LITTLE progress has been made in the past three years in tackling child exploitation across the conurbation.

That is the view of East Southbourne and Tuckton councillor Eddie Coope, who said authorities “really do need to get on top of this”.

The concerns raised by the experienced councillor over county lines drug dealing, sexual exploitation and knife crime were acknowledged by the head of Dorset Combined Youth Justice Service.

Members of BCP Council’s children's services overview and scrutiny committee meeting were presented with a report on the actions that had been taking in supporting young people who were victims of child exploitation.

Cllr Coope told the committee: “I have been fighting for the past three years to bring this forward.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Eddie CoopeCllr Eddie Coope

“Reading the report we do not seem to have moved very far in the past three years. Reports I have had on the street and everything else, what with county lines, sexual exploitation and knife crime, we really do need to get on top of this.”

He added: “I am afraid I do not see the bottom line where we are going forward from here. I think we need to go forward or have some strategy.”

The committee heard Bournemouth ranked in the top 10 nationally for adult opiate and crack cocaine use.

They were told the existence of this significant issue in the town had an impact on the supply and demand for drugs, with a knock-on affect in terms of children being exploited by drug gangs.

“I certainly don’t want BCP and Bournemouth to be in that group but I think it is an important issue,” Cllr Coope said.

“Knife crime within youth is on the rise. Every day we here about it and the rest of what we are discussing on this item.

“I just really do think it is too important not to go forward on it.”

David Webb, manager of the Dorset Combined Youth Justice Service, said Cllr Coope’s summary was “reasonable”.

“I think there has been a lack of progress if I am being candid. There have been some ‘start again’ type impetuses,” Mr Webb said.

The oversight of tackling child exploitation is currently the responsibility of the BCP Community Safety Partnership.

Committee members agreed to create a working group to focus on the issue of child exploitation, with it feeding back its findings to councillors in November.

Cllr Richard Burton, chair of the committee, said: “We do feel a certain disappointment about where things have gone and the fact the problem is still growing.”