27 April 2019
Frankly, no. Much could be done, but it would need resourcing. Sadly, both local and national politicians insist the world’s sixth richest economy can’t afford this - though we know such initiatives actually save money long-term, in budgets ranging from vandalism through policing to A&E admissions.
In our town of Ramsgate, for example, bars offering £1 shots stay open late and then close at similar times. The result is bottle-necks of people worse for drink at 2 am – including young people who are then vulnerable to exploitation - corralled into narrow streets, competing for the next available taxi. Windows get broken, cars get damaged, fights break out, residents’ sleep is disturbed - and all too often, tragically, a reveller or passer-by actually comes to serious harm.
Yet this is avoidable. Council Licensing teams need powers to limit opening hours and stagger closing times. They need flexibility to work with licensees and door supervision companies to establish street patrols and marshal schemes to nip antisocial behaviour in the bud. And crucially, they need powers to refuse to license bars offering very cheap alcohol, as well as those who persist in serving under-18s. Incentivising landlords to discount selected soft drinks could help too. The son of a friend who did not drink at all recently started because vodka was cheaper than Coke when he was out with his mates – a crazy situation!
Offering things for youngsters to do other than going out drinking would also help – but as austerity spending cuts have decimated facilities from youth centres to sports clubs, we might need a change of Government to achieve that!
A joined-up, common-sense approach to this issue would help balance budgets in the long run - and, much more importantly, avoid untold distress to people who suffer directly or indirectly through alcohol-related crime.
Becky Wing and Tricia Hartley, local election candidates for Ramsgate Central Harbour and Eastcliff wards
(Published in the Thanet Gazette Talking Points section.)