Failing to commit to minimum alcohol price a step backwards

We are writing to express our grave concern that the government has failed to deliver on its commitment to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol.

We believe it is a major backwards step in our collective attempts to reduce crime in our communities.

While crime rates are falling in the three force areas in the north east, the link between cheap alcohol and crime and disorder is undeniable.

In the north east more than £316m was spent in 2010-11 handling an estimated 213,800 alcohol-related crimes.

Alcohol is also having a major impact on our frontline officers.

A recent study revealed that in the north east over 80 per cent of officers have been subjected to an alcohol-related assault during their career and one in five has been assaulted six or more times.

Minimum unit price is needed, it’s wanted and it works.

New research by the University of Sheffield shows that a minimum price of 45p per unit is 50 times more impactful than a ban on the sale of alcohol below the price of duty plus VAT, the government’s chosen measure.

Real life experience in parts of Canada demonstrates that a ten per cent increase in the minimum price resulted in a 32 per cent fall in wholly alcohol-related deaths.

In contrast, the suggested alternative, to ban selling alcohol below cost price, will have very little impact and will certainly not address the problem.

It will affect less than one per cent of products sold in shops and off-licenses.

The ongoing freedom that sections of the alcohol industry are being given to sell certain products at pocket money prices is at the expense of vulnerable communities and our frontline public services.

Government has missed a real opportunity to reduce the impact that cheap alcohol continues to have on individuals, families and communities.

It was also a measure supported by ourselves, doctors and other health professionals, children’s charities, publicans and the majority of the public – who all want to see a reduction in alcohol harms.

Vera Baird

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner

Barry Coppinger

Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner

Ron Hogg

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner