£100m toll of booze crime

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BLACKPOOL’S pubs and clubs are set to be forced to close earlier – after new figures today reveal the £100m toll of booze-fuelled crime on the resort.

Licensing chiefs will meet next week to consider banning town centre venues from opening after 3am.

The move is a bid to curb late night violence which is stretching police and health services to the limit.

Under new Government legislation introduced last year, councils can consider introducing an Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) to reign in licensing hours, or a Late Night Levy to help with policing costs.

The measures are designed to relieve pressures associated with licensing changes brought in by the Government in 2005 which allowed 24-hour drinking.

Blackpool Council’s licensing committee is being recommended to introduce an EMRO which would cover town centre premises.

If councillors agree to the proposal when the committee meets next Wednesday, a consultation will be held and the order could be in place by August.

Currently, 34 premises in the town centre are allowed to sell alcohol after 3am, with the latest licence allowing booze to be sold up until 5am.

But a police report says the costs associated with alcohol-related disorder added up to £100.1m in Blackpool in 2010/11.

The huge toll was made up of a £14.5m cost to the NHS, £38m cost to crime and licensing, £38m cost to the economy and £8m cost to social services.

But the licensing trade in the town, which will give a verbal presentation to the committee, has warned reigning in closing times could have a devastating impact on the night time economy.

Pub and club bosses claim existing measures, such as revoking licences at premises which overstep the mark, is enough to tackle the problems.

Craig Southall, (pictured above) chairman of Blackpool Pubwatch, said: “We will be outlining measures which we think can make Blackpool a safer place.

“Eighty per cent of trade within Blackpool’s night time economy is between teatime on Saturday and 4 or 5am on Sunday so this move would have a very detrimental effect if it went ahead.”

However those in favour of the move say it would end the habit of ‘pre-loading’ – when people drink at home before coming into the town later – encourage drinkers to go home earlier and free up the emergency services.

The police report due to go before the committee says the evidence “clearly demonstrates the impact the night time economy has upon the police and other statutory authorities in Blackpool since the introduction of extended hours within the licensing trade.”

It adds the police believe “only a limited market would be affected.”

The North West Ambulance Service has also backed the call for an EMRO.

Dave Rigby, sector manager for Blackpool and Fylde, said dealing with drunken revellers was stretching its resources.

Figures show between April and September 2012, 34 per cent of all violent crime in central Blackpool, amounting to 276 crimes, was committed between 11pm and 8am. Blackpool’s licensing chairman Coun Norman Hardy said the committee would consider all the evidence.

He said: “Everyone accepts there is a problem.”

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