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BINGE drinking in Southampton will become an election issue tonight as candidates are quizzed by residents at a public meeting.

Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green politicians will be put on the spot over the issue which is blighting the lives of people in parts of the city.

A recent citywide survey found that 45 per cent of people think there is a problem with people being drunk or rowdy in public places.

Police figures show that a quarter of all recorded incidents of violent crime occur on a Friday and Saturday night in the city centre.

Blamed Southampton’s large student population has been blamed for alcohol-related nuisance in areas such as the Polygon and Bedford Place, and organised pub crawls have been slammed for encouraging binge drinking.

The panel at the Southamp-ton Federation of Residents’ Associations’ annual meeting will include Southampton City Council’s Tory leader Cllr Alec Samuels, Lib Dem and Green parliamentary candidates for Southampton Itchen David Goodall and John Spottiswoode, and Labour councillor Sarah Bogle.

Cllr Samuels said: “Binge drinking is a problem but one doesn’t want to exaggerate. It’s mostly a few irresponsible individuals on a Friday and Saturday night. It’s everyone’s responsibility to do what they can to minimise it.”

Mr Goodall said: “Tackling the problems around excessive drinking requires a cultural change in our attitude to drink, so it can’t be tackled by a change in legalisation alone, but changes to the way alcohol is priced and sold, plus better enforcement of current legalisation.”

Cllr Bogle, who is facing re-election in Bargate, said that the council and police need to continue using powers to review licences of bars and bring an end to cut price deals, as well as spreading health messages about the dangers of binge drinking.

But she added: “We’ve got to have something alternative to offer.”

Mr Spottiswoode said: “The universities have got to take more resposibility for getting through to their students what’s acceptable.”

• The open meeting starts at 7pm at the Central Baptist Church Hall, Devonshire Road, Polygon, Southampton.