A think tank has hit out at cuts to addiction spending in Reading amid “an epidemic”.

Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) research found that, in Reading, addiction related spending has fallen by around a third across the board over the last 6 years.

34 people in Reading died from drug-related deaths in in the last three years (2016-18), almost double the amount compared to ten years ago (19 deaths in 2006/8).

Councillors “reluctantly” approved a £118,000 drop in drug and alcohol funds in April.

Green councillor Rob White was the only councillor to vote against the cuts, calling for the government to adequately fund public services ‘for a healthier town’.

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Councillor Graeme Hoskin, Reading Borough’s Council (RBC) lead member for Health and Wellbeing, has called for the government to “see sense” and pump more public health funds back into local authorities.

He said: “Broadly we agree with CSJ. We think more should be invested across the council.

“I am really angry that are put in the situation of having to substantially cut the public health budget.

“We have lost £1.6 million per year since 2015, when George Osbourne started slashing public health funding.

“The overall public health grant is now £9.5 million. We have to provide sexual health services, stop smoking services and a range of other initiatives.

“It is deeply frustrating. The evidence shows investing in these initiatives pays off.

“Each time we set the budget we express our anger at the situation. Let’s hope the government see sense. I hope we don’t have to wait forever.”

Addiction treatment spending per person has also fallen by nearly a third since 2014.

CSJ are calling for the government to creation a new agency within the Cabinet Office – the Prevention and Recovery Agency (PRA).

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Andy Cook, Chief Executive of the CSJ, said: “There has been a clear and worrying correlation between the recent reductions in addiction funding and the increase in drug-related deaths.

“Recovery is earned through an enormous test of character and emotional determination. We should be doing all we can to support those going through this process.

“It is a dereliction of duty that we have rehabilitation centres turning away those in need due to a lack of funding.

“The government needs to fulfil its pledge and reverse these sharply deteriorating trends. It must regain lost rehabilitation capacity.

“We need a genuinely multi-departmental approach to recovery through every layer of government that will ensure that we can effectively combat addiction and help those in need of our help into recovery.”