Government proposals to encourage local authorities to restrict new off licences should be scrapped as they undermine small business investment and job creation, experts have warned today.
Under the proposals, the Government seeks to tackle binge drinking and recently launched a 10-week consultation to look into cutting red tape for responsible businesses to “reduce the burden of regulation”, minimum unit pricing and a potential ban on multi-buy promotions in shops and off licences.
Policies that seek to refuse new alcohol licences in any high street deemed a “cumulative impact zone” and a cause of alcohol related health harm have also been proposed, though the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has submitted its views to the consultation and attacked the plans as short-sighted.
“At a time when the priority of Government should be promoting investment and job creation, Ministers should not be imposing a policy designed to stop new businesses establishing in communities,” ACS CEO James Lowman said.
“Businesses seeking an off licence should be subject to robust scrutiny to ensure that they have in place the necessary plans to trade responsibly, but these plans would create “no go zones” for businesses .
“The policy is also unnecessary. There are slightly fewer off licences per head of population now compared to ten years ago, and none of the academic studies cited by Ministers show that more off licences in an area causes more alcohol related health harms.
“We urge Ministers to drop this ill-conceived policy, and focus on the measures that will make a genuine different to alcohol related health harm in communities.”
Last year, David Cameron announced plans for a minimum price-per-unit on alcohol, a move which would increase supermarket prices significantly and Lowman noted that such a move diminishes the need for a multi-buy ban.
“Given the Prime Minister’s commitment to impose a minimum unit price, a ban on multi-buy promotions is unnecessary,” Lowman commented.
“It is also complicated and burdensome to enforce, it would remove choice and value from consumers and would have the most damaging impact on the competitive position of small stores.”