Hartlepool urged to step up efforts over minimum booze price

STRONG EVIDENCE: Colin Shevills, director of Balance North East
STRONG EVIDENCE: Colin Shevills, director of Balance North East

HEALTH officials have offered to join forces with authorities in the North West to find a way of introducing minimum alcohol pricing in Hartlepool.

Local authorities in the Manchester area have been seeking legal advice on how to charge a minimum price for booze at a local level.

One in three Hartlepool adults admit to drinking above the recommended limits

Colin Shevills, Balance North East

The town’s Health and Wellbeing Board is working with alcohol charity Balance North East to explore ways of tackling the harm alcohol causes.

Alcohol misuse costs the Hartlepool economy a staggering £42m each year, including 16,000 booze-related sick days.

Balance recently attended a workshop in Manchester which explored issues around introducing local pricing schemes.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance North East, told health and wellbeing board members: “The latest evidence is getting stronger all the time in terms of the effects of minimum unit pricing.

“One in three adults in Hartlepool admit to drinking above the recommended limits and it is linked to 60 medical conditions.”

Mr Shevills added there had been a 300 per cent increase in the last 10 years in the North East of alcohol-related liver conditions.

He said there was a clear link between cheap booze sold in off-licences and supermarkets and alcohol consumption.

Mr Shevills said minimum pricing of 50p a unit would save lives, cut crime and would only affect cheap alcohol and the minority of heavy drinkers.

“These are the people we need to get to if we are going to prevent harm,” he said. “It does not penalise the moderate drinker.”

Councillor Jim Ainslee, of the council’s licensing committee, said timescales for progress needed to be set.

He said: “We seem to be going round in ever-decreasing circles.

“Some members are getting quite impatient at the non-progress we are making. The impression is it is getting kicked into the long grass.”

Mr Shevills said he hoped to provide a written report on the latest legal advice to the health group at its next meeting.

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, chairman of the Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “We need to open a dialogue with Manchester.”