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New moves to curb street drinking in Wisbech

Wisbech is one of 33 areas around the country that have been chosen to take part in a government programme aimed at tackling alcohol-related problems.

Wisbech

Its inclusion in the scheme was announced on Friday (January 27) when the Home Office launched the second phase of its Local Alcohol Action Areas (LAAA) programme.

It follows a successful bid submitted by Fenland District Council on behalf of the Fenland Community Safety Partnership and the Fenland Health and Wellbeing Partnership.

Action in the town will focus particularly on street drinking and issues arising from the large number of off-licences. Sales from them now contribute to the large majority of crime and disorder there.

New initiatives that will be undertaken as part of the two-year project include the establishment of a forum for off-licence premises along the lines of the Pubwatch scheme that has proved successful in curbing pub-related incidents over the past two years.

An education and training programme will also be established for off-licence staff to help them identify and deal with drunk people who attempt to buy more alcohol.

Under the LAAA scheme all the chosen areas will be given individual support managers from central government, backed up by a set of specialist mentors.

They will also take part in a series of workshops enabling them to share ideas and best practice.

Welcoming the Home Office announcement, Councillor David Oliver, chairman of the Fenland Community Safety Partnership, said: "Participation in this programme will enable us to tap into specialist advice and learn lessons from what works best elsewhere in the country. It will reinforce the joint work we are already doing and give it a sharper focus.

"Unfortunately, Wisbech has a culture of street drinking that is hard to break down, particularly given the number of off licences where cheap alcohol is readily available.

"Too often it is sold to people who are already drunk and that leads to more crime and antisocial behaviour, including shoplifting and littering. It also damages the image of the town.

"Pubwatch has done a lot to help manage problems in pubs. Now we need something similar for off licences that will do the same there, making them part of the solution rather than part of the problem."

Involvement in the LAAA scheme will also involve action to raise public awareness both of the health problems linked to excessive drinking and of the support services that are available.

Councillor Mike Cornwell, Fenland District Council's Cabinet member responsible for health and wellbeing, said: "Fenland has the lowest life expectancy of all the districts in Cambridgeshire and alcohol misuse is likely to be a significant contributory factor to that.

"Everyone needs to recognise that drinking too much has a serious impact on physical and mental health. At the same time, there is a lot of support available and we will be doing more to promote those services."

Article added January 30, 2017