A HARD-HITTING campaign asks taxpayers if they would prefer annual tax cuts of £1 billion to support the alcohol industry or paying the salaries of 40,000 nurses, 28,500 police or 25,000 teachers.

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, along with the Alcohol Health Alliance UK have today launched fresh calls on the Government to increase alcohol duty by two per cent above inflation to fund public health and prevention services.

In 2015/16, alcohol was estimated to have cost the North-East a total of £1.01bn, including:

• £209m in NHS and healthcare for services such as hospital admissions, accident and emergency attendances, ambulance callouts and treatment for alcohol dependency

• £331m in crime and disorder, including 55,300 cases of criminal damage, 154,900 cases of theft and 20,000 cases of violence against the person

The region experiences the highest rates of alcohol-related hospital admissions in the country – 72,000 each year – a rate that is 23 per cent higher than the national average.

Meanwhile, alcohol tax cuts have cost the Treasury an average of almost £1bn every year since 2013/14.

The campaign comes as the NHS and other public services face a desperate shortage of staff, schools are increasing class sizes and cannot afford equipment and alcohol-related incidents are estimated to take up around half of police's workload.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “We are all conscious about the pressures our schools, our NHS and our police forces are under – it is time to say no to more alcohol tax cuts when this money could help fund the vital front line services most of us rely on.

“It is ironic that the alcohol industry is benefitting from around £1bn in alcohol duty reductions every year, while it costs the North-East £1bn a year to mop up the fallout from the product they are selling.

“The burden alcohol places on society is unsustainable and we’re all paying the price. In the next Budget, the Government has an opportunity to act by ending tax cuts for the alcohol industry.

"We are urging them to prioritise public services, including the NHS, police and education system, and intervene to bring alcohol harms under control.”