There has been a massive surge in local authorities seeking voluntary bans on high-strength alcoholic drinks following the government’s decision to abandon proposals for minimum pricing.
More than 20 towns and cities have introduced voluntary bans in conjunction with retailers, or are planning to do so. Police and local authorities in some cases are considering district or county-wide schemes.
Local authorities across Scotland are looking to adopt the model used in Ipswich, where police claim they have slashed binge drinking and violence since a number of supermarkets and off-licences agreed to stop selling lagers and ciders with abvs of more than 6.5%.
Cambridge, Coventry, Derby, Northampton, Portsmouth and Lincoln are pursuing similar plans, as are several London boroughs.
Nottingham this week became the latest city to launch a voluntary ban, which goes even further than the Ipswich scheme by including all cheaply sold beers, lagers and ciders with abvs above 5.6%.
The move comes despite concerns such bans may fall foul of competition law, the reason Sainsbury’s cites for its opposition. The Grocer understands retailers and suppliers are seeking a ruling from the OFT on the legality of voluntary bans.
Nottingham City Council leader Jon Collins accused the government of “backing off the issue” and also attacked Sainsbury’s for its stance, accusing the retailer of not considering the “social consequences” of super-strength drinks.
Sainsbury’s refused to comment but wine and Spirit Trade Association chief executive Miles Beale, said “locally targeted solutions” such as the Ipswich scheme showed police and councils already had the powers to deal with problem drinking, without the need for regulation.