Gateshead needs to break 'bizarre' relationship with alcohol, says council leader

Gateshead Council Leader Martin Gannon.
-Credit: (Image: Iain Buist/Newcastle Chronicle)

People’s “bizarre” relationship with alcohol “needs to be broken”, says the leader of Gateshead Council following a damning report on the costs of alcohol abuse in the region.

Gateshead Council’s health committee gathered on Friday morning to discuss shocking research conducted by The Institute of Alcohol Studies, which revealed alcohol harms are costing the North East £1.5bn a year. In Gateshead specifically, the IAS calculated that alcohol-related harms cost each resident £541 annually.

A further financial breakdown in the study shows crime and disorder linked to alcohol costs Gateshead almost £55m a year, on top of over £21m worth of costs to the NHS. Now, Coun Gannon has said he wants to see his council lead the way in changing the alcohol culture locally.

Coun Gannon said: “I’m not a Puritan, I’m not a teetotaler, although when I open my mouth about these things that's the kind of thing I get accused of. I do drink, I drink occasionally however I find it bizarre this cultural attachment we have to a really dangerous intoxicating beverage.

“I find it really really strange. I think it was mentioned there, that the adverse costs in terms of Gateshead are £500 per head, I’m not surprised by that at all, when you think about lost time from work, the health service costs, are really destructive.

“I just think It is something we really need to desperately highlight. We are aware of advertising and fixed-unit costs but I think it goes deeper than that, I think you’ve got to change the culture.

Coun Gannon continued: “It is deep in the culture and it needs to be broken and I want to see Gateshead Council lead on that.”

The council leader also noted the dramatic changes in the rates of smoking around the country over the past 40 years, with rates of smoking in men and women falling from around 40% and 50% respectively in 1974 to around 10% and 15%. However, Coun Gannon felt changing the culture around alcohol may be harder.

As part of several actions to highlight the cost of alcohol misuse, Gateshead Council will be backing alcohol-awareness organisation Balance’s ‘Alcohol is Toxic Campaign’. The campaign aims to highlight problems associated with alcohol abuse and is scheduled to begin on June 10 and coincide with Euro 24.