Booze pricing plea off to Westminster

Drunken behaviour on the streets of Blackpool
Drunken behaviour on the streets of Blackpool
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A REPORT calling for higher minimum prices for alcohol in order to tackle Blackpool’s booze-fuelled health crisis is to be sent to Government.

A year-long investigation carried out in the resort found more than a quarter of residents are now drinking to dangerous levels.

Councillors who considered the report have now agreed to send it to Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley.

They want the Government to take the lead in introducing a minimum price of 50p per alcohol unit instead of the 21p per unit currently being considered.

A 50p-per-unit hike would see some large bottles of cheap cider treble in price and some spirits double.

Blackpool’s director of public health Dr Arif Rajpura is also supporting the move.

Coun Susan Fowler, chairman of Blackpool Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee, said: “There were lots of positive comments from the committee members backed up by Dr Arif who attended our meeting.

“The report will now go before the executive and then we are sending it to the Secretary of State for Health. We hope he will take note of what we believe are powerful arguments for setting a minimum price of 50p per unit. We need a joint approach as binge drinking is blighting our towns, and it’s not just Blackpool.

“For this scrutiny we worked with other local authorities including Cumbria, Blackburn and Lancashire and we hope strength in numbers will persuade the Government to take action.”

The committee is also calling for more education to make people aware of the dangers of binge drinking.

Blackpool has 1,900 bars and 180 off-licences with the latter concentrated in some of the town’s most deprived areas.

The report warned Blackpool has “some of the highest levels of alcohol-related harm in the country.”

It says an estimated 40,000 residents are “drinking at hazardous or harmful levels” which equates to 28 per cent of the adult population. Alcohol, it says, contributes in more than three quarters of domestic violence cases and “is a major contributory factor in violent crime.”

The latest annual figures showed 3,300 people in Blackpool aged 18 to 44 had an alcohol-related admission to Accident and Emergency.