Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Lobbying local councils could be key weapon against 'prohibitionist' alcohol policies, the WSTA claims

Published:  30 April, 2015

Local councils are the real driving force between prohibitionist alcohol policies - and the trade should devote more attention to them, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. 

Speaking at the WSTA's pre-election seminar this week, WSTA policy manager Carlo Gibbs argued that "localism" is increasingly important as there is a lot of support among local councillors to intervene in alcohol policy. He argued that although all eyes were on on the race to number 10, lobbying local councillors could prove more effective.

"If you look at high-strength bans and minimum unit pricing, they have been pushed at a local level" Gibbs argued. "When it comes to alcohol regulation, the driving force is at a local level. We have to be alive to what's happening at a local level and how we deal with local councils.

"From what we have seen, the political parties don't have a great view on the stuff we deal with. It's going on at a local council level. But it's up for grabs and the industry needs to be clear on what it is doing in a social responsibility space. Everything we oppose and everything we fight, we need to say it won't work because of X, it will cost everyone money because of X."

Chief executive Miles Beale said MPs now understood the industry and were more likely to support it. "The prevailing narrative of alcohol as the root of all evil has changed in the past two years. If your MP keeps the seat, stay in touch, if you have a new MP, get in touch - but pay close attention to your local councillors. Ask yourself which politicians in your area you can get close to and influence."

The WSTA warned that the drinks industry faced a series of tough battles after the general election, and that regardless of the outcome on 7 May, the next government was likely to be keen to interfere in alcohol policy. 

"Neither Labour nor Conservatives are particularly pro-minimum unit pricing, but whichever one is leading a minority government or a coalition, it will be under more pressure and dealing with minor parties that are more interventionist," Beale argued. "We have to be prepared for more intervention coming from a minor party whether in government or not."

For a full report of the seminar, see our sister publication, Off License News.