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Axe could fall on cut-price booze deals in supermarkets
BOROUGH councillors will continue with plans to bring in a minimum price for alcohol in Knutsford and the surrounding area despite protests by some members.
Cheshire East Council is planning on pushing through a scheme which would see the end to cut- price supermarket deals on alcohol in the borough.
This is a move that is seemingly against Prime Minister David Cameron’s wishes.
Mr Cameron seemed intent on bringing in a scheme nationally, but according to aides he has had an apparent change of heart.
Cheshire East leader Clr Michael Jones has said the authority plans to do it for health reasons and to reduce anti-social behaviour.
However, Clr Brian Silvester, UKIP member for Willaston, has called for the council to scrap all plans to introduce a minimum price per unit.
“This proposal by the Cheshire East Council will not work and is very harmful to all those residents who drink sensibly,” he said.
“All this policy does is to increase, by around a third, by 33p in the pound, the cost of the favourite tipple for the vast majority of sensible drinkers.
“Not a penny of the increased cost will go to help people with an alcohol problem, it will all go to increase the profits of the retailers and manufacturers.
“Instead of posturing like this the council would be better advised to offer more help for those that have a problem with alcohol.
“This nonsensical policy needs to be dropped immediately.
“It is pointless spending council taxpayers’ money on a policy that can’t possibly work and would be subject to a strong legal challenge.
“The Government have dropped the idea because of this, but Cheshire East Council has got the blinkers on and seems determined to plough on regardless.”
But Clr Janet Clowes, cabinet member in charge of health and adult social care, responded by saying Clr Silvester had not understood the paper that went to cabinet.
“Dealing with alcohol harm through the NHS, crime and licensing, social services and economic and workforce costs is currently costing every single person in Cheshire East £328 per year,” she said.
“Alcohol harm is not going to be solved through minimum unit pricing alone, but the setting of a minimum unit price (MUP) does protect those groups most vulnerable to the effects of cheap, high-strength alcohol – the young and the chronic dependent drinker.
“Clr Silvester suggests that a MUP will benefit retailers and manufacturers – this is true, but robust evidence from Canada, Sheffield University, Drinkwise and north west employers identifies that, whilst regrettable, this is an acceptable consequence.
“This is in light of the significant savings made in terms of the reduced costs – social as well as financial – of tackling alcohol harm and in these particular vulnerable groups.
“His concerns for the ‘responsible drinker’ are also misplaced.
“Research has identified that responsible drinkers – those that adhere to the recommended weekly unit intake – will not be significantly affected by a MUP (50p per unit).
“So too, those residents who enjoy a drink at their local pub or club will also not be affected as licensed premises already charge over the suggested MUP level.”
Clr Clowes added: “Clr Silvester suggests ‘it is pointless to waste council taxpayers’ money on a policy that can’t possibly work’.
“However, in Cheshire East, where the cost to taxpayers is about £119 million a year, it can be argued that local authorities, the police and the NHS cannot afford to ignore the impact of alcohol harm, and we must be ready to move forward with this policy as soon as it is feasible to do so.”
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