Find us on Facebook

alcohol health alliance uk

Balance calls on government to raise alcohol duty to fund NHS

Duty campaign

What would you Choose?

Posted 29/01/20

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, is calling on the Government to increase alcohol duty in the forthcoming Budget, to fund public health and prevention services.

It is backing the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), a coalition of more than 50 leading UK health organisations, who are urging the Government to increase alcohol duty by 2% above inflation to ease pressure on public finances, to tackle the harm caused by alcohol and fund our NHS.

Recent cuts to alcohol duty have cost the government more than £1 billion every year – enough to fund the salaries of 40,000 nurses or 29,000 police officers.

Government cuts to alcohol taxes have had tragic consequences for public health, including nearly 2,000 more alcohol-related deaths in England since 2012, according to research by the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).

The research modelled the impact of the UK Government’s decision to abolish the alcohol duty escalator in 2013; a policy which had previously seen alcohol prices rise at 2 per cent above annual inflation rates.

Since then the Government has also frozen and made further cuts to alcohol duty, leading to lower prices and ensuring shop-bought alcohol is more affordable than at any time in the past 30 years.

Separate figures for the North East show alcohol results in around 1,500 deaths a year (2017) while it costs the NHS £209 million a year for services such as hospital admissions, A&E attendances, ambulance callouts and treatment for alcohol dependency (2015-16).

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “We are all conscious about the pressures our schools, our NHS and our police forces are under – it is time to say no to more alcohol tax cuts when this money could help fund the vital front line services most of us rely on.

“It is ironic that the alcohol industry is benefiting from around £1 billion in alcohol duty reductions every year, while it costs the North East £1 billion a year to mop up the fallout from the product they are selling.

“The burden alcohol places on society is unsustainable and we’re all paying the price. In the next Budget, the Government has an opportunity to act by ending tax cuts for the alcohol industry. We are urging them to prioritise public services, including the NHS, police and education system, and intervene to bring alcohol harms under control.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said: said: “Alcohol is 64% cheaper than it was thirty years ago, and its availability at these prices is encouraging more of us to drink at unhealthy levels. It is no coincidence that deaths from liver disease have increased in line with alcohol’s affordability in the UK.

“In order to protect the future health of our society, the Government must take action now by increasing duty on alcohol and investing that money into our over-stretched and underfunded NHS and public services.”

People can back the campaign by writing to their MP.