Stockton's Infinity Bridge

ANEC welcomes measure to tackle alcohol misuse

23 March 2012

The Association of North East Councils (ANEC) has welcomed the inclusion of a minimum unit price in today's National Alcohol Strategy.

Just last week all 12 councils across the North East backed Balance's call on Government to introduce a minimum unit price as part of the National Alcohol Strategy.

ANEC together with an increasing number of organisations called on Government to take measures, as concern grows over the impact alcohol is having at a local, regional and national level.

Cllr Paul Watson, Chair of the Association of North East Councils, said: "A minimum price per unit on alcohol would save lives, reduce crime and create a better quality of life across the North East. This issue is affecting every locality and every community up and down the country.

"Minimum price is well evidenced, it is proven to work and it is a targeted measure. It will encourage younger and heavier drinkers to reduce their consumption.

"Alcohol is available in our region for as little as 12p per unit of alcohol and a two litre bottle of cider can be bought from just £1.34. The strategy recognises the need for this change."

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: "We welcome the inclusion on a minimum unit price in the strategy and applaud the Government's willingness to tackle a major root cause of alcohol misuse, which is ruining lives across the North East.

"The North East has the most to gain from the introduction of a minimum unit price. We have the highest rate of alcohol related hospital admissions in England and high rates of young people drinking. And while we have relatively low crime rates related to alcohol, it is still linked to half of violent crime and domestic abuse.

"Minimum unit price needs to be set at the right level so that it takes cheap, strong drinks bought in off licences and supermarkets - things like white cider and own label vodka - out of the hands of young people and harmful drinkers.

"The beauty of this measure is that it targets those people who need help, while having little or no effect on the pockets of those who drink within the guidelines. It could even help revive our community pubs, which have been suffering because of the easy availability of cheap supermarket drink.

"Minimum unit price has the support of a majority of people in the North East and our campaign for its introduction is supported by councils across the North East."

Commenting on other measures set out in the National Alcohol Strategy, Colin added: "Banning multi-buy discount deals on alcohol is already proving a success. Research shows that alcohol sales in Scotland have fallen since the introduction of a ban in October. This can only be good news for the North East, where we have a similar relationship with alcohol to our neighbours north of the border.

"Although the strategy largely makes great sense, some activity it sets out is already in effect. For example, it is illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk and emergency departments run zero tolerance approaches to abusive behaviour. The challenge for the strategy is to make sure these approaches are properly resourced and there is sufficient will to ensure they are enforced.

"We need to make sure that we are tackling the heavy promotion and widespread availability of alcohol, which along with low prices are the other major factors governing alcohol's consumption. Government needs to look more closely at restricting alcohol marketing, which will protect children and young people from being recruited as the next generation of problem drinkers. The policing of advertising has been left to self regulation for too long - it doesn't work."

Since its launch in 2009 Balance has consistently campaigned for a minimum unit price, producing an annual price report to reveal the pocket money prices at which alcohol is being sold.

For further information please contact Bethan Hughes on 0191 261 3917 or 07957 823 864 (mobile); email bethan.hughes@northeastcouncils.gov.uk