A big task for booze abuse force

A SENIOR councillor heading up a booze task force believes it will take a range of measures to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash said alcohol abuse can have a “devastating effect” on communities through health problems, criminal behaviour and the massive burden on public services.

Coun Brash is chairman of the Alcohol Strategy Group in the town, which will produce a report later this year about the licensing, treatment, education and pricing of booze.

It comes as new national figures reveal that national alcohol-related hospital admissions has topped the one million mark for the first time.

An NHS Information Centre report said admissions had increased by 12 per cent between 2008-09 and 2009-10 to 1,057,000 hospital visits.

The figures revealed the North-East has the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions in England with 2,406 admissions in 2009-10.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet has agreed that the Alcohol Strategy Group should investigate the introduction of a minimum unit pricing strategy for alcohol in Hartlepool, with members agreeing it should be “explored as a priority”.

It is one measure that the group is looking at to reduce the impact of alcohol abuse in the town.

Councillor Jonathan Brash, who is chairman of Hartlepool’s Alcohol Strategy Group, said: “The effect of alcohol abuse by a minority can have a devastating effect on communities through health problems, criminal behaviour and the massive burden on our public services and Hartlepool is suffering more than most.

“That is why the Alcohol Strategy Group is looking at a range of measures to reduce the harm that alcohol can do. This includes licensing, treatment, education and pricing.

“No one approach will solve the problem by itself, but together they can make a real difference and that includes minimum pricing. Difficult problems require tough choices and politicians of all colours need to show courage in taking the decisions that will improve our town.”

The Alcohol Strategy Group will bring out proposals later this year.