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Off-licences in Croydon town centre agree to stop selling 'super-strength' booze

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MORE than two dozen off licences in the town centre have agreed to stop selling cheap, high-strength beer and cider. Thirty-four businesses have signed up to the voluntary scheme set up by the council to tackle street and binge-drinking. They have been sent a poster to display which reads: "We do not apologise for not selling super-strength alcohol in this store." Croydon Council hopes the crackdown on drinks over 6.5 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV) will tackle antisocial behaviour and improve public health. However, 'super-strength' booze will still be available in a number of supermarkets in the town centre after the big chains, such as Sainsbury's, declined to sign up. Mark Watson, cabinet member for safety and justice, believes removing high-strength cider and beer from off-licence shelves will make a real difference. "Saying no to super-strength cheap booze sales supports our efforts to tackle the binge-drinking culture and to help people who are struggling with this addiction," he said. "It will also help us to combat crime, disorder and antisocial behaviour associated with these sales." Harmful drinking in Croydon is estimated to cost public services, such as the NHS and police, £144 million each year. The borough has recently been made a local alcohol action area by the Home Office, which means it receives extra support from the government. Asking businesses to stop selling high-strength beers and ciders was originally pitched by the then Conservative-led council in February. Council officers met with traders and said there was "strong support" for the idea. At the time, business leaders warned the policy would only be viable if supermarkets agreed as well. Jeremy Frost, chairman of the Croydon branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "It worries me that if off licences and convenience stores sign up and supermarkets don't, then the small businessman will suffer." In March, the Advertiser found super-strength products being sold in supermarkets in and around the town centre. Sainbury's sells four parks of Carlsberg Special Brew in its Whitgift Centre, George Street and London Road stores. It also stocks its own brand of 75cl bottles of English Vintage Cider (7.2%) for £1.72. Lidl sells Scimitar Strong White Cider (7.5%) while Tesco said it no longer sold high-strength white ciders and single cans of beer. Ipswich was the first area to ask business not to sell such products. There were 100 less reports of street drinking in the first 12 months of Suffolk Police's campaign. Croydon said it would roll out the idea to other parts of the borough if it proves a success in the town centre.

Off-licences in Croydon town centre agree to stop selling 'super-strength' booze


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