but officials were unable to confirm that the matter had been resolved.

“I am seriously concerned that services for older people with mental health problems may be withdrawn after March unless Haringey can prove that they used the money to pay for services for older people in the last few years. We need them to come clean on their financing of these vital services,” said Cllr Aitken.