Blackpool hits back at 'sensational' tabloid claims of drug users cooking heroin at school gates

Sandgrownuns have come to the defence of their hometown following a 'sensational' article in The Sun which claimed drug users cooked heroin at Blackpool school gates.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 13th August 2021, 10:06 am
People say the problems faced by Blackpool can be found all over the country

In a recent article, the tabloid claimed ‘dealers are delivering drugs by e-scooter in Blackpool as users take heroin and cocaine in front of children going to school’.

But Blackpool Council said it had received no reports of any such activity going on in the town.

Dr Arif Rajpura, Blackpool Council’s director of Public health, said: “We are aware of a national newspaper allegation that drug use was observed by a member of the public around a school but we have no knowledge of any such incident but together with our police colleagues we would obviously take a zero tolerance stance against any such behaviour.”

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A sunny day on Blackpool Promenade

Blackpool Council leader Lynn Williams hit back at the report, which called the resort a ‘drug death capital’ where ‘wraps of heroin are being traded for just £10’.

Drug use remains a problem in the resort, with 42 people dying as a result of a drug overdose last year - the highest drug related death rate in England and Wales.

But Coun Williams said schemes such as the ADDER project, which brought police and treatment services together, were being used to tackle addiction.

She said: “We know it’s an issue and we have to resolve it. It’s highlighted unfortunately in seaside towns and a lot comes back down to the health issues associated with living in sub-standard accommodation.

But others agreed that the town was in dire need of improvement

“But articles like this one are lazy journalism if they are produced without having a conversation with people like our director of public health Dr Arif Rajpura about the work which is being done.

“It’s headline grabbing, but if they were interested, they would find out about what we are doing to resolve issues.

“And national government is taking notice of what we are doing, but that doesn’t make a good headline.”

Conservative leader coun Tony Williams said: “Drug use in Blackpool does happen, but it’s not just Blackpool - it’s all over the country. The access and availability of drugs means big money for some people, and that’s what is driving it.

“I do think that we have a serious problem here in Blackpool, and it needs to be sorted. Firstly we need to cut the supply, if we cut the supply we stop the trade - but for as long as there is money to be made, these people will persist.”

Coun Williams said he will meet with new police and crime commissioner Andrew James Snowden next week to discuss the fight against the illegal drug trade in the area.

He added: “We are an easy target for sensational headlines. We are Britain’s most popular tourist destination, so anything you see in Blackpool will get a headline. But this problem is rife throughout the whole of the country.

“We receive attention because we are a popular place, everybody knows us. We’re a famous town and we do get pinpointed because of that, though it’s a national problem. But my focus is Blackpool, and what we can do here to get rid of people who trade in misery.

“I would like to see much tougher action in Blackpool.”

Blackpool residents offered their own opinions about the article, which also looked at poverty and the town’s low life expectancy compared to other parts of the country.

Chris Webb, chair of trustees for Counselling in the Community, said: “Sadly when the town has had £1.2b ripped away since 2010 these shocking statistics are the consequence.

“Our town has some amazing people, charities and local businesses trying to improve it but we need proper long term support nationally to combat the issues of homelessness, health and life expectancy, unemployment, drug and alcohol addiction in Blackpool.

“These can’t be left to a Council still having to make cuts and functioning with less than half the income it receives from the Government than 10 years ago.”

NHS FIGHT AGAINST ALCOHOL, DRUGS, SMOKING AND MORE

Life expectancy in Blackpool is low compared to other parts of the county, with men on average making it to 74-and-a-half years of age, while women reach 79-and-a-half. More than a third of the town’s residents die before the age of 75.

Health risk factors, including smoking, and alcohol, are ‘prevalent in coastal towns’ according to a report published last month by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty. He said: “Coastal areas are some the most beautiful, vibrant and historic places in the country. They also have some of the worst health outcomes with low life expectancy and high rates of many major diseases.

These communities have often been overlooked by governments and the ill-health hidden because their outcomes are merged with wealthier inland areas.

“If we do not tackle the health problems of coastal communities vigorously and systematically there will be a long tail of preventable ill health which will get worse as current populations age.”

The report found that 23.4 per cent of Blackpool adults smoke, rising to 37 per cent in adults with routine or manual jobs.

Indicators of poor diet, excess weight, alcohol use and physical activity are also significantly worse than the national average.

Dr Ben Butler-Reid, a GP at Highfield Surgery in Blackpool and clinical director for NHS Blackpool and NHS Fylde and Wyre CCG, said: “The Fylde coast is similar to other areas highlighted in the report and struggles to attract the same number of staff as inland areas.

“There are a number of strategies in place to improve the number of new starters, as well as retention schemes for existing staff, but this is against a background of national health and care staff shortages. Health and care partners continue to work collaboratively to improve staffing levels, in partnership with local colleges and universities.

“The burden of physical and mental health issues for people living on the Fylde Coast, as in other coastal areas, has been well recognised as this report makes clear. The North West has attracted increased funding specifically to deal with improvements in preventative health to reduce health inequities and this is a key priority for the local health system and primary care networks.”

Dr Arif Rajpura said: “Blackpool has followed the national trend and sadly seen an increase in drug related deaths.

“Blackpool is one of the areas taking part in the Project ADDER (Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery) pilot, a collaboration between the council, the police and our colleagues in local health services. This three-year project is heavily based on health intervention and will bolster the treatment and recovery services already in place across the authority. As a council, our role in this project is to provide support across a number of areas, including mental health, housing, employment and treatment.

“We are hopeful that this project will make a real impact on people’s dependence on substances and support their journey to recovery.”

WHAT OUR READERS SAID

Celia Hughes: “I lived in Blackpool and loved the place and the people. Every place has its dark side, the good side, the nice side, the wholesome side, the sense of community just doesn’t make for a “good story” does it. Its so easy to sensationalise and play on all the negative stereotypes. Must have been a slow news day, just rubbish journalism. Shameful.”

Billy Mellor: “Love going to and staying in Blackpool and have done for years. Like everywhere else it has its problems but the good things definitely outweigh the bad, and anyway who in their right mind buys or reads The Sun?”

Joan Kelly: “There’s a dark side to every city or town, not just Blackpool. I live in the centre of Blackpool, it does have a problem but nothing beats coming out looking to my left and the top of the Tower is looking back, I’ll never change it for anything, I love it.”

Debbie Lamb: “No matter where you live there is a bad side. I lived in Blackpool for a long, long time and never once experienced trouble.”

Rose Lyne: “I lived here all my life, born and bred, and I wouldn’t want to have been born anywhere else. but I wish people would start to respect and be proud of Blackpool and instead of complaining about it, do something about it.”

John Whitehouse: “Unfortunately the article is true and highlights very real problems that do exist in the town that our council keeps trying to sweep under the carpet rather than trying to fix.”

Chanel Jennings: “Blackpool IS dark and dinghy and gross. Majority of people who live here HATE what it has become. Even the sea is grim, it’s brown.”