High strength booze could be banned from sale in Leeds city centre shops in a bid to crack down on nusiance drinking.
Council chiefs have voted to consider removing low cost, ‘super strength’ alcohol from off-licences and supermarkets to try and reduce anti-social behaviour.
If introduced, retailers would be invited to voluntarily sign up to the scheme, first piloted in Ipswich and more recently Wakefield.
‘Super strength’ booze includes cheap lager, beer and cider with an alcohol volume of 6.5 per cent or over.
The scheme aims to target anti-social behaviour caused by people with alcohol dependency problems, also known as “street drinkers”.
Leeds City Council’s licensing committee heard city centre hotspots included around the bus station, New York Street, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Mill Hill and Mecca Bingo Hall.
Councillors heard Ipswich had seen two thirds of shops take part in the scheme and a 50 per cent reduction in alcohol related violent crime and anti-social behaviour.
But the super strength booze ban was one of a number of schemes around alcohol dependency credited with the reduction.
Susan Holden, head of licensing and registration, suggested the council talks with partners in health and treatment centres, as well as its anti-social behaviour teams and community safety teams to look into the wider issue to “ensure we are doing what is best for the city of Leeds”.
Councillor Ryk Downes (Lib Dem, Otley and Yeadon) questioned how ‘high strength’ alcohol would be defined, to make sure responsible drinkers are not penalised, admitting his “drink of choice” was high-strength, but expensive, beer.
The committee was told Wakefield had taken the view that the banning would be of cheap booze sold in plastic bottles or cans.
Sgt David Shaw, of West Yorkshire Police’s licensing team, told the committee they had had success in working with off-licences on targeting anti-social behaviour in the past, such as distributing photos of problem drinkers.
He added: “I think with these proposals, together with the other measures, as organisations we are heading in the right direction.”
The plan to ban follows on from a police and council initiative which was started in January to crack down on people illegally begging in the city centre.
The blitz on begging in Leeds targeted a “hardcore” of schemers, many who were not homeless, who conned people out of cash with fictitious sob stories or intimidating tactics – with many going on to spend their ill-gotten gains on drink and drugs.