Super Strength Solutions

I was going to write a blog on super strength alcohol and local schemes, but our Public Affairs Director Shane Brennan has just been to a conference to speak about the issue, so I thought I’d ask him to write it instead. Here it is:

On Tuesday (4th March) I was invited to speak at a conference organised by the Suffolk Police to talk about their ‘Reducing the Strength’ scheme which has run in Ipswich over the past two years and is targeted at the problem of street drinking. The most controversial and well known element of the scheme is the voluntary agreement for retailers to not sell cheap high strength lager and cider.

I think that the Ipswich scheme is a success. I do not think that the measure of that success is the total number of retailers that have taken products off their shelves (a significant number have not done so even now two years in to the scheme) but because anti-social behaviour has reduced and a good number (about half) of the identified street drinkers are now off the streets and in treatment.

This has been down to the quality of the partnership that has been established between police, retailers, the council and crucially the health and social services. These partners identified a serious local issue and they have tackled it thoughtfully, building an effective and lasting partnership.

That said I don’t think the Ipswich scheme has answered all the questions. There remains significant uncertainty about what the law allows retailers and councils to agree in this area. They have landed on a definition of the products they think are a problem that works for them, but I’m not sure how transferable their approach is to other places and crucially they have not been able to completely allay legitimate retailer concerns about competitors that do not take part in the scheme.

Also whilst ‘Reducing the Strength’ has been pretty good in terms of approaching the scheme in the right way, the dozens of imitators that are emerging every week around the country are simply pushing voluntary ‘bans’ on retailer without any evidence, objectives or supporting local action.

At latest count there were at least 90 Ipswich style schemes either under way or under consideration. My message to the conference was that we all need to agree what are the crucial elements that make a good scheme that retailers can support and what is a bad scheme they definitely should not. Based on the feedback I got to this yesterday I am optimistic that we can do this and so that is now our priority.

This entry was posted by Victoria on Fri, 07/03/2014 - 14:27