Alcohol advertising could be banned in parts of Blackpool as part of a raft of new measures being considered to tackle the resort’s booze crisis.
The move is among a string of recommendations being considered by health chiefs as part of a new three-year strategy aimed at ending a drinking culture which results in more alcohol-related hospital admissions here than anywhere else in England.
It has always been a way to drown your sorrows and always will be
An action plan within the Blackpool Alcohol Strategy 2016-2019 includes exploring the possibility of introducing a by-law banning the advertising of alcohol in Blackpool.
Town hall legal experts will be asked to investigate the possibility of blocking booze adverts in the private sector. This could include pub advertising such as A-boards promoting special deals.
Promoting alcohol through advertising is already banned at council-owned assets and buildings.
Other measures include continuing to press for minimum pricing of alcohol and delivering an alcohol education programme to at least 2,500 school pupils in the town each year.
Off-licences could also be asked to ensure displays of alcohol are not in direct view of children, and the ALTN8 campaign of a few years ago - whereby drinkers were encouraged to alternate spirits with a glass of water - could be reintroduced.
Dr Arif Rajpura, director of public health at Blackpool Council, said the new strategy would follow on from work already being done in the town.
In a report to councillors, he says: “Addressing the harm caused by alcohol has been a Blackpool priority for many years.
“Indeed, significant investment has been made to tackle alcohol related problems and although progress has been made, alcohol harm indicators in Blackpool remain among the highest in the country.
“The new strategy sets out the strategic priorities for local partners in tackling alcohol related harm in Blackpool over the next three years.
“A robust action plan will support delivery of the strategy by setting out how partners will take responsibility for making it happen.”
Blackpool has the highest rate of alcohol related hospital admissions of any local authority in England, with 75 deaths in 2013 directly due to alcohol, which is higher than national averages, according to a council report.
Booze-fuelled disorder is also a concern, with 41 cases of alcohol-related sexual crime in 2012/13 occurring in the town.
The Blackpool reported rate of alcohol-related violent crimes is more than double the England and North West rate. Between 2011/2012 and 2013/2014, there were 1,109 assault related injury emergency attendances at Blackpool Victoria Hospital which occurred in the home. Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) resided in Blackpool.
Other measures included in the new action plan include the provision of a recovery centre in the town centre for those who have drunk too much, and a ‘wet garden’ facility to help treat street drinkers.
The latter is seen as a way of congregating drinkers so they are not scattered across the town, and can be offered help and advice to fight their alcohol addiction.
A night-time safe haven bus already operates during summer weekends offering support to party goers and vulnerable people in the town centre.
Organised by the council and the North West Ambulance Service, it is aimed at reducing the number of patients admitted to Blackpool Victoria Hospital due to alcohol-related injuries.
Coun Amy Cross, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Reducing Health Inequalities, said: “As part of our updated alcohol strategy, we are taking a wide look at ways that could reduce excessive drinking.
“All of the proposals in the strategy are methods that are worth considering. That’s not to say that we will bring in every suggestion, but we won’t rule them out either.
“Exploring these options in detail allows us to make a considered decision about which methods we think would work and which ones wouldn’t. That exploration will include consideration of the local businesses and economy, as well as making sure that what we do is in the best interest of our local communities too.”
Dave Blacker, chairman of Talbot ward PACT (police and community together), said: “There is a problem with alcohol in Blackpool and for me it is linked with poverty.
“It has always been a way to drown your sorrows and always will be. The vast majority of people do drink responsibly but it is those who are addicted or who binge drink which leads to these kind of issues.
“However alcohol is not about to be made illegal. We have to live with it and so I believe we have to educate people from an early age to be sensible when it comes to alcohol. I think education is a huge thing, right from an early age, in order to understand the dangers of alcohol.”
Last year off licence owners in Blackpool were urged not to sell booze before 9am in a bid to crack down on problem street drinkers as part of a new code of practice.
The new alcohol strategy is due to be considered by Blackpool’s health and wellbeing board tomorrow.
• If you live in Blackpool and have concerns about alcohol or drugs, please contact Horizon, which offers free and confidential support and treatment. Ring 01253 752100, email firstname.lastname@example.org . Or, if you are under 25 years old, please ring the hub on (01253) 476010.