I am always keen to read about new schemes intended to solve the problem of trouble on city centre streets at the end of nights. It is a problem which urgently needs addressing for a number of reasons. However, I do not believe that the new scheme which will impose a ‘booze levy’ on pubs and clubs in order to finance policing and other requirements during the night in city centres will be hugely effective. The scheme, being introduced by Tameside Council, seems to target pub and club owners and make their lives more difficult while doing nothing to target the problems which occur as a result of people drinking alcohol from supermarkets before they go out.
I do not believe that the pubs and clubs in city centres are uniquely responsible for the problems caused on the streets of city centres. The problems of late night drinking were made far worse by the introduction of 24 hour licensing by the last government. Rather than people drinking less because pubs and clubs were open for longer, the problems of binge drinking have continued because people simply choose to go out later, having already drunk cheap supermarket alcohol at home.
I believe that the cheap alcohol available at supermarkets is as much to blame for the alcohol-related incidents in city centres as pubs and clubs. Due to the new licensing laws, people are now choosing to drink more alcohol available at lower prices from supermarkets before going for a later night out. This to me seems to be the real cause of problems in city centres at night, rather than pubs and clubs staying open past midnight.
It does not seem that the money raised from the new ‘booze levy’ in Tameside will provide anything near enough to fund extra police officers and taxi marshalls so the scheme is flawed both in terms of the ideas it is based on and in terms of practicality.
We should keep looking for solutions to the problems of alcohol-related incidents and I will continue to support any scheme which has a good chance of improving the situation but I think that this scheme is simply targeting the problem in the wrong way.