Challenge over booze pricing

Coun Ray Wells
Coun Ray Wells

THE chief of a Hartlepool booze task force has approached the town’s Conservative group leader seeking support for a minimum alcohol price.

Councillor Jonathan Brash, chair of the town’s Alcohol Strategy Group, says alcohol is having a devastating effect on Hartlepool and is in favour of booze being priced per unit.

The Labour councillor has written to Park ward councillor Ray Wells, leader of the Conservative group for support.

It is after Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly ordered officials to draw up proposals for a 40-50p per unit minimum alcohol price in shops and supermarkets to tackle cheap booze.

Coun Wells previously opposed calls for minimum pricing to be introduced only in Hartlepool, saying people would simply go out of town to spend their money.

He says he will now look more closely at the idea of a national scheme, but warned against the country becoming a “nanny state”.

Coun Wells said: “Now the Government is talking about a national scheme then I would certainly look more closely at it but I think we do have to be very careful that we don’t end up as a nanny state.

“Alcohol in large quantities is bad for you, but so is food.

“I don’t think it is for politicians to tell people what they can and can’t drink.”

Coun Brash said 43 per cent of crime in Hartlepool is linked to alcohol and drink-related hospital admissions in town have increased by 18 per cent.

In the letter to Coun Wells he said: “I believe that this issue goes beyond party politics and given the overwhelming weight of evidence that minimum pricing reduces crime, saves lives and reduces the burden on public services I would ask that you add your name to the growing support for this scheme.”

He added: “People said it was the nanny state to introduce seatbelts or ban smoking in public places or introduce healthy eating in schools.

“Yet they have all saved lives, improved health and lowered the burden on the taxpayer.”

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