Shallow Solutions to Social Exclusion ; the Drinks Industry Won't Tackle the Perception That Drunkenness Is Normal
Orr, Deborah, The Independent (London, England)
The tortuous contradictions at the heart of the Blair project have never been more evident. What could be more Blairite - in language and in spirit - than the inauguration of Alcohol Disorder Zones? Not that such places exist yet. They're merely a threat hanging over the pub and club industry. The threat, it is hoped, will force this lucrative industry sector to be a little more socially responsible when its executives are making their decisions.
Alcohol Disorder Zones are a bit like anti-social behaviour orders for pubs. The idea is that in areas where a concentration of premises has led to fierce competition, binge-drinking - with its attendant behavioural tics - has flourished. Since no single establishment can necessarily be singled out for blame, the designation of an Alcohol Disorder Zone will impose sanctions on all the bars in a certain place.
The police will work with the local authority to define the geographical area. Those businesses within it will be given six to eight weeks to clean up their act before action is taken, mainly in the form of fines that would be used to fund policing, street cleaning, NHS costs and costs to the criminal justice system.
Yesterday, the first evidence that the strategy may bear some fruit puttered into view. More than half of Britain's 59,000 bars and pubs - all those which belong to the British Beer and Pub Association - announced that they were ending happy hours and refraining from offering other cheap drinks promotions.
This is a good result for the Government as it has for some time wanted such a step to be taken, but has been unwilling to take the 'nannyish' step of actually imposing a ban. This way, the free market is given a nudge towards doing the social engineering and the Government is seen to be keeping its interventionist instincts in check.
A similar strategy can be seen in the policy - announced by Gordon Brown at the weekend - that promises to help first-time buyers, priced out of the market, to buy their homes. Once upon a time, a Labour government might have tackled its housing crisis by funding an expansion in the number of homes available for subsidised rental. Not this one though. That again would look awfully much like an anti-market intervention
Under this government, virtually no new council homes are being built. The figures now make the Thatcher years look like halcyon days for council- house provision. It is this shortage of housing and the consequent premium pricing in the private sector, more than anything else, that makes the lives of the least well-off extremely difficult.
But the Government has come to reply on a restricted housing supply as a motor for growing the economy. Now, as the market stagnates - and having squeezed the pips out of all possible first- time buyers - the Government is looking to kill two birds with one stone: bringing some new blood into the market as well as assisting individuals who may feel (quite rightly) excluded from the economic boom.
Again, it seems like a good compromise, one that maintains the freedom of the market while addressing some of the problems that freedom creates. But actually, both schemes are complex and bureaucratic, while shallow and impractical. Neither tackles the real problems that are causing the most acute difficulties. Both, in fact, may even end up exacerbating them. …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Shallow Solutions to Social Exclusion ; the Drinks Industry Won't Tackle the Perception That Drunkenness Is Normal. Contributors: Orr, Deborah - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: May 24, 2005. Page number: 31. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.