Blackpool has been named as one of 20 new alcohol ‘action areas’ by the Government – in a bid to help tackle heavy drinking in the town.
Less than a week after Blackpool Council licensing bosses opted to reject plans for an Early Morning Restriction Order, the Home Office claims this new scheme will help address the damage caused by excessive drinking.
The resort being named as a Local Alcohol Action Area follows a bid from the council, backed by Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw.
The Home Office says plans are at a very early stage, but the idea is each action area will receive support and expertise from the Home Office, the Department of Health and Public Health England. They will also be put in touch with a ‘mentor area’ – yet to be identified –which has successfully tackled similar issues.
A Home Office spokesman said policy experts would visit Blackpool to advise the likes of the council, police and NHS on how best they could tackle irresponsible drinking.
They would suggest best practice from other areas which could be implemented in the town, and stay in regular touch to see how any schemes adopted were progressing.
Examples could include Late Night Levies, which have already been introduced in Newcastle and Cheltenham.
Under that scheme, premises which are open into the early hours of the morning would pay an extra levy to help fund the extra policing resources needed to deal with drink-fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour.
The project will run until March 2015.
Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: “It is vital we tackle the issue of alcohol misuse in the town and national support to do this can only be beneficial.
“I am looking forward to working with the local authority and the public health department on innovative ways to reduce crime, alcohol related disorder and alcohol-related health issues in the town.”
Coun Sarah Riding, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, said: “The aims of the Local Alcohol Action Areas very much tie in with the vision of the Licensing Committee that was expressed earlier in the week.
“As a council we are committed to tackling the problems that excessive drinking cause, however this isn’t something that can be achieved by one agency alone. The message that seems to be coming across loud and clear is that we all need to work together to improve the situation.”
Blackpool’s Pubwatch chairman, Craig Southall, said: “I welcome anything that seeks to find out where Blackpool’s problems are.
“The problems with excessive drinking in Blackpool, I believe, are around the social deprivation issues in the town – our high number of houses of multiple occupancy.
“The problems in these areas stem from the cheap booze being sold in off licences.
“What we don’t want is this to target our pubs and late night venues.”
On Monday, Blackpool Council’s licensing committee rejected plans for an EMRO, which would have forced town centre bars and clubs to stop serving at 3am.
Police argued for the measure because they said it was needed to tackle booze-fuelled problems, but licensees said it could hit the town’s reputation and spark hundreds of job losses.