England's north-west 'needs minimum alcohol price'
- 5 June 2013
- From the section England
The north-west of England needs its own minimum-price on alcohol, Blackpool's director of public health has said.
Dr Arif Rajpura wants all the area's councils to join together to order a lowest price of 50p-per-unit, in a bid to reduce consumption.
He said "pocket-money" prices mean more people are drinking to harmful levels.
In 2010-11, the cost of alcohol-related issues to the north-west economy was more than £3bn, according to public health body Drink Wise.
Dr Rajpura said a price increase would not affect moderate drinkers, but it would affect hard drinkers and those who are drinking cheap alcohol from supermarkets and off licences before going out into the town.
"Consumption has increased as the price has fallen," he said.
"Alcohol has got cheaper and cheaper over the last two decades, so young people can purchase alcohol at pocket-money prices.
"It's one of the biggest issues for us in Blackpool, it contributes to many young deaths and that has a significant effect on our overall life expectancy, so for me it's an absolute no-brainer."
Dave Daly, manager of the Castle pub on Central Drive in Blackpool, said the plan would not curb drinking.
He said "Blackpool is a working man's resort and it always has been and always will be.
"The main stay of Blackpool is the river of alcohol that runs through it and keeps it alive."
Drink Wise said there are about 200,000 hospital admissions a year in the North West related to alcohol, 30,000 of them in Blackpool.
Blackpool Council is starting a public consultation, which could see the resort's pubs and clubs being forced to close at 03:00 BST at the latest.
Some are currently open until 05:00 BST.
Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: "Whilst we recognise the need to tackle problem drinking in the North West, we understand that setting a minimum unit price at a local level is likely to be illegal.
"Locally-tailored solutions such as Community Alcohol Partnerships, alongside better enforcement of existing legislation and more and better education about alcohol, are far more effective than pushing up the price of alcohol for the majority of responsible consumers."