Members of the trade say statistics produced by local and national Government to justify clamping down on the night-time economy fail to report that the benefits of pubs far outweigh their cost to the economy.
The claims were made following last Friday’s (5 September) National Day of Action on Alcohol Harm, organised by the Alcohol Health Alliance to tackle the reputed £21bn annual cost of drink-related harm.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority launched a new strategy to tackle alcohol abuse last month after stating that excessive drinking costs the region £1.2bn each year.
The figure was worked out using an equation agreed by the Government and Public Health England, which includes costs of hospital admissions, crimes attributed to alcohol, licensing and unemployment among heavy drinkers.
However, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that alcohol-related crime has dropped 32% in the past decade.
Alcohol policy commentator Paul Chase said Greater Manchester’s figure is “mostly based upon flawed mathematical models”.
“Quantifying costs without quantifying benefits means we cannot calculate net costs — or net benefits as the case may be,” he said.
“A one-sided picture is just meaningless propaganda designed to alarm public opinion in order to justify a bit of booze-bashing.”
Last year, Public Health England altered the way it reports alcohol-related hospital admission statistics, separating primary and secondary diagnoses instead of including them in one lump figure. The trade has suggested a similar change should be adopted for all alcohol figures.
“We know that the old NHS method of calculating alcohol–related hospital admission episodes produced a figure of 1.2 m admissions a year for England as a whole. The new method says it is just below 200,000 a year,” Chase added.
Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said the Mayor’s Office and Greater London Assembly is the only department that puts the costs of the alcohol industry alongside its benefits.
“It shows time and again that local economies and communities are net beneficiaries from our industry — with an average cost benefit ratio of 1:8, rising to 1:26 in city centres,” she said.
“This means that for every £1 spent on tackling alcohol related harm, our industry generates £26 to invest in the local economy. We need to make sure this is reflected in the national debate.”
Last week, licensees in Southampton slammed the authority’s use of “flawed data” that is not specific to the late-night levy period to justify introducing the fee.
However, Southampton City Council said whether the cost police spend after midnight is “80% of the total or 50% is not considered
to be a salient factor” as it does not need to provide “forensic data”.
Public Health England said there are no plans to apply changes to “statistical reporting methodologies”.
Economic input from pubs
Taxes paid by pub trade
Alcohol Excise Duties
Employment Taxes (employer)
Employment Taxes (employee)
Other duties and levies
Licensing & Regulatory costs
Total taxation and regulatory costs
Source: The British Beer & Pub Association 2014