Task force gives final report on Cheltenham sex trade
COMBATING exploitation linked to the sex trade in Cheltenham is a job which cannot be tackled by the borough council alone.
That was the conclusion of a task force set up to investigate the town's vice trade over the past eight months.
Councillor Barbara Driver (C, Lansdown) led a team to take a wide-ranging look at the town's sex industry – with a particular focus on people trafficking.
At a borough council overview and scrutiny meeting on Monday evening, the group's final report concluded that illegal activity related to the sex trade was no greater in Cheltenham than in other parts of the UK.
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Councillor Driver, speaking at the meeting, said: "We don't have any more of a problem than any other town.
"That's not to say we don't have a problem – it's just not a big one.
"The issues we face in Cheltenham are different to those we have in Gloucester. In Gloucester, the main problem is on the streets, whereas in Cheltenham it is behind closed doors."
Nevertheless, she said, research into the issue had been a useful exercise.
"I make no apology for looking into this," she added.
"We need to keep our eyes open and work to make sure young men and women do not fall foul of this obscene trade."
The task force's final report acknowledged that the full scale of the problem remained unknown.
It said: "There is very much a shared feeling that the stone remains unturned when it comes to identifying the true extent of these issues."
Recommendations included working with the police and public protection bureau to distribute information to victims of sexual exploitation, plus looking into the possibility of providing a "safe house", offering emergency shelter for victims.
The report concluded: "It is important to recognise that issues relating to human trafficking and sexual exploitation cannot be addressed by Cheltenham Borough Council alone.
"The borough council will be looking to partners to take forward recommendations where appropriate."