PLANS to consider a minimum alcohol pricing scheme in Portsmouth have been shelved – but officials say they would back a national ruling.
City leaders have been monitoring plans for a by-law that could lead to a minimum 50p cost per alcohol unit in Greater Manchester.
Councillors had agreed to consider introducing similar rules in Portsmouth if the scheme was successful in a bid to reduce problem drinking.
But so far the Manchester scheme has not been introduced.
Portsmouth said it would not yet be going it alone to introduce minimum pricing, but is calling on the government to bring in a national policy.
It comes as figures show Portsmouth has the third highest number of deaths among men linked to chronic liver disease in the south east – well above the national average.
Portsmouth also has the worst alcohol-related hospital admissions rate in the south-east.
Speaking during Alcohol Awareness Week, Alan Knobel, substance misuse co-ordinator at the Safer Portsmouth Partnership, said: ‘It looks as if the minimum alcohol pricing scheme can help reduce alcohol consumption by high drinkers by up to 10 per cent.
‘It also helps level the playing field between pubs, bars and shops, because it would mean shops can’t sell drinks at the very low prices many pubs feel are unfair.
‘And there is a problem in the city with people “pre-loading” – or drinking heavily before they go out – which can mean people get seriously drunk while out for the night.
‘But it’s also something Manchester’s councils have made no progress with, and we fear there are problems such as people simply nipping out of the city boundaries to stock up and bringing the drinks back here.’
Earlier this month plans to reintroduce a bill for minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland were announced – a bid the Safer Portsmouth Partnership is monitoring.
Mr Knobel added: ‘If it’s successful that’s clearly going to interest us.
‘But I think the way this might best be moved forward is if there were a national rule put in place.’
Councillor Lynne Stagg, who’s in charge of alcohol issues at the council, said: ‘I think we do need a way to stop people just pre-loading, and this was a way we could have done that.
‘It’s something we need to keep working on.’