Essex

Essex County Council set to take on County Line gangs

Essex County Council
Image caption Essex County Council has allocated £500,000 to help police tackle the war on drugs

Some £500,000 of extra funding to tackle so-called county lines drugs has been allocated, it has been announced.

Essex County Council revealed the spend as it announced its budget for the coming financial year.

It will also be investing £1m on children's mental health, £700,000 to repair pavements and £250,000 on mentors to help the homeless.

Conservative council leader David Finch said the budget was "learning from challenges and building on successes".

Mr Finch told how county lines drugs gangs are "a real and present danger to communities up and down our county".

County lines sees urban gangs from larger cities use mobile phones in a different area to sell crack cocaine and heroin directly at street level.

"Our Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst has identified this as a priority," he said. "With our responsibility for the wider wellbeing of all our communities, we are making £500,000 available for partnership working to protect young people at risk from those who might exploit them."

He also told how the mental health of young people was "a growing concern", the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) said.

Image caption Council leader David Finch said County Lines drugs gangs are "a real and present danger"

The council's total revenue budget is £939m this year - a 2.7% increase on the 2018-19 budget.

But council tax is expected to rise by 3.99% as a result of inflation and the reduction of the revenue support grant from the government.

Louise McKinlay, the cabinet member for finance said: "This year, the challenge of setting a balanced budget is the greatest we have ever faced, with our support grant from Government reducing by £27m," she said.

"We believe this budget strikes the right balance between asking people to pay a little extra to ensure the services people rely on are provided and our ambitions for the future of Essex can be met."

In recent years, the council has made hundreds of redundancies as part of extensive restructuring. It has also announced plans to close libraries, while cuts to the public health budget are expected to be announced.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A rising number of teenagers in the county are being exploited by drug gangs

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