To receive a report from the Chief Officer for Safer Leeds, which updates members of the Board on issues associated with nitrous oxide use in Leeds. This is provided in response to a referral to the Board from Cllr Matthew Robinson.
Further to the minutes of the previous meeting held 9th July 2020, the report of the Chief Officer (Safer Leeds) provided Members with an update on issues associated with nitrous oxide mis-use in Leeds, in light of a referral to the Board from Councillor Matthew Robinson.
The following were in attendance for this item:
o Councillor M Robinson, Referrer
o Councillor D Coupar, Executive Member for Communities
o Paul Money, Chief Officer (Safer Leeds)
o Harvinder Saimbhi, Head of Operational Delivery
The Chief Officer (Safer Leeds) introduced the report, and highlighted the following key points:
· The number of complaints related to nitrous oxide has increased, although it was difficult to determine whether visible usage was due to the temporary closures of events and events;
· Although there is no definitive evidence of the extent to which nitrous oxide mis-use causes long-term damage, it is understood to be possible for an individual to become psychologically dependent upon it;
· Common trends in reporting had typically involved males in vehicles and there had been previous issues with unauthorised gatherings;
· The number of complaints has been higher in inner city wards;
· There are police remedies available to address the unlawful supply and production of nitrous oxide. Local Authorities can use anti-social behaviour legislation including PSPOs and other court orders;
· Trading Standards are not currently aware of Leeds based businesses retailing nitrous oxide or laughing gas capsules to members of the public;
· There has been a significant number of reports from the street cleansing teams regarding littering of canisters;
· The Leeds Drug and Alcohol Social Marketing Group have collaborated with the council to run a harm reduction campaign on recreational drug and alcohol use.
In conclusion, the Chief Officer (Safer Leeds) considered nitrous oxide as being less harmful than other controlled drugs and no adverse effects resulting from individuals becoming dependent on the sole usage of the substance have been evidenced. Moving forward, it was identified there were options in terms of a review of the legislation and opportunities for government to work with the industry and retailers to better understand and disrupt supply chains. Additionally, it was acknowledged that this matter was a significant issue for local communities and addressing the issue should continue within a wider public health setting and the use of enforcement through legislation.
Councillor Robinson welcomed the ongoing multi-agency approach being taken to counter the various concerns emerging from nitrous oxide mis-use within local communities. Cllr Robinson recognised the need for this to continue moving forward particularly in regards to reporting. It was emphasised that support for parents was needed to engage children.
In responding to Member’s questions, the following had been discussed:
· Trading Standards have not identified businesses undertaking unlawful activity in Leeds. Details of any community intelligence would be welcomed outside of the meeting.
· The use of nitrous oxide was considered a pathway to use of more significant and harmful drugs in some instances. It was confirmed that a conversation need to be undertaken Public Health regarding the risks associated with the substance.
· To consider the impacts on local communities from an anti-social behaviour perspective. The Chief Officer (Safer Leeds) confirmed local partnership arrangements and resources were available to deal with the issues.
Whilst acknowledging the wider remit of work to be undertaken with colleagues in Public Health, the Chair proposed that the Board receive an update report in 12 months, as well as sharing the report with the Chair of the Scrutiny Board (Adults and Health & Active Lifestyles) in relation to issues on health impacts. This approached was endorsed by Board members.
a) That the contents of the report be noted
b) That further consideration of this matter be added to the Successor Board’s work programme and that an update report be received in 12 months.