NCC backs minimum alcohol price shift

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MINIMUM alcohol pricing has received unanimous backing from Northumberland County Council.

Executive members did not need a debate as they responded to the advice of the communities and place overview and scrutiny committee that a minimum price was the best way to reduce the financial and healthcare costs of alcohol misuse.

The decision follows the controversial suggestion by Labour group leader Coun Grant Davey that Berwick in particular, as a border town, could take advantage of a pricing crackdown in Scotland by opening itself up to so-called ‘booze cruises’.

Committee chairman Coun Glen Sanderson said the issue had been well aired at a public meeting attended by about 50 people.

He was praised for the initiative by executive member for public health Coun Anita Romer and council leader Jeff Reid, ahead of the county council taking on responsibility for public health in April.

The council’s support comes as Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, publishes its survey of the region’s GPs.

Eight out of ten family doctors support the introduction of a minimum unit price. The majority of the region’s influential clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), have signed an open letter backing the Government’s intention to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol and calling for it to be at least 50p.

The groups, which represent the region’s GPs, will be in charge of commissioning health services from next year.

The survey results were announced today to mark the launch of a regional Balance campaign to increase understanding of the heavy price people are paying for alcohol misuse.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, explained: “Cheap alcohol is having a devastating impact. It’s ending lives, putting people in hospital, fuelling crime and threatening the future of our children and young people. This is the real cost of alcohol sold at pocket money prices. It’s no bargain.

“We know that the more affordable alcohol is, the more people consume. A minimum unit price of at least 50p will make cheap, strong alcohol less affordable to the vulnerable younger and heavier drinkers who are more likely to drink it and suffer the consequences.”

Balance estimates the increase for moderate drinkers to be about 28p on top of their weekly alcohol spending.