In Brief

Britain’s coast worst-hit by heroin deaths

New figures show Blackpool has the highest heroin death rate

Coastal areas are the UK’s worst-hit regions for heroin and morphine deaths, new figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed.

Blackpool had by far the highest death rate in the UK, with 14 fatalities per 100,000 people recorded in 2016, almost double the next-highest area of Burnley, which had 7.6. The English national average of 1.7.

Overall, ONS analysis found more than six of the ten local authorities with the highest death rates for heroin were seaside towns or resorts, including Bournemouth, Thanet, Hastings, Portsmouth and Swansea.

Public Health England (PHE) has suggested a link between areas of social deprivation and drug misuse. According to i news, the study is “the latest evidence that once bustling seaside towns are among the areas where a mixture of cheap or temporary housing, deprivation and the effects of targeting by organised crime gangs is having a lethal effect on drug users”.

The paper cites law enforcement officers who have warned that “coastal towns are being targeted by city-based drug gangs looking for new customers as they seek to evade more intensive policing in urban areas”.

In this system, known as the ‘county lines’ model, gangs establish themselves in smaller towns where they often use children to deliver drugs, before expanding to the surrounding areas.

Nine out of the ten most deprived areas in the UK are seaside towns and a study last year by the Social Market Foundation found coastal communities are among the worst off for earnings, employment, health and education.

Of the 98 local authorities with a coastline, 85% had pay levels below the UK average in 2016, while ten of the 20 local authorities in England and Wales with the highest proportion of people in poor health were also coastal.

The steady decline of once-bustling coastal resorts, which have suffered amid the rise in popularity of foreign holidays and cheap flights abroad, has led to calls by the British Hospitality Association for the Government to appoint a “Seaside Tsar” to create “coastal powerhouses”.

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