Government decision to scrap minumum alcohol price is slammed by Hartlepool leader

Christopher Akers-Belcher
Christopher Akers-Belcher

A TOWN leader has criticised the Government’s decision to scrap plans to introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol.

Labour councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said he was “disappointed” and believes the decision goes against everything local authorities are trying to achieve since taking over responsibility for public health.

In April, councils up and down the country became responsible for improving public health, including tackling booze concerns.

But Coun Akers-Belcher believes the decision not to introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol is the wrong one.

The Labour leader is also chairman of the town’s health and wellbeing board, which brings together council and health officials.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “I am disappointed with the decision as it goes against what we are trying to do since taking over responsibility for public health.

“It makes our job in addressing alcohol problems in town that much more difficult.

“One of our main concerns is alcohol abuse and this won’t help us.”

The Government this week dropped plans to introduce the measure, which is proven to save lives, cut crime and reduce hospital admissions.

Instead Home Office minister Jeremy Browne introduced a ban on the sale of alcohol below the price of duty plus VAT – a measure 50 times less effective than a minimum price set at 45p per unit, according to independent experts from Sheffield University.

Government ministers said the proposals would remain under consideration, but there were concerns there was not enough “concrete evidence” minimum pricing could reduce the harmful effects of problem drinking, without hurting those who drank responsibly.

Speaking about the decision, Colin Shevills, director of drinks campaign group Balance, said: “Without doubt it will cost lives across our region, while failing to cut alcohol-related crime and reduce the burden on our already over-stretched hospitals.”

Campaigners said that under the new policy, beers at four per cent ABV could still be sold for 40p per 440ml can, a 700ml bottle of spirits at 40 per cent for £9.49 and a two litre bottle of strong cider at 7.5 per cent for as little as £1.43.