Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Hackney booze chief: Cull off licences, ban super strength

Councillor Alan Laing, Cabinet member for Neighbourhoods, architect of Hackney's alcohol-free zones, wants powers to cut down off licence 'saturation' in local areas and ban the sale of "super strength" drinks in Hackney.

Writing in Progress Cllr Laing said: "What we want from the government, however, is to be able to tackle off licences and how they interact with other alcohol outlets and, as a key way of doing this, to consider the number of outlets in totality within an area. Local authorities should be able to limit their number and declare ‘saturation' in line with their own policy without the excessive restrictions that are currently placed upon them. This is the best way of determining the supply, regardless of type of premises."

He said that he understood concerns that raising the price of alcohol would affect responsible drinkers but he said: "those concerns don't prevent the government demanding that the drinks industry define ‘super strength' products which could then be specifically prohibited from sale by local authorities."

Councillor Laing's position may sound aggressive but the view of the borough's experts is that Hackney has a problem - at least with street drinkers - because it is more tolerant than its neighbours.

In May Hackney's Drug and Alcohol Action Team said: "Street drinking is a problem and it appears that about 30% are coming from outside the borough. This is possibly due to less tolerant attitudes in neighbouring boroughs such as Islington & Camden. Many of these drinkers are housed. There is a need for a clearer message on street drinking in Hackney and a greater take up of ‘wet centre’ places such as that in Finsbury Park."

The same report (Drug and Alcohol Action Team said) said DAAT would "determine whether the £95k spent on Alcohol Review was value for money" - but I couldn't find anything to say whether or not this question had been answered.

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