Reading Festival organisers will not introduce ‘front of house’ drug testing this year, as they do not want to ‘condone’ drugs.

The council’s health and wellbeing lead member called for front of house drug testing to be further explored in the wake of recent high-profile drug deaths at festivals.

Festival Republic considered introducing front of house drug testing in 2017 at its Reading and Leeds festivals before backtracking on the plans following discussions with medical professionals, police forces and licensing authorities.

Noel Painting, Health and Safety Events Organiser at Festival Republic, said:  “We don’t like front of house testing for various reasons.

“Back of house happens, where we take the drugs off people and test them. Front of house seems to be condoning drugs.

“The risk of drugs is not to be underestimated because we do not know what they are taking and they do not know what they are taking.”

14 per cent of drugs confiscated at Reading Festival was not a drug at all, according to Mr Painting, who attended the council’s Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure committee to answer questions on the 2018 festival.

Councillor Graeme Hoskin, lead member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “There has been really strong evidence around the benefits of front house drug testing.

“This is not about condoning drug use. There is both increasing evidence around decreasing drug consumption and protection of the public but also about being able to increase the messages of harm and risk.

“We would like to continue discussions with Festival Republic because it is something that is working elsewhere and increasingly the police, public healthcare professionals and local authorities are starting to see real benefits to.

“We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist at Reading Festival. That would be living in fantasy world.”

Melvin Benn, director at Festival Republic, told The Independent in 2018 that ‘front of house testing sounds perfect but has the ability to mislead’, having previously told the BBC that critics need to ‘open their eyes’ to its benefits.

Festival Republic had applied for a licence from the Home Office to be in possession of controlled drugs for the Reading and Leeds 2017 festivals, but this did not materialise.

The Loop, the UK’s only organisation operating the service,  tests and destroys drugs within a laboratory with police officers nearby, meaning that special dispensation from the Home Office is not required.

Secret Garden Party credited drug testing for reducing drug-related hospital admissions by 95 per cent in 2016.