Matt Curtis (NEAS), Sue Taylor (Balance), Cllr Paul Watson (ANEC Chair), Ron Hogg (Durham PCC), Cllr Catherine Donovan, Carole Wood, Barry Coppinger (Cleveland PCC)
North East leaders have come together to pledge their support to the Local Government Declaration on Alcohol, an initiative which encourages partners to work together at a local level to actively tackle problems caused by drinking.
The North East’s collaborative approach to implement widespread change through partnership working has already caught the attention of leaders from other regions keen to adopt similar initiatives.
The Declaration has been signed by several North East councils - including Gateshead Council from where it originated - and others are due to sign up soon. It also now has backing from the region’s three Police and Crime Commissioners, the Northern England NHS Strategic Clinical Networks, the Association of North East Councils (ANEC) and the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS).
The organisations have acknowledged the need to address the growing problems caused by alcohol within the North East, which continues to suffer at the hands of alcohol that is too cheap, too available and too heavily promoted.
Spearheaded by Gateshead Council with support from Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, the Declaration includes a set of commitments which put the health and wellbeing of North Easterners at its heart. It also emphasises the importance of rebalancing licensing laws in favour of local authorities and supporting evidence-based measures to regulate the price, promotion and availability of alcohol.
Alcohol misuse currently costs the region an estimated £911 million a year placing significant pressures on frontline services such as the NHS, the police and councils. In the North East in 2013/14:
- Alcohol misuse cost the NHS £242 million
- Alcohol-related crime and licensing cost £259 million
- Alcohol cost the region’s workplace and wider economy £317 million
- £97 million was spent by local authorities on social services cases involving alcohol
Barry Coppinger, PCC for Cleveland, said: “I’m delighted to support the Local Government Declaration on Alcohol. There is already a huge amount of collaborative work going on to highlight the importance of reducing the harm alcohol does in our communities and the Declaration builds on this. It’s encouraging that there is a real appetite for change among the region’s PCCs, local authorities, health trusts and other organisations. I’m confident that together we can find effective and lasting solutions to the problem of excessive and unsafe alcohol consumption.”
Councillor Paul Watson, Chair of ANEC, said: “Tackling alcohol harm is a key priority for all 12 North East councils. We welcome and support the Alcohol Declaration, which brings together local authorities with a range of other frontline services and organisations to create a powerful, unitary voice to implement change.”
Carole Wood, Gateshead Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “The past few decades has seen rising levels of harm linked to higher amounts of drinking, to the point that we must highlight alcohol as one of the most important public health problems we face today. There is no quick fix for this problem, as excessive drinking is surrounded by complex social issues. The only way we can turn this around is for services join together and develop stronger and regionally focused actions to tackle the issue.”
Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “The North East is leading the way nationally by bringing together key organisations to combine efforts to tackle problems caused by alcohol in the region. Here in the North East we continue to have some of the highest rates of alcohol harm in the country. It is important that services adopt a joined up approach and stand together on calls for a range of measures that will really make a difference such as raising the price of the cheapest, strongest products; mandatory health labelling; and advertising restrictions - policies which are largely supported by North Easterners.”
A recent survey of North East residents found that two in five people feel there are too many places selling alcohol. It also revealed that 7 in 10 people are put off a night out in town centres due to the drunken behaviour of others.
The North East councils signed up to the Declaration include Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, County Durham and Darlington with others expected to sign up soon.
Posted on Thursday 30th July 2015