A councillor warned of the need to stop gangs taking hold as figures show tens of thousands of people in Havering are battling drink and drug problems.

Havering Council's health and wellbeing board this week heard that one in five adults in Havering – around 41,000 people – “drink excessive alcohol”.

Figures show that around 14,000 16 to 74-year-olds use illicit drugs.

But a meeting on Wednesday (October 25) to discuss a new strategy for combating substance misuse over the next five years heard that despite a funding boost of £900,000 over the next three years, there is relatively little cash to fight the problem.

A report to councillors said that the latest data from 2020 shows that alcohol-related deaths among men had risen over the previous three years.

Deaths in Havering during the period stood at 57 out of 100,000, much higher than the London average of 51.

In 2020-21, there were 528 adults in Havering in drug treatment services, with similar figures in the previous five years suggesting that many people who need treatment are not accessing it.

Cllr Paul McGeary, who represents Gooshays, told the meeting how drug misuse is impacting his ward.

He said: “I was in a recent meeting with the Gooshays panel and there was a discussion around the gangs situation.

“There seems to be some activity certainly in the Harold Hill area, not as extensive as a properly constructed gang but according to the inspector there, but there is some activity going on.

“I think that’s something that we need to be aware of and obviously we don’t want it developing here. And we want to try and control it in local neighbourhoods as well.”

In a concerning trend, the report added that in 2020-21, 82% of people known to be dependent on alcohol did not contact treatment services.

It also estimated that more than two-thirds of opiate and/or crack users aged between 15 and 64 in Havering are not in treatment.

There had also been an increase in annual substance misuse related crimes, with cases almost tripling from 388 in 2016 to 1,084 in 2022.

Of these, 938 were for possession of drugs and 146 for dealing.

The new plan, drafted in response to the UK 10-year drugs strategy published in December 2021, treats addiction as a chronic health condition and requires all relevant local agencies, including the police and NHS, to work together.

The report claimed the local strategy “aims to tackle stigma regarding addiction”, encourages people and families affected to seek support and minimise community violence towards those with misuse problems.

The broad national plan for the purpose has three priorities - breaking drug supply chains, delivering a “world-class” treatment and recovery system and achieving a “generational shift” in demand for drugs.

To implement this, Havering has been given an extra £300,000 every year for the next three years to boost local treatment services.

A Havering Combating Drugs Partnership was formed in August 2022 to lead the response.

The framework sets out three main outcomes - reducing drug use, drug-related crime and drug-related deaths.

But the report said that despite a “well-established” range of specialist services, but investment in Havering is relatively low as the council's public health funding is low.

The council thus has a “greater need of innovative and cost effective approaches” that can help it achieve its goals.

The consultation for the strategy is open until November 5. Visit https://consultation.havering.gov.uk/public-health/havering-combating-substance-misuse-strategy/ to take part.