A CURFEW which means drinkers in Inverclyde must be inside pubs and clubs before a set time is to remain in place.

However, the time when the curfew begins has been extended from 11.30pm to midnight by alcohol licensing bosses at Inverclyde Council.

Councillors debated the curfew at a meeting of Inverclyde licensing board yesterday before agreeing to extend the time, with a promise to consider the situation for smokers in further detail.

The curfew, which has been in place since 1994, bans people from entering pubs, bars and clubs after 11.30pm.

The licensing board had ordered a consultation to be carried out to look at the curfew.

Superintendent Grant Manders told the board he and the police 'strongly advocated the current curfew'.

He said it was an effective way of managing the 'night-time economy' which is essential in order to best deploy police resources across Inverclyde.

He said: "Violent crime and disorder in Inverclyde is at a 10-year low." He said there had been three times as many breaches of the peace and three times more serious assaults in Paisley town centre, where there is no curfew, than in Greenock town centre during the last year.

He said: "The curfew contributes to a safe, well-managed and controlled night-time economy.

"It allows police resources to be taken away from the town centres to deal with other crimes in the estates and schemes. If we don't have that then my officers will inevitably be drawn into the town centres.

"From a purely operational point of view, this allows us to use resources to serve the whole of Inverclyde." Superintendent Manders said he accepted we should not live in a 'nanny state' and said his officers and licensees should adopt a 'common sense' approach to the curfew.

Inverclyde Council received 158 written responses from members of the public, licensed traders, community councils and other interested groups.

An internet Facebook campaign group - Scrap the Ridiculous Inverclyde Curfew Today - has attracted almost 3,000 members.

A report to councillors stated responses from the licence trade have 'generally been in support of retention of the curfew'.

Tony Dhesi, of Cleats in Gourock, and Joseph White, of Word Up and Harwoods, both spoke in favour of retaining the curfew. Matthew Evans, of Belhaven, had argued for an extension of the curfew time.