CONCERNS have been raised after a special taskforce set up to tackle the use of Spice on the streets of Wrexham was disbanded.

During 2017, pictures of several people in a ‘zombie-like’ state after taking the synthetic drug in the town centre made national headlines.

It led to organisations such as Wrexham Council, North Wales Police and Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board banding together to adopt a new approach.

The work of the gold group, which included the creation of a care hub to allow people to quickly access support for housing and rehabilitation, has drawn a large amount of praise.

However, it was broken up in April and responsibility for the service was passed on to the Wrexham Community Safety Partnership.

Wrexham’s MP Ian Lucas, who was a member of the gold group, has now voiced fears about the partnership’s track record in dealing with anti-social behaviour.

In a letter to the council’s deputy leader Hugh Jones, he also raised doubts about its ability to continue the work.

The Leader:

He said: “After the general election in June 2017, I approached the local council to ask for an emergency response to the problems in the town centre and this is what led to the establishment of gold.

“I am concerned that if the gold group were to be merged into the community safety partnership (CSP) it would revert to failing to identify and monitor the issues which the gold group has taken forward.

“I note that the CSP excludes the MP, AM and the Community Care Hub and, though the report talks of extending membership of the CSP, it does not specify how.

“The positive work carried out by gold has also depended upon increased engagement with service users, something that seems a very low priority for the CSP, which also has a poor record, in my experience, of engaging with elected representatives, certainly this MP, despite elected representatives being a major point of contact with the general public.”

The gold group has been credited with reducing substance misuse in Wrexham, along with a drop in anti-social behaviour of around 42 per cent.

In a report recently circulated to councillors in Wrexham, it was also revealed that representatives from other towns and cities experiencing similar problems have visited to see the work in action.

In response to Mr Lucas’ letter, Cllr Jones said the group was never expected to be permanent.

He added that he would still be kept informed on issues surrounding psychoactive substances.

The local authority’s lead member for communities, partnerships, public protection and community safety, said: “It is always expected that such groups have a short-term lifespan to address issues directly, with the work on longer-term issues to be carried forward by other partners.

“The lessons learnt during the operations of the gold group will also be incorporated into work carried out by the partnership.

“All partners within the gold group were fully briefed as to the changes, and received letters updating them on progress and ensuring that the emphasis on the work carried out by the gold group would continue.

“Mr Lucas will continue to be briefed on these matters as they progress.”

Cllr Jones added: “I welcome the emphasis which Mr Lucas places on this work, and will ensure that all future work in this area is strategically developed and held to account by the Safer Communities Partnerships – so that if any further escalation is required on this or any other matter of community safety, all partners take appropriate actions to ensure a swift response.”