PEOPLE have been quick to respond to a consultation gathering views on whether they think a minimum price per unit of alcohol should be introduced.
Just weeks after the consultation was launched, more than 550 residents have already aired their views. But council chiefs say there is still time to respond.
The consultation is being carried out by the town’s Alcohol Strategy Group, which is a multi-agency group set up under the Safer Hartlepool Partnership, to tackle alcohol misuse.
In Hartlepool and other parts of the North-East alcohol is being sold for as little as 12p per unit, particularly when purchased in volume from supermarkets.
One unit is the equivalent of a measure of spirits, a glass of wine or half a pint of beer/lager/cider.
As part of the consultation, residents are being asked to complete an online questionnaire or alternatively they can pick up a form from their local library or Hartlepool Civic Centre.
A week-long exhibition has also been held in the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre and survey forms have been distributed to parents via schools.
Councillor Jonathan Brash, chairman of the Alcohol Strategy Group, said: “The response so far has been absolutely superb and I would like to thank everyone who has participated so far.
“The questionnaire is easy to fill in and only takes a couple of minutes so I would urge others out there to let us have their views too.
“All of the research shows that drinking alcohol excessively has a detrimental effect on individuals, people around them and the community at large.
“Forty-three per cent of arrests in Hartlepool are alcohol related and we have a duty to do everything possible to tackle this problem.
“Alcohol-related illnesses are also having an increasing financial burden on health services with hospital admissions doubling over the last 15 years.
“The introduction of a minimum price per unit policy is just one way to try and curb dangerous and excessive drinking, without penalising responsible drinkers, and it is important for us to know what the Hartlepool community think about the idea.”
Coun Brash said if there was a minimum price of 50p per unit the large majority of people would pay just pennies more, but for those who drink dangerously and abusively it would make a much bigger difference, forcing them to drink less and therefore reverse the damage this small minority do to our communities.
Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, which is the first of its kind in the country, is supporting the consultation exercise.
Coun Brash added: “This is not about a nanny state, people have got to make their own choices about their lives, but if their choices cost other tax payers in terms of crime, anti-social behaviour or the NHS then we have a right to take action.”
The deadline to complete the questionnaire is the end of August. It can be filled in online by visiting www.surveymonkey.com/s/minimumprice or alternatively pick up a copy from the Central Library, in York Road, or the civic centre, in Victoria Road.