New scheme to tackle drinking

THE borough has been identified as one of 20 areas across the country suffering from drink-fuelled crime.

The Government launched a new project last Thursday (February 13), to set up 20 Local Alcohol Action Areas (LAAAs) across England and Wales.

The aim of the nationwide scheme is to combat drink-fuelled crime and disorder and the damage caused to people’s health. Hastings has been selected as one of the 20 areas.

The Government’s Crime Prevention Minister, Norman Baker, said: “The coalition government is taking a wide range of action to tackle alcohol-related harm, which is thought to cost society around £21 billion a year.

“We have already given local areas the power to restrict the sale of alcohol in the early hours and ensure those who profit from a late-night licence help pay towards the costs of policing.”

Hastings and the other 19 areas will receive support from the Home Office, the Department of Health and Public Health England. Each will be put in touch with ‘mentor areas’, parts of the country where similar alcohol-related problems have been successfully tackled.

Cllr Jay Kramer, lead member for environment and safety at Hastings Borough Council (HBC), said: “This is excellent news for Hastings and St Leonards and will complement the current work with partners on the local initiative, Reduce the Strength, which is aimed at restricting the supply of beer, lager and cider with an alcohol by volume of over 6.5 per cent.

“The selected areas will see local agencies, including licensing authorities, health bodies and the police, work in partnership with businesses and other organisations to address the problems caused by alcohol. The project will run until March 2015, and we look forward to working with partner agencies to tackle the damage caused to people’s health through alcohol-related harm.”

HBC, police and other partners launched the Reduce the Strength campaign last October as part of a clamp down on street drinkers.

At the launch the council invited off-sales businesses from Central St Leonards, Castle and Old Hastings wards to take part in the scheme and voluntarily agree an amendment to their licence preventing the sale of low priced, heavy duty beers, lagers and ciders with an alcohol volume content of more than 6.5 per cent.

Since October more than 31 off-licences have signed up, with more following suit.