NEW licensing board powers to block applications for pubs and off sales in Inverclyde are being sought by a campaigning councillor.

Colin Jackson, who sits on the board, says it cannot act to protect public health when it comes to sales and over provision.

Councillor Jackson, who represents the poorest ward in Scotland, says the only way to get serious about tackling Inverclyde's deep-rooted alcohol abuse problem is for new provisions to be made available.

Mr Jackson said: "As a council we need to be able to listen to the concerns of the health board and work with them in anyway we can.

"Their advice is ultimately disregarded, because the law favours the legal rights of a business to sell alcohol over the health of the communities in which they trade,

"We need to be able to act to protect people."

Greenock town centre and east was named as the most deprived part of Scotland earlier this year and there is an inextricable link between poverty and alcohol abuse.

Mr Jackson said: "When we have requests at the Inverclyde Licensing Board there are always representatives from Police Scotland and the health board in attendance.

"But the licensing board are often advised by legal representatives that there is no legal reason to refuse a licence on health concerns such as over-provision in an area of high deprivation and alcohol abuse.

"Throughout the Covid 19 pandemic it has been widely reported and recognised that alcohol consumption especially at home has increased dramatically, and to dangerous levels.

"Bearing all this in mind I think we should request from the Scottish Government - given the unique and unenviable situation Inverclyde finds itself - for more localised powers in regard to the granting of alcohol licences.

"If the NHS and health board feel the need to object to licences being granted then they must have good reason.

"I am more than willing to give them the benefits of the doubt.

"We need to be able to act on the advice of the NHS and our communities instead of defending the business interests of the few."