Increased powers and penalties to tackle underage drinking and anti-social behaviour outlined by the government today have been criticised by two retail pressure groups.
The new Policing Reform Bill published by the Home Office proposes that the maximum fine for persistently selling alcohol to children from £10,000 to £20,000 and that powers to punish retailers selling alcohol which leads to anti-social behaviour should be increased.
Responding to today’s announcement, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned the government that responsible retailers should not be made scapegoats for alcohol related crime.
Andrew Opie, BRC Food Director, said: “It’s vital that efforts to tackle problem drinking don’t pile new burdens onto the vast majority of retailers who are selling alcohol perfectly responsibly and going above and beyond in their efforts to encourage customers to drink sensibly.
“There is already plenty of legislation to deal with poorly performing alcohol sellers. What’s really needed is better-targeted enforcement not more law.”
Although the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) is pleased that many of the concerns of retailers were heeded when the legislation was written, it is still worried that the government is focusing too much on punitive measures rather than community cooperation.
ACS Chief Executive James Lowman said: “Retailers already face a range of penalties if they do sell alcohol to someone underage. These additional penalties are superfluous and distract from the positive partnership making a difference across the country.”
Under the proposed laws a Late Night Levy will allow local authorities to charge premises which sell alcohol between midnight and 6am.
Lowman added: “There will be some convenience retailers who will be caught under this criteria and will have to pay the late night levy.
“We will be working with Home Office to ensure that this does end up unfairly penalising retailers who open late at night and offer an important service to their community, without contributing to alcohol-related disorder.”