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alcohol health alliance uk

Government ignores overwhelming NE support to reduce alcohol harm

Posted 11/12/13

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, is calling on Government to justify why the views of almost 15,000 people across the region were ignored during the Government’s Alcohol Strategy Consultation.

A report out today (Wednesday) from the Institute of Alcohol Studies has called into question the robustness of the Alcohol Strategy Consultation. This includes an omission of the 14,828 responses from members of the North East public which expressed support for the introduction of a minimum unit price, whilst submissions from individuals in other regions appear to have been accepted.

These responses were collected by Balance as part of a campaign to highlight the impact that alcohol continues to have on the region. During the campaign Balance went out and spoke to people about the benefits of minimum unit price – a reduction in deaths, a reduction in hospital admissions and a reduction in crime, whilst only costing a moderate drinker an additional 28p each week. As a result, thousands of North Easterners completed a postcard calling for its introduction and these were subsequently submitted to Government as part of the response to the consultation.

The report also shows that the Government was selective in how it presented the findings to Parliament. The Government announced that 34% of people favoured a 45p minimum unit price and 56% disagreed with that proposal. However this did not take into account people who disagreed with a minimum unit price of 45p, but stated that they believed a higher minimum unit price would be more effective. Had this been taken into consideration the figures would have shown that 45% of people expressed support for a minimum unit price of 45p or above, with 46% not in favour.

Furthermore, if the Government had counted the figures from members of the North East public, a total of 95% of respondents would have expressed support for minimum unit pricing of 45p or above.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “We are appalled that the North East region has been ignored - particularly when we suffer from some of the highest rates of alcohol harm. Those 14,000 individuals have engaged in a democratic process. They have signed postcards in the expectation that their collective voice would be heard. That appears not to be the case. At the same time we understand that notes sent by individuals to MPs both in favour and against minimum unit price have been counted as part of the process.

“In the North East we have the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions, the highest rate of under 18s in alcohol treatment and almost half of violent crime is alcohol related. This is driven by alcohol that is sold at pocket money prices and action needs to be taken.

”In the North East, the health community, the region’s three police forces and its publicans all support minimum unit price. Also here in the region significantly more people support minimum unit price than oppose it. It’s needed, it’s wanted and there is a growing evidence base that it works. We want to know why we weren’t listened to and we want answers from Government.”

Balance will be writing to all North East MPs, calling on them to question why North East opinion has been ignored.

You can read the full report here.