13 November 2013

Council calls for ‘Sensible on Strength’ campaign to reduce alcohol harm

A proposal to encourage off-licences to stop selling high-strength beer, lager or cider through a voluntary scheme will be put before the city’s Licensing Committee on 21 November.

The ‘Sensible on Strength’ campaign has been drawn up by the council’s licensing and trading standards teams and Sussex Police in consultation with businesses.

If agreed, shop owners who sign up, will join together in an agreement not to sell beer, lager and cider above 6% alcohol by volume (abv) and put in place other good practice measures including a refusals system, CCTV and documented training. Premises that sign up will be able to display a ‘Sensible on Strength’ sticker.

So far the idea has had a positive response from retailers, with over 60 off licence businesses volunteering to remove super-strength alcohol from their shelves. That includes all the off-licences in London Road, where the community experienced a particular problem with street drinkers purchasing high-strength, low cost alcohol.

Councillor Stephanie Powell, chair of the Licensing Committee, said: “We’ve already had a really encouraging response to ‘Sensible on Strength.’ High-strength drinks are a breed apart from other beers and ciders and can cause immense harm to vulnerable people.

“It has a wider effect, too; alcohol-related disorder increases fear of crime and that creates an unpleasant environment for everyone. Experience shows that where this kind of alcohol has been removed from sale there has been a reduction in crime, disorder and antisocial behaviour.

“The campaign is not anti alcohol but recognises the significant harm that super-strength beer, lager and cider can cause for street drinkers and the wider community.”

In August the Licensing Panel voted to revoke the licence of an off-licence in York Place following representations from the local community for systematically selling super-strength alcohol to street drinkers. 

Jesse Wilde, service manager at Equinox, Brighton, said: “Drinking weaker alcohol means the street drinkers we work with are more willing to engage with our support, are less likely to put themselves at risk and less likely to impact on their wider community.

“As part of a package of measures, including targeted assertive outreach, multi agency co-operation and community engagement, the B&W decision has helped reduce the presence of 15 out of 19 of the main street drinkers in the area.”

Chief Inspector Simon Nelson, said: "We know that super-strength alcohol is bought with the sole intention of getting drunk fast, and this has a profound effect on the community as well as those who are alcohol dependent.

“This initiative is one of a range of measures that we are introducing in Brighton and Hove; the scheme will enable retailers to take a level of responsibility towards reducing alcohol related harm and do the right thing by the local community."

If agreed, the ‘Sensible on Strength’ campaign will up and running before Christmas.

Read the reports for the Licensing Committee. ‘Sensible on Strength’ is Agenda Item no. 15  

In drawing up a local voluntary scheme, Brighton & Hove has been researching a similar scheme in Ipswich  

Brighton & Hove's licensing objectives are

  • Prevention of crime and disorder
  • Prevention of public nuisance
  • Public safety
  • Protection of children from harm.

A single 500ml can of 9% super-strength lager contains four and a half units of alcohol, which exceeds the government's daily recommended safe alcohol limit of between two to three units for women and three to four units for men.

Equinox Care provides a street outreach service for people with alcohol problems.