A Daily Mail story has claimed that councils may use forthcoming bye-law legislation to create 'alcohol-free zones'. Councils will reportedly be able to pass bye-laws through the Local Government and Public Involvement and Health Act, likely to come into force next year. Nottingham City Council is reportedly planning such a ban to address problems associated with the night time economy. Council leader Jon Collins said: 'People understand clear messages. There's no confusion in alcohol-free zones. I do not think it's a civil liberties issue. It's about saying we do not want people drinking in the street.'
Currently councils can implement DPPOs often known as 'controlled drinking zones' (CDZs) which allow police to confiscate alcohol at their discretion; these were intended to replace former alcohol bye-laws. CDZs do not ban alcohol consumption, though are often misinterpreted as doing so and have raised some concerns about indiscriminate use. Recently a report from the Manifesto club claimed CDZ powers were being used excessively by police and Community Support Officers. A BBC story on Nottingham's proposed ban says the exsiting CDZs cause displacement.
Over 700 CDZs have been introduced since 2003, generally being described by police and councils as a 'useful tool' to help address alcohol-related anti-social behaviour. However they appear to have been most effectively used in relation to problematic street-drinking areas rather than rowdy town centres or night-time economy issues. A range of other powers are also available to police and councils such as Dispersal Zones and Penalty Notices for Disorder, outlined in this Home Office guidance. Drinking Banning Orders (DBOs) also recently became available on application.
Personally I wouldn't expect to see a significant difference in what is achieved whether 'no alcohol zones' or 'controlled alcohol zones' are in place. Whilst the message is different, the capacity to enforce these orders will remain the same. At least with the existing controlled zones there is a premise that alcohol should only be removed where 'an individual is causing a problem', and less risk of unrealistic expectations that public drinking would be eradicated.
Further information and guidance includes:
- The Home Office's 'The practical guide for preventing and dealing with alcohol related problems'
- 'Restricted drinking in public places' North West Alcohol Information fact sheet 4
- 'Street drinking: enforcement Vs support' AERC Alcohol Academy briefing paper
- 'Nightlife and Crime: Social Order and Governance in International Perspective'; a collection of studies by Phil Hadfield exploring alcohol-related disorder issues and approaches in the UK and Europe
According to the LGU, a spokesman for the Department for Communities & Local Government has since stated a ban would not be legal:
“Government legislation has already given councils, and the police, a range of powers to control drinking behaviour in their communities and it is taking steps to strengthen them further,” he said. “As such councils would not need to, or be able, to pursue a byelaw in this instance as they are specifically for local issues not covered by national legislation.”