The Health is Wealth Commission's recommendation that local authorities use the planning process to reduce the harm done to public health by easily available alcohol is bound to provoke a stormy debate, writes Frank Soodeen
We welcome the intervention with two caveats.
The NHS does not have a stellar record in establishing the impact of alcohol on community health, particularly in deciding whether an admission is "alcohol-related" or "alcohol-specific".
The hard - though not impossible - work of building a consensus baseline to judge a local policy opens the door for a notoriously litigious drinks industry.
Our recent review into the impact of the Licensing Act 2003 clearly found that authorities trying to be creative within the confines of the legislation generally ran deficits in their licensing programmes. Fee income from applications did not cover the costs of robust action in or outside the courts. Only authorities with the confidence and resources to subsidise such action were using their powers fully.
We recommended higher fee levels and that the act be amended to include a health objective to provide unambiguous powers for local authorities to do what the commission recommends. We still believe this is the right goal.
Frank Soodeen, head of public affairs, Alcohol Concern