IT’S billed as the Government’s ‘last resort’ to stop alcohol-fuelled violence and antisocial behaviour. But is creating an Alcohol Disorder Zone (ADZ) in one of Southampton’s most popular night-time areas – Bedford Place – the answer?
‘No’ says the city’s deputy leader Councillor Royston Smith. “It’s like a sticking plaster on a problem the Government won’t face up to,” he said.
The zones would mean local pubs being charged a levy to pay for the costs of any extra policing and enforcement provided by the local authority and Hampshire Constabulary.
“I don’t think that is fair or the answer,” says Cllr Smith who says pubs and clubs already pay enough in taxes.
“It’s the Government’s failure – its 2003 act allowing pubs and clubs to open all hours and its failure to get a grip on minimum pricing created this problem.
“They have now conceded more police are needed – but the pubs should pay for it. That is not fair.”
Despite his reservations about ADZs, Cllr Smith said he would not rule them out completely.
For now the deputy leader is confident about sticking with the council’s existing measures.
Our previous stories on the problems with late night drinking:
• Tsar to clean up night life
• Call for more bars to face reviews
• Are students out of control?
• How did it get so bad?
• The benefits of a large student population
• Will price hikes solve the problems?
• Students have their say
• Police view on the booze problem
• Harassed by drunk students after heart surgery
The council now has the power to stop more pubs and clubs opening in an area if it believes the number has already reached saturation point.
And as exclusively revealed by the Daily Echo this week, it is to appoint a new £26,000-a-year tsar to oversee the city’s bars, pubs and clubs. The new night-time economy manager is being drafted in next month to make the city safer.
And Southampton City Council and Hampshire police want licensees across the city to agree to a minimum pricing pledge in the face of increasing drink promotions such as £1 Vodka mixers, 2-4-1 deals and free shots.
These are particularly popular on Tuesdays – a student night – that is becoming one of the busiest nights out of the week.
The city will also get a new In Case of Emergency (ICE) bus offering first aid and advice to revellers in the city centre over the festive period.
The police, council and other organisations have set up the bus as part of the Safe City Partnership to reduce pressure on the police and the hospital’s emergency department.
It will be out on the streets on selected nights across Christmas and the new year and over peak holiday weekends.
There is a renewed impetus to tackle the problem after latest figures show reported violent crime in Bedford Place, ranging from minor public disorder offences to GBH, increased by 66 per cent in three months.
Police figures show that from April to June there were 79 incidents in the area, rising to 131 between July and September.
In a further boost, Southampton City Council has been awarded £54,000 to pay for extra training for frontline staff leading the battle against nuisance behaviour.
Cllr Smith said that while the money was welcome, it added to the bureaucracy associated with different pots of Government money designed to deal with the problem.
“No one will face up to the fundamental problem,” said Cllr Smith.
Communities Secretary and Southampton Itchen MP, John Denham said the money would be used to train and support ‘community champions’ and front-line staff as well as small scale projects such as environmental clean-ups.
Mr Denham said: “We want to spur more action, faster action and more effective results so people can be confident that problems are being tackled and stopped.
“It might be a minority causing harm and misery for the majority but this won’t be tolerated. We’re backing our communities and our neighbourhoods. We’re giving the opportunity to thousands of community champions for support and training so they can ensure councils and police deliver, using all the powers they have and doing all they can.”
The funding Southampton is receiving is part of a £10m package targeted at 130 local councils across the country.