Osborne decision to scrap alcohol duty escalator "staggering" as alcohol-related hospital admissions double

The Northern Echo: A reveller in Newcastle on New Year's Eve lies on the icy pavement after a night on the town A reveller in Newcastle on New Year's Eve lies on the icy pavement after a night on the town

REGIONAL campaigners who have called for a minimum pricing policy to curb sales of the cheapest types of alcohol have criticised the Chancellor’s  freeze on price increases for booze.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the North-East alcohol agency,  said: “It is extremely disappointing that the Chancellor, George Osborne, has listened to the global alcohol industry and decided to scrap the alcohol duty escalator. He has gone even further than they demanded by freezing duty on whisky and cider and reducing it on beer.”

Mr Shevills said the duty on white cider is currently just 6p a unit of alcohol yet it is often found in the hands of children.

“Alcohol is is already 61 per cent more affordable than it was in 1980, as a result of which consumption has doubled since the middle of the last century.

Mr Shevills said the North-East region already suffers at the hands of alcohol.

“As well as costing the North-East around £1.1bn each year, we have the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions, the highest rate of alcohol-specific hospital admissions for under 18s and the highest rate of under 18s in alcohol treatment services. This is driven by alcohol which is too cheap, too available and too widely promoted.

“Last year the Government was persuaded by the alcohol industry to abandon plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol, a measure which is proven to save lives, cut crime and save money by increasing the price of the most damaging products. This latest decision will make a bad situation worse and will do nothing to improve the lives of nurses, police officers, ambulance staff – and some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

In February, the Alcohol Health Alliance warned that axing the escalator would be "madness".

In a letter to the Chancellor it said that if ministers scrapped the duty rise it would put "even more pressure on public services and frontline workers".

The alliance - which is made up of leading health bodies including the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association, charity Alcohol Concern and the Institute of Alcohol Studies - called on Mr Osborne to maintain the alcohol duty escalator - which normally goes up by inflation plus 2% each year.

Katherine Brown, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: "Today's announcement to scrap the alcohol duty escalator is staggering. With alcohol costing the country £21 billion a year, and alcohol-related hospital admissions more than doubling over the last ten years, it comes as a shock to learn that the Chancellor believes that it is right to further incentivise drinking by making alcohol cheaper.

"Alcohol is 61% more affordable today than it was in 1980 and current duty rates for strong white cider amount to just 6p per unit. Yet the Chancellor appears to think that this isn't cheap enough.

"This decision, similar to the u-turn on minimum pricing, has been taken following an intense and aggressive lobbying campaign from the drinks industry. It is yet more evidence to suggest the Government has turned its back on public health and frontline workers such as nurses and police offers, who have to mop up the mess that alcohol creates day in day out.

"It is yet another sad day to see how the profits of multinational alcohol producers have been prioritised over public health and safety."

Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, added: "Once again this Government has cast aside the health of the nation to protect the interests of big alcohol.

"The notion that this freeze is about protecting responsible drinkers is irresponsible spin - alcohol misuse costs us all £21 billion a year, our hospitals weigh under the burden of it and our police forces are stretched to the limit because of it. Instead of taking serious, evidence-based action the Chancellor has given the alcohol industry the green light to make bigger profits at all of our expense.

"This freeze makes a mockery of the Government's ban on below cost sales, rendering it even less effective than it would have been.

"Until we treat alcohol misuse as the huge public health issue it is, like smoking, we will all continue to pay billions to deal with it."

Comments (11)

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3:41pm Wed 19 Mar 14

behonest says...

George Osborne is absolutely right on this one and I am pleased he has ignored the alcohol police.

Nice photo of only one person at the start of this article, what about the other 50 million adults that live in this country? The vast majority of whom are responsible drinkers.

Enough pubs are closing as a result of higher and higher taxes, time to give them a break.
George Osborne is absolutely right on this one and I am pleased he has ignored the alcohol police. Nice photo of only one person at the start of this article, what about the other 50 million adults that live in this country? The vast majority of whom are responsible drinkers. Enough pubs are closing as a result of higher and higher taxes, time to give them a break. behonest
  • Score: 12

4:22pm Wed 19 Mar 14

David Lacey says...

Absolutely. Why should responsible drinkers have to pay for the stupidity of others? If there was zero tax I wouldn't drink more than my glass of collapso with my dinner. Most decent folks have the same attitude.
Absolutely. Why should responsible drinkers have to pay for the stupidity of others? If there was zero tax I wouldn't drink more than my glass of collapso with my dinner. Most decent folks have the same attitude. David Lacey
  • Score: 6

4:38pm Wed 19 Mar 14

thetruthyoucanthandlethetruth says...

Agree with the other commentators. I'm sick to the back teeth of all the rules and regulations - and it doesn't only apply to alcohol - because of the mindless idiotic minority. Let the clowns who can't behave suffer the consequences of their actions and leave the vast majority of us - the decent majority - alone to live our lives as wee see fit!

I'd also add that Osbourne is a slimy self serving pig and the sight of him makes me sick. Could anyone possibly blow their own trumpet quite so hard?
Agree with the other commentators. I'm sick to the back teeth of all the rules and regulations - and it doesn't only apply to alcohol - because of the mindless idiotic minority. Let the clowns who can't behave suffer the consequences of their actions and leave the vast majority of us - the decent majority - alone to live our lives as wee see fit! I'd also add that Osbourne is a slimy self serving pig and the sight of him makes me sick. Could anyone possibly blow their own trumpet quite so hard? thetruthyoucanthandlethetruth
  • Score: 4

5:01pm Wed 19 Mar 14

David Lacey says...

Did you mean Milipede and Balls-up? I feel like throwing up when they appear.
Did you mean Milipede and Balls-up? I feel like throwing up when they appear. David Lacey
  • Score: 3

5:06pm Wed 19 Mar 14

Trippynet says...

Excellent news. On a bottle of Whisky for example, nearly 80% of the price is tax. Responsible drinkers are fed up with paying through the nose. And do you think that an extra 10p on a pint of beer is going to make the slightest difference to binge drinkers? Of course not! But it does add up for the sensible ones who like the odd beer here and there.

Oh, and final fact: Finland has some of the highest alcohol prices and the highest rates of alcohol abuse. Germany has FAR lower alcohol prices, and lower alcohol abuse figures than here. Price is NOT the holy grail for cutting alcohol abuse!
Excellent news. On a bottle of Whisky for example, nearly 80% of the price is tax. Responsible drinkers are fed up with paying through the nose. And do you think that an extra 10p on a pint of beer is going to make the slightest difference to binge drinkers? Of course not! But it does add up for the sensible ones who like the odd beer here and there. Oh, and final fact: Finland has some of the highest alcohol prices and the highest rates of alcohol abuse. Germany has FAR lower alcohol prices, and lower alcohol abuse figures than here. Price is NOT the holy grail for cutting alcohol abuse! Trippynet
  • Score: 7

5:19pm Wed 19 Mar 14

RealLivin says...

Mr Osbourne seems to have go this one right but not doubt there will be some small print somewhere. Back in November Barry Nelson did a piece on this and I think all comments were similar to those already here, why should the rest of us keep paying for those minority of morons who insist on getting legless to have a good time. I have no issues with those who get drunk, stagger home and go to bed, but those who Friday night after Friday night do nothing but cause trouble and damages due to being drunk, need to pay for their "fun" if these were "taxed" then the cost of their night out can be recouped without the rest of us being forced to pay for it as well. The answer is simple charge them with being drunk and disorderly, and make sure their fine covers the costs of the police action, the court costs and any AE costs as well as any damages, then actually make them pay it by deducting it from their wages or benefits in the least possible time so if they are left cash strapped for a few months they shouldn't be able to repeat the episode. Fix the cause of the problem which is those that ABUSE drink not those that have a drink.

Unfortunately we would need Mr Osbourne and the government to reverse their Public sector polices as we no longer have enough police or court officials left to do any of this (however well paid judges seem to have managed to stay in place, especially if they are out of touch with reality).
Mr Osbourne seems to have go this one right but not doubt there will be some small print somewhere. Back in November Barry Nelson did a piece on this and I think all comments were similar to those already here, why should the rest of us keep paying for those minority of morons who insist on getting legless to have a good time. I have no issues with those who get drunk, stagger home and go to bed, but those who Friday night after Friday night do nothing but cause trouble and damages due to being drunk, need to pay for their "fun" if these were "taxed" then the cost of their night out can be recouped without the rest of us being forced to pay for it as well. The answer is simple charge them with being drunk and disorderly, and make sure their fine covers the costs of the police action, the court costs and any AE costs as well as any damages, then actually make them pay it by deducting it from their wages or benefits in the least possible time so if they are left cash strapped for a few months they shouldn't be able to repeat the episode. Fix the cause of the problem which is those that ABUSE drink not those that have a drink. Unfortunately we would need Mr Osbourne and the government to reverse their Public sector polices as we no longer have enough police or court officials left to do any of this (however well paid judges seem to have managed to stay in place, especially if they are out of touch with reality). RealLivin
  • Score: 4

5:27pm Wed 19 Mar 14

sefa says...

As a smoker I could ask the question why do we have to pay over inflated taxes?!

We cost £3bn but pay £9bn in tax. Are you going to jump to our defence now it's your vice being hammered - although not this time?

The majority of drinkers I come across have always sung Osborne, and other Chancellor's tune when it comes to over inflated tax on cigarettes never expecting that alcohol could be next.

You think the over inflation tax rise on cigarettes is a good thing but when it comes to alcohol it's 'leave us alone'. Horrendously hypocrritical!

You always have to be careful what you wish for because things can come back and bite you in the behind!
As a smoker I could ask the question why do we have to pay over inflated taxes?! We cost £3bn but pay £9bn in tax. Are you going to jump to our defence now it's your vice being hammered - although not this time? The majority of drinkers I come across have always sung Osborne, and other Chancellor's tune when it comes to over inflated tax on cigarettes never expecting that alcohol could be next. You think the over inflation tax rise on cigarettes is a good thing but when it comes to alcohol it's 'leave us alone'. Horrendously hypocrritical! You always have to be careful what you wish for because things can come back and bite you in the behind! sefa
  • Score: 0

5:53pm Wed 19 Mar 14

Withnail Lefty says...

Hope this budget drives Colin Shevills to drink.
Hope this budget drives Colin Shevills to drink. Withnail Lefty
  • Score: 1

6:15pm Wed 19 Mar 14

behonest says...

sefa wrote:
As a smoker I could ask the question why do we have to pay over inflated taxes?! We cost £3bn but pay £9bn in tax. Are you going to jump to our defence now it's your vice being hammered - although not this time? The majority of drinkers I come across have always sung Osborne, and other Chancellor's tune when it comes to over inflated tax on cigarettes never expecting that alcohol could be next. You think the over inflation tax rise on cigarettes is a good thing but when it comes to alcohol it's 'leave us alone'. Horrendously hypocrritical! You always have to be careful what you wish for because things can come back and bite you in the behind!
Not guilty. I've always criticised the higher and higher taxes charged on cigs. And I'm a non-smoker.
[quote][p][bold]sefa[/bold] wrote: As a smoker I could ask the question why do we have to pay over inflated taxes?! We cost £3bn but pay £9bn in tax. Are you going to jump to our defence now it's your vice being hammered - although not this time? The majority of drinkers I come across have always sung Osborne, and other Chancellor's tune when it comes to over inflated tax on cigarettes never expecting that alcohol could be next. You think the over inflation tax rise on cigarettes is a good thing but when it comes to alcohol it's 'leave us alone'. Horrendously hypocrritical! You always have to be careful what you wish for because things can come back and bite you in the behind![/p][/quote]Not guilty. I've always criticised the higher and higher taxes charged on cigs. And I'm a non-smoker. behonest
  • Score: 1

7:19pm Wed 19 Mar 14

sefa says...

That's refreshing to hear behonest. Not my experience but glad to hear there are some that realise you need to stand up for everyone because you never know when it might be you that's targeted.
That's refreshing to hear behonest. Not my experience but glad to hear there are some that realise you need to stand up for everyone because you never know when it might be you that's targeted. sefa
  • Score: 1

10:37am Thu 20 Mar 14

RealLivin says...

sefa wrote:
As a smoker I could ask the question why do we have to pay over inflated taxes?!

We cost £3bn but pay £9bn in tax. Are you going to jump to our defence now it's your vice being hammered - although not this time?

The majority of drinkers I come across have always sung Osborne, and other Chancellor's tune when it comes to over inflated tax on cigarettes never expecting that alcohol could be next.

You think the over inflation tax rise on cigarettes is a good thing but when it comes to alcohol it's 'leave us alone'. Horrendously hypocrritical!

You always have to be careful what you wish for because things can come back and bite you in the behind!
Unlike most drinkers, ALL smokers have or will have a medical condition related to their habbit. The higher tax on cigarettes was supposed to off set the medical treatment that is going to happen to all smokers, however I do not think this is actually happening and these funds are being diverted to other areas. All chancellors, past present and probably futre and governments are responsible for misusing of tax monies supposedly raised for one thing and spend/wasted on other things. I have no doubt at some point the "food" tax will come into force on all "bad" foods so the obesity problem can be over come, yet how much of this will actually go to the NHS to address a problem that is not down to the food or the drink but is down to its abuse. The easiest method is to tax it all and if the product being taxed is the cause as with smokers then this works but when the cause is the misuse of the product then it doesnt not work. (ie the bedroom tax)

Before any one thinks I am having a rant at smokers I am not, your taxes should go the NHS to cover your impending illness and as long as you are not causing problems for those not wanting to inhale your smoke enjoy yourself, the same with drinkers, even drunks who stagger home to bed, enjoy yourselves. But you and only you are liable for you actions and if there is a cost involved you and only you should pay it not every one else.
[quote][p][bold]sefa[/bold] wrote: As a smoker I could ask the question why do we have to pay over inflated taxes?! We cost £3bn but pay £9bn in tax. Are you going to jump to our defence now it's your vice being hammered - although not this time? The majority of drinkers I come across have always sung Osborne, and other Chancellor's tune when it comes to over inflated tax on cigarettes never expecting that alcohol could be next. You think the over inflation tax rise on cigarettes is a good thing but when it comes to alcohol it's 'leave us alone'. Horrendously hypocrritical! You always have to be careful what you wish for because things can come back and bite you in the behind![/p][/quote]Unlike most drinkers, ALL smokers have or will have a medical condition related to their habbit. The higher tax on cigarettes was supposed to off set the medical treatment that is going to happen to all smokers, however I do not think this is actually happening and these funds are being diverted to other areas. All chancellors, past present and probably futre and governments are responsible for misusing of tax monies supposedly raised for one thing and spend/wasted on other things. I have no doubt at some point the "food" tax will come into force on all "bad" foods so the obesity problem can be over come, yet how much of this will actually go to the NHS to address a problem that is not down to the food or the drink but is down to its abuse. The easiest method is to tax it all and if the product being taxed is the cause as with smokers then this works but when the cause is the misuse of the product then it doesnt not work. (ie the bedroom tax) Before any one thinks I am having a rant at smokers I am not, your taxes should go the NHS to cover your impending illness and as long as you are not causing problems for those not wanting to inhale your smoke enjoy yourself, the same with drinkers, even drunks who stagger home to bed, enjoy yourselves. But you and only you are liable for you actions and if there is a cost involved you and only you should pay it not every one else. RealLivin
  • Score: 0

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