A BISHOP AUCKLAND councillor is spearheading a new way of reducing the amount of alcohol people drink in the county after being appointed to Durham County Council’s Cabinet.

Joy Allen, Labour County Councillor for Bishop Auckland Town, has been appointed Durham County Council’s Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Safer Communities and says she is looking forward to the challenges that go with it.

In preparation for her new role, she met with Durham’s Chief Constable, Mike Barton to discuss the community safety challenges ahead as well as the value of providing a range of opportunities for the public to get involved in safer communities’ activities.

“Community safety, crime, the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour is often at the top of residents’ lists of priorities,” she said. “Prevention is far better than cure and, in the current climate of public sector cuts, getting local residents involved in crime prevention and community safety is vital.”

One of the first challenges she will be tackling is that of alcohol misuse. The availability and affordability of alcohol remain a particular problem within County Durham, with the price of alcohol being as low as 15p per unit in the Bishop Auckland area.

The cost of dealing with excessive alcohol consumption in County Durham was £185m in 2013/14, of which crime-related cost totalled over £59m.

Cllr Allen was the driving force behind the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy 2015, which was put together by the Durham County Council Public Health team on behalf of the Safe Durham Partnership and approved at a cabinet meeting on October 21.

The new approach aims to change the drinking culture in County Durham and reduce the harm caused by alcohol to individuals, families, and communities while also promoting responsible drinking.

Building on the previous two schemes in 2009 to 2012 and 2012 to 2015, it aims to tackle the risks alcohol poses to safety, health, young people, the economy and the environment.

Cllr Allen said she would lobby central government on reducing the price, promotion and availability of alcohol, adding: “Alcohol-related issues are a serious cause of concern as it has a massive impact in terms of anti-social behaviour and fuels 35 per cent of violent crime in County Durham. Alcohol is also a major factor in 40 per cent of domestic abuse incidents.

“My priority is to raise awareness of the harm caused by alcohol to individuals and communities and work with partners and the public to reduce the impact of alcohol harm.”