To receive a report from the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health and the Acting Director of Public Health and to consider and either endorse or make recommendations to the Cabinet Member on the proposed decision to approve the Alcohol Strategy.
1. Mr Scott-Clark introduced the report and responded to comments from Members, as follows:-
a) the increase in alcohol misuse seemed to have caused the greatest deterioration in quality of life in Kent and the UK over the last 40 years;
b) measures which sought to address the issue seemed to treat the symptoms of alcohol misuse rather than its causes;
c) patterns of alcohol consumption had changed. The decline of community pubs, in which friends and neighbours could see and discourage excessive consumption, meant that alcohol was now purchased mainly in supermarkets and consumed at home, in the street or in other public places;
d) the ‘future actions’ listed in Pledge 3 of the Strategy included ensuring that amendments to the Licensing Act were understood. However, what was needed was more than understanding; the County Council needed to commit to having a positive input;
e) it was suggested that those presenting at hospital accident and emergency departments with alcohol-related injuries should be required to pay for the costs of the ambulance and their hospital treatment;
f) the report of the County Council Select Committee on Alcohol Misuse, published in March 2008, could helpfully be reviewed to see what had happened in implementing its recommendations since progress was last reviewed in March 2009;
g) there needed to be a balance between licensing and legislation and the County Council’s public health responsibility; and
h) in Europe, where many children would be introduced to wine-drinking at an early age, there did not seem to be as visible an alcohol problem in later years as there was in the UK.
2. Mr Scott-Clark agreed with the concerns expressed about the patterns and impact of alcohol misuse and the need to address these nationally, for example by price control. He undertook to respond to a speaker outside the meeting about future trends. Although experimenting with alcohol was part of youth culture, educating young people about alcohol and the dangers of its misuse was part of the Healthy Schools Programme, and had a dedicated service, the KCA. It was known, however, that the majority of young people acquired alcohol from adults. Enforcement had improved over the years, to stop off-licences from selling alcohol to children. The suggestion in Pledge 6 of the Strategy that children should be at least 15 years of age before being allowed to drink alcohol was based on the professional view of the Chief Medical Officer, with the aim of minimising damage while their livers were still forming. Addiction to alcohol was present in Europe, but was not as visible in public areas as it was in the UK.
3. The Cabinet Member, Mr Gibbens, thanked Members for their comments and supported the suggestion that the Select Committee report be revisited. He said that the way in which the County Council approached the issue of alcohol use and misuse would be a good test of its public health role, via which he hoped it would take the opportunity to increase its ... view the full minutes text for item 9