INVERCLYDE’S licensing board chair has vowed to tackle the problem of alcohol abuse in Inverclyde.

Councillor Ronnie Ahlfeld pledged his ongoing support following a recent report which linked the number of alcohol-related disease and deaths in areas which have a high density of off-sales.

The research by Alcohol Focus Scotland concluded that death rates are more than double in areas with the most bars and off-licences.

Councillor Ahlfeld, pictured, said: “Basically the report indicates that there appears to be higher incidences of alcohol abuse in areas which have a high density of off sales outlets. Many of these areas are in areas of multiple deprivation. However there are many other factors which are important.” Figures for the Inverclyde area reveal a maximum total of 69 alcohol outlets in the area, including on and off-sales.

The research showed that per 100,000 population, in areas such as Inverclyde, people were 70 per cent more likely to be hospitalised and this rose to 133 per cent of alcohol-related deaths than those with the fewest outlets.

Councillor Ahlfeld said: “The statistics indicate that we certainly do have a public health challenge.

“However the responsibility does not necessarily fall under the remit of the licensing board. The major considerations are does density of alcohol outlets play a significant part in contributing to alcohol abuse and does Licensing have a strategic role in the reduction of alcohol harm by controlling availability?

“Clearly this is a major debate. From the board’s perspective, we are conscious that we may have a part to play and will work with partner agencies to do everything possible to move towards alleviating the problems.” The study by researchers at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities found there were 34 alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 people in neighbourhoods with the most off-sales outlets.

That compares to 13 per 100,000 in ‘datazones’ 6,505 small areas representing neighbourhoods.