A GAUNT man stoops over the shabby windowsill of a council house as he carefully cuts drugs with a credit card.
It’s the middle of a sunny day, but while the scruffy dealer throws an occasional glance over his shoulder, he pays little heed to passersby.
Another resident in his thirties stops to chat before saying, “I’m off for a pipe,” and walking towards some wasteland.
Grangetown, on Teesside, ranks highest in the country for financial vulnerability, meaning its residents struggle to cope with income loss and cost of living hikes.
The findings came in a new report for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for “left behind” neighbourhoods, which is conducting an inquiry into “levelling up” areas across Britain.
In the 1950s and 60s, Grangetown was a smart suburb and its residents had skilled jobs at Teesport, a centre for the production of chemicals which were shipped all over the world.
But in the latest of The Sun’s Broke Britain series, where we visit areas struggling to survive during the cost of living crisis, locals explain how anti-social behaviour has left them too afraid to leave their houses at night.
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Lack of investment is harming caring community
Sarah Jones, 50, who works at the local bakery, Morgan’s, said: “The drug culture here is out of hand and there’s a lack of support for people.
“I see 15-year-olds who come in here and can’t even add up.
“I always feel their education will stop them getting a job, but some people here don’t even want one.
“It’s so sad that this is the culture these people have been brought up in. It’s awful.”
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Despite Grangetown’s problems, there remains a caring community spirit.
But Sarah says the lack of investment in the area is hampering young people’s prospects.
“These kids won’t get a proper education, then they won’t get a job,” she said.
“There’s loads of empty flats which they could have done something with, like build a better community centre.”
A derelict block nearby is boarded up and surrounded by piles of rubbish and smashed glass, while gaping holes pepper the ground.
Locals explain how drug deals regularly take place behind closed doors, with jumpy-looking men and women entering and quickly leaving nearby houses.
Unemployed turning to food banks and drugs
Peter Guest, 39, used to work as a carer, but has struggled with rising bills since losing his job.
He said: “I know this place is bad for unemployment, especially at the
“A lot of people are struggling because work places have closed down and there have been huge job losses.
“Grangetown used to be close to a thriving steel works, but when that began to close, things went downhill.
“There’s a lot of drug dealing and it’s not good. I try to take no notice of it and you just get used to it.
“I’ve struggled to get back into work and had depression for a bit.
“Unless you’re working a lot of hours, you’re left with nothing after you pay council tax and rent.
“One of my friends has used the foodbank before and I’ve also used it in the past.
“More people are turning to that unfortunately.”
Many residents were once employed by Southbank Steelmaking Plant, but now all that remains of the factory is an empty brutalist structure which towers over the suburb, a sad reminder of the past.
The town, which has a population of below 7,000, is now a shadow of its former self, and riddled with crime. In April of this year alone, 393 were reported, with 106 of those violent.
‘Scared to go out after dark’
One of the most infamous attacks in Grangetown took place in 2016 when Gary Hierons Snr, 45, woke to a disturbance outside his house.
When he went to investigate, he was greeted by an armed mob of hooded youths.
He was then knifed by two teenagers in an attack that left part of his
intestines hanging out.
The crime levels have made 66-year-old Tina Condrey fearful of going out after dark.
The former carer said: “The town has definitely declined and I feel like
the community spirit has gone.
“Part of that is crime and drugs-related, but also unemployment levels are a factor.
“I know there are drug houses around here and at night time, and sometimes during the day, I will not go out.
“There was big industry work here a while ago and we do have the docks, but the area didn’t recover from the closures.”
‘Big issue with burglary’
Birchington Avenue used to be home to a busy row of independent food shops and the popular Magnet Pub.
But the pub is now boarded up and the small businesses have made way for Premier and Herons Foods shops.
In 2015, Grangetown was ranked the sixth most deprived ward in England, out of almost 8,000.
One older woman spoke of how she worries for her grandchildren’s future.
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She said: “The town has a benefit problem, with too many refusing to work. There is also a big issue with crime and I know that because we got burgled years ago.
“A motorbike worth £5,500 had gone. When it was returned it was ruined.
“My son used that to get to work and lost his job because of it. He always says if it wasn’t for Grangetown and his bike getting taken, he’d still be in that good job.
“He can’t drive and tried getting to and from on a pushbike, but the damage was done by then.
“You do see the drug dealing a lot and you see people smoking green on the streets.
“I’ve got grandkids and I’m looking at them wondering what sort of life they’ll get.
“I worry for them. When my youngest comes all he wants to do is go on his bike and I fear that when he gets older, anything could happen to him.”
A spokesperson for Redcar and Cleveland Council said: “People right across the borough, including the council, partner agencies, charities and individuals work hard every day to alleviate problems of financial insecurity and addiction – but also improve the economy and create high quality jobs in the long term.”
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He added that a number of schemes are in place to help those in financial need, including a £150 utility rebate, council tax support, housing benefit and a household support fund.
The Redcar and Cleveland Money Advice Service also offers specialist advice and helps a number of support organisations, including credit unions, operating in the area.