Bar owners on Birmingham's Broad Street experienced the "best Christmas in ten years" as levels of disorder plummeted, traders and police said yesterday.

The expected increase in anti-social behaviour following the launch of extended drinking hours in November failed to materialise in the city's 'golden mile' as crime rates decreased by 16 per cent.

There were 326 offences reported in the entire city centre in December 2005, 61 less than the previous year.

Chief Superintendent Peter Goodman, commander of Steelhouse Lane police station, said he was also pleased that there were no serious incidents in the city centre during the festive period.

Licensees in the entertainment district said trade throughout December was more lucrative than the previous year.

Crime figures relating to drinking for the West Midlands county have yet to be released.

However, a local councillor in one Birmingham suburb with a vibrant pub scene said he had received no complaints from residents regarding anti-social behaviour.

Martin Mullaney (Lib Dem Moseley and Kings Heath) said that in November he had been contacted by many residents concerned about the new licensing laws which allows the many pubs in Moseley Village to remain open for longer periods.

Chief Supt Goodman said it was too early to asses if the Licensing Act has had a

positive impact on drinking.

However, he said that revellers were visiting taxi ranks at different times, which suggests that that new law's aim of staggering times at which partygoers left bars and clubs was having an effect.

He added: "The festive period has been fantastic. Not only in terms of the crime figures, we have also had no serious incidents in the lead up to Christmas which is

really pleasing. Many of the bars and clubs have security staff with yellow jackets, which is a really positive, visible alternative to bouncers.

"We also have a healthy pub and clubwatch scheme which helps all the establishments keep in contact with each other."

Chief Supt Goodman said the Christmas decorations around Broad Street would have also helped to create a

festive atmosphere. Allan Sartori, director of the Broad Street Business Improvement District (BID) scheme, said none of the traders had reported any incidents of dis-order to him over the Christmas period.

He said: "Trade has been fabulous. We have had the best Christmas for ten years. Everyone is well up on last year.

"There is £500 million worth of investment in the

Broad Street area including the International Convention Centre, Symphony Hall and The Repertory Theatre, and we have all traded very well.

"There has been a very lively atmosphere on Broad Street which has not been ruined by any mindless individuals.

"The Licensing Act has not affected us. It is a damp squib, the biggest non-event since the Millennium." Coun Mullaney

said: "I have kept a close eye on drinking in Moseley because I know that a lot of residents were concerned that the changes that were introduced last year would cause anti-social behaviour.

"But I have had no complaints from residents about any trouble when the pubs close."