I met with Dr Virginia Pearson, Director of Public Health in Devon and representatives from Devon and Cornwall County Councils, Police and Alcohol Services to discuss the possibilities for joint action on alcohol problems in the Peninsula. An estimated 23% of South West residents aged 16-24 are hazardous drinkers and 4% are dependent on alcohol. The statistics on violent crime, suicide, accidents and hospital admissions make depressing reading and I firmly believe that we are paying a very heavy price for cheap supermarket alcohol.
In Manchester, the councils are looking at introducing bye laws to regulate the cost of alcohol whilst in Middlesborough they are trying to change licensing laws to achieve the same result. It will be interesting to see the outcome of these projects which may yet fall foul of European Directives on competition law. There has been progress in Devon using alcohol banning orders and clearly the police need greater powers to restrict licensing in areas where there are problems with drunken violent behaviour. We desperately need an end to the madness of 24 hour drinking, which has benefitted no one.