Ipswich: Cooper joins battle against strong drink

Labour candidate David Ellesmere with Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper.

Labour candidate David Ellesmere with Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper. - Credit: Archant

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has become the latest political leader to give high-profile backing to Ipswich’s Reducing the Strength campaign which was launched a year ago.

Ms Cooper heard about the campaign during a visit to the Austin Street Co-op – the oldest branch in the town – where staff had suffered serious problems with street drinkers before cheap high-strength beers and ciders were taken off the shelves last September.

And she backed attempts to extend the campaign nationwide – the Ipswich initiative has been taken up in local authorities across the country.

She heard from Co-op general manager Roger Grosvenor about the impact across the group and from staff at Austin Street who have seen serious incidents of disorder in the shop fall from 11 in the 12 months before the campaign launch to none in the last year.

Ms Cooper said: “This is a very good initiative and it shows the value of working together. You have retailers, the local authority, police and the health service all working well to help tackle a problem.

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“And you can see that by tackling the issue of street drinking at source, there is a knock-on effect of reducing anti-social behaviour more generally.”

She knew that more authorities had taken up the initiative – but warned that a lack of money could lead to authorities in some parts of the country not to follow the lead from Ipswich.

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“Here there is a local council that was very keen to take up this initiative and to work with the Co-op to push it through. That is not always going to be the case and it deserves to have government support,” she said.

Although the Co-op has taken the lead in the initiative, almost all the major supermarket groups and a large number of independent stores have followed the lead.

Mr Grosvenor told Ms Cooper that it was “an issue” that some stores still sold cheap, strong beer and cider – but said that the campaign had clearly been a great success.

Of 70 known street drinkers in Ipswich at the start of the Reducing the Strength campaign, 40 had referred themselves to the health service for rehabilitation over the last year.

Ms Cooper said: “This scheme has worked very well and it shows how a clear simple idea can have a big impact on the community.

“It is certainly something I shall be looking at working on in the future.”

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