THE chair of Inverclyde Council's licensing board says a robust 'multi-agency' approach is needed to drive down the number of alcohol-related deaths across the district.

Councillor Ronnie Ahlfeld has spoken out following a report released by the National Records of Scotland which showed that deaths due to alcohol consumption are again on the rise in Inverclyde.

In 2018, 22 deaths were recorded as alcohol-specific - and this figure rose to 31 in 2019.

The grim Inverclyde tally contrasts with the result for Scotland as a whole, where deaths fell from 1,136 in 2018 to 1,020 in 2019.

Deputy provost Councillor Ahlfeld says the council's licensing board is committed to tackling the problem head-on - and insists that policy change is vital.

He added: "It's tragic and very sad that so many people have died as a result of alcohol consumption.

"The licensing board is very keen to do everything in its power to alleviate the problem and improve the situation.

"Very few new licences have actually been issued by the board over the last two or three years.

"We can implement over-provision policy in certain areas to cut down on the number of places selling alcohol, but we've found over the years that doesn't work.

"In Inverclyde, 90 per cent of alcohol sales comes from supermarkets. It's readily available and often as cheap prices.

"We need national policies and we need agencies working together."

Councillor Ahlfeld also pointed to the dangers posed by home delivery services and urged national decision-makers to get to the root of that issue.

He added: "People can also now have alcohol delivered to their homes and that's something that has mushroomed over the last few years.

"That's an ongoing problem and will continue to be an issue I predict. We need to look at guidelines and restrictions around this practice.

"We need to work co-operatively with other organisations on a national level to find better solutions and drive these numbers in the right direction locally."