Health chiefs are planning to promote the part alcohol plays in maintaining Birmingham’s status as a leading centre for entertainment and tourism even though alcohol abuse is on the rise and costs the city more than £400 million a year.
Under a vision statement drawn up by the Birmingham Drug and Alcohol Action Team, the “positive impact” that alcohol can have on employment and the local economy will be highlighted alongside warnings about the need for sensible drinking.
A new city-wide alcohol strategy from 2011 will replace an existing document which focuses on combatting drink-fuelled crime, treatment for alcoholics and tackling drinking amongst children.
In its place will be three principles – staying safe, being healthy and succeeding economically.
Max Vaughan, co-ordination manager at the drug and alcohol action team, said recognition of the jobs and economic benefits that could flow from alcohol fitted in with national Government policy.
He added: “In order for this positive image to be captured fully, emphasis needs to be placed on developing strategies which highlight the need for responsible attitudes and behaviour.”
Alcohol abuse in Birmingham is above the national average with almost 200,000 people – a fifth of the population – at risk of damaging their health, according to city council figures.
Hospital admission rates have been steadily increasing, at cost of £53 million a year to the NHS.
When the impact of alcohol on the courts and other public services are taken into account, Birmingham’s booze bill tops £400 million a year.
Ladywood, Northfield, Perry Barr, Hall Green and Erdington have the highest rates of alcohol abuse.
James Hutchings, chairman of the council local services scrutiny committee, which will discuss the 2011 alcohol strategy at its next meeting, said it was right to emphasise the role drink plays in boosting the economy.
Coun Hutchings (Con Edgbaston) said: “It is a question of getting the balance right between the positive benefits of alcohol and the abuse.”