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Norwich pubs' praise for minimum alcohol pricing plans

PUBLISHED: 06:49 29 November 2012 | UPDATED: 10:09 29 November 2012

Roger Cawdron at the Ribs of Beef pub. Picture: James Bass

Roger Cawdron at the Ribs of Beef pub. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic© 2009

Government proposals to introduce a minimum alcohol price which are being consulted on could not only help drive down crime and slash hospital admissions, but provide a much-needed shot in the arm for pubs in the city. PETER WALSH reports.

Government proposals to introduce a minimum alcohol price which are being consulted on could not only help drive down crime slash hospital admissions but could also provide a much needed shot in the arm for pubs in the city. PETER WALSH reports.

A Norwich MP and members of the pub industry have today welcomed a consultation on proposals to introduce a minimum price on alcohol which they say could help provide a boost to our watering holes.

Ministers believes imposing a 45p minimum unit price (MUP) will reduce total alcohol consumption by 3.3pc, and cut the number of crimes by 5,000 per year and hospital admissions by 24,000.

There will be 700 fewer alcohol-linked deaths annually, according to the predictions.

And despite concerns responsible consumers would suffer with wine and spirits prices being pushed up, the consultation has been widely welcomed in Norwich, which was once famed for having a pub for every day of the year.

Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North, who played a role in designing the policy while a Treasury minister, said: “A minimum price is great news for Norwich pubs because it alters the balance with the off trade including action against cheap supermarket booze.

“It will help turn the tide against irresponsible ‘pre-loading’ which we see plenty of in Norwich on a Friday or Saturday night.

“Norwich should stay a great place for a safe night out, with less alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder - and less pressure on A&E.”

Miss Smith said the policy was not about stopping sensible, responsible drinking, or penalising responsible community pubs - which are supported and promoted by the Norwich Evening News’s Love Your Local campaign - responsible shops, or sensible off licenses, but in targeting problem drinking.

She said: “People want less irresponsible drinking and this is a good step.

“I now urge Norwich pubs and anyone interested to reply to the consultation and help make sure that the view from Norwich is heard so that the details can be finalised. I’ll be speaking up for the plan.”

Nick De’Ath, chairman of the Norwich Licensing Forum, who runs The Lawyer and Unthank pubs in Norwich, said: “Anything that will encourage people to come into town is a good thing.

“I don’t know if it will be the be all and end all but it will certainly help.

“At the moment it’s certainly not cheap to go out and about in the city - you’ve got the cost of alcohol rising. It’s become a culture that people will go out later and later and purchase more and more stuff to drink at home before they come into the city. The problem has been the irresponsible retailing of some of the larger supermarkets which have been selling, at some point, booze cheaper than water. It does close the gap between the pub and supermarkets.”

Roger Cawdron, landlord of the Ribs of Beef pub in Wensum Street, Norwich, said he was in favour of the plan.

He said: “It will help bridge the gap between supermarket prices and charges by the pub. It will probably help to combat some of the social evils in the way of binge drinking as it will make the lower price ciders and canned lagers that much more expensive. Let’s hope it will drive more people into the pub.”

Graham Freeman, chairman of the Norwich and Norfolk Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said: “CAMRA has always supported this minimum pricing because we’re of the view it supports community pubs.

“There’s a big gap between alcohol sold in pubs and alcohol sold by the off trade so it’s (minimum pricing) quite good. It will close the gap between off sales and people who enjoy a pint in the pub.”

Mark Daniels, chairman of the East of England region of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), said: “If it gets people back in the pub I’m all for it.”

He added: “It will hopefully make the supermarkets and off licenses a little bit more responsible with their prices. It may help some people to realise how good it could be to come back to the pub, but it’s not going to make cheap booze expensive.”

Unveiling the package being put out for consultation, Policing minister Damian Green said: “These measures are not about stopping responsible drinking but designed to tackle the minority who cause alcohol-related crime and disorder in our local communities.

“The evidence is clear - the availability of cheap alcohol contributes to harmful levels of drinking. It can’t be right that it is possible to purchase a can of beer for as little as 20p.

“We have already introduced early morning restriction orders to curb alcohol sales, a late night levy to ensure those selling alcohol help pay towards the costs of policing and we have made it easier for local authorities to tackle problematic licensed premises.”

Irresponsible drinking costs the taxpayer £21 billion a year. There were nearly a million alcohol-related violent crimes and 1.2 million alcohol-related hospital admissions last year alone.

Superintendent Paul Sanford, district commander for Norwich where officers are currently targeting a violence linked to the night-time economy, cautiously welcomed the plan.

He said: “We would monitor any changes that are introduced regarding the sale of alcohol with interest and the subsequent impact on alcohol related crime and disorder.

“I do believe that action needs to be taken to reduce the harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption, whilst balancing the impact that such measures have on the responsible majority.”

An impact assessment suggests moderate drinkers will spend an extra £7 per year as a result of the plans, while harmful drinkers - defined as more than 50 units per week for men and 35 for women - would need to find an extra £118.

The public purse will lose around £200 million in duty due to falling sales and there would be a £500,000 bill for enforcing the rules, plus up to £16.6 million in “transitional” costs for the industry.

But it estimates the health benefits are worth more than £400 million annually and the reduction in crime nearly £13 million.

The consultation says banning “two-for-one” type offers would expect to see an “overall reduction in alcohol consumption and its related harms”.

The Evening News has been urging people to support their local pubs through its Love Your Local campaign. For more stories from the campaign visit www.eveningnews24.co.uk

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