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Ipswich: Town to host national street-drinking summit

PUBLISHED: 08:57 24 February 2014 | UPDATED: 08:57 24 February 2014

A successful trailblazing initiative to banish the sale of super-strength, low-cost alcohol in Ipswich has led to the town hosting a national summit.

The pioneering project was set up in September 2012 by police and partner agencies including the East of England Co-op. Since it began it has attracted the attention of constabularies and councils throughout Britain.

Some have already replicated the scheme which aims to prevent the excesses of street drinking, make a better environment for the public and businesses, and help vulnerable alcoholics into rehab.

Now organisations from all over the country and representatives from the drinks’ industry will gather at Wherstead Park, Wherstead, for the first national Reducing the Strength conference.

Among the speakers will be a spokesman for the association of convenience stores, the head of public affairs and corporate responsibility for Heineken UK, and the chief executive of the Portman Group – the responsibility body for drinks producers in the UK.

In addition a representative from Thames Reach, a London-based charity helping the homeless and vulnerable, will also be addressing the audience.

Other speakers include Chief Inspector Andrew Mason, of Suffolk Constabulary, who has been one of the main driving forces behind the Reducing The Strength campaign, along with Roger Grosvenor of East of England Co-op and Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere.

Delegates from police forces and councils in Thames Valley, Oxford, Solihull, Essex, Northampton, Kent, Bedford, North Wales, Wiltshire, Scotland, West Midlands, Brighton & Hove, Hastings and Greater Manchester are due to attend the summit.

Ch Insp Mason said: “We are hosting this national conference because Reducing the Strength has become a national issue. We have been inundated with requests for information since the initiative began and rather than travel elsewhere we have invited everyone to come to us. We are expecting about 180 delegates at the moment.

“The purpose of the conference is to spread Reducing the Strength across the country, but to encourage it to be done in a structured and informed way.

“I think it has put Ipswich at the forefront of problem-solving in relation to street-drinking.”

The campaign’s inception in Ipswich 18 months ago saw a blaze of publicity nationally. Since then the voluntary scheme has been lauded by politicians in Westminster.

A large majority of off-licences in Ipswich have chosen to taken cheap, high-volume alcohol off their shelves leading to a large drop in street-drinking related incidents and a fall in the number of street-drinkers in the town.

Businesses in Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Sudbury, and Lowestoft have now signed up after the initiative was replicated elsewhere in the county.

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