Blackpool is being crippled by the availability of cheap booze and the health problems it leads to, a leading health figure has today warned.
The town’s public health chief told The Gazette alcohol-related problems are placing a “staggering” strain on the resort.
It is quite a staggering figure and it shows the extent of the problems in our townDr Arif Rajpura
The last in-depth study into the issue revealed that 105,000 working days a year are lost in Blackpool due to alcohol misuse – and the issue costs each of the town’s residents more than £600 a year.
Meanwhile new figures from Public Health England released yesterday show the resort has one of the highest rates of alcohol-related hospital admission in the country.
There are a total of 1,900 licensed premises in the resort – which works out as one for every 72 residents.
Alcohol-related problems costs the town an estimated £618 per each resident a year – the highest in the whole of the North of England and more than £200 higher than the Lancashire average.
And at 797.7 alcohol related hospital admissions per 100,000 people, the town ranks as one of the country’s worst.
“It is quite a staggering figure and it shows the extent of the problems in our town,” said Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health in Blackpool.
“The impact on the health service, street-cleaning, lost days at work ... alcohol is responsible for so much damage in Blackpool.”
In one ward – Bloomfield, near the centre of town – there is, according to the Blackpool Council’s most recent Public Health Annual Report, an off-licence for every 150 residents.
The problem is so great that the council has introduced an off-licence saturation policy in four areas of Blackpool to stop more opening.
A catalogue of statistics which hammer home the extent of alcohol problems in the resort.
• More than 4,000 admissions to hospital and over 16,000 attendances at A&E every year are related to alcohol.
• 52% of people having specialist treatment for alcohol problems are registered long term sick at the time of entering treatment compared to 20% nationally.
• Residents in the town experience the highest death rate in England for liver disease in people under 75.
• The majority of violent crime in Blackpool, including domestic abuse, happens in the area with the highest levels of alcohol availability.
Dr Rajpura believes it is dragging the whole town down, and says at the heart of the problem is the availability of cheap alcohol.
A Gazette study showed that in some outlets in the Central Drive area, it is cheaper to buy super-strength cider than it is to purchase bottled water.
“Alcohol being sold at pocket money prices is a massive issue - it is something I feel passionate about and something I’ve been campaigning against for the last few years,” said Dr Rajpura.
“We want Blackpool to become a place where families come and have a great time, so we need to get away from negative connotations we’ve got with alcohol related problems
“I want to see us change our image and make us a more family friendly environment, not reliant on alcohol as main offer to tourists.
“This would benefit the town if we tackled the alcohol-related problems.”