While Police, Councillors and residents have been working together more effectively to block unnecessary new licensing applications, the problems of alcohol are continuing to weigh on our society.
The warnings are stark: The Royal College of Physicians and NHS Confederation are telling us that the costs of dealing with alcohol-related health problems could financially cripple the NHS. Meanwhile the Health Select Committee have slammed government’s failure to act on these problems whilst calling for minimum pricing per unit of alcohol.
The Committee also highlight what is an open secret in the licensed trade, that the Government has been in the pocket of the alcohol lobby. The 2003 Licensing Act was exactly the permissive piece of law that alcohol industry body The Portman Group wanted. The BBC report on the Health Committee’s findings includes strong criticism of the government by MPs, the British Medical Association, the British Liver Trust and Alcohol Concern.
I would say about 70-80% of my casework in the last few months has related to alcohol and licensed premises. The Licensing act is weak and we’re seeing locally a race to the bottom as one venue after another races to the latest opening hours (if they’re already licensed) or raced to become an off-license if not already licensed.
The local Licensing committee (on which I sit) also recently received a shocking report on the “Health Impact Assessment of Licensing” [PDF]. It highlights a sharp local increase in domestic violence whilst under the influence of alcohol and a very sharp increase in the level of alcohol-related hospital admissions — and this excludes A&E admissions.
Indeed it’s strangely inconsistent that this Labour government have appeared to come down hard on smoking whilst failing to recognise the steep costs of irresponsible alcohol consumption.