The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed plans outlined by the Government yesterday to crack down on irresponsible alcohol misuse.
The organisation said ministers had also indicated there would be extra powers for local authorities to act against the minority of premises which do not retail responsibly or who sell irresponsible products. Meanwhile, there will also be a consultation on a mandatory code covering all alcohol retailers, implemented through mandatory licensing conditions.
James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said: “It is right that the Government creates more sanctions to deal with both adults and young people who repeatedly drink irresponsibly in our community. There needs to a range of punishments which reflect an individual’s culpability in alcohol related anti-social behaviour.”
He also commented on the code of practice for alcohol retailers, saying: “We are committed to our role as responsible retailers and to delivering our part in reducing alcohol harm. However we believe that a code of practice that affects all retailers is likely to be a bureaucratic straight-jacket on retailers and local authorities. For example, a code that dictates certain training for convenience store staff has the potential to be very restrictive and burdensome on our sector.
“We are keen to see more details on the proposed restrictions on price and promotion. We are not convinced that there is a robust evidence base to show that measures outlined in this code of practice to restrict the way alcohol is promoted will prevent alcohol related harms. Such measures may undermine competitiveness and harm the interests of responsible consumers.
“We are also concerned about the Government’s pledge to pursue a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy in relation to alcohol retailers. We support effective sanctions against irresponsible retailers but think the priority should be placed on partnership working and not draconian enforcement."
The ACS said it had also been working to help advise on the minimum wage. Earlier this week a delegation, including independent retailers Jonathan James and Jonathan Clarke, met with the Low Pay Commission as part of the consultation on the National Minimum Wage rates for 2009/190 and 2010/11.
Lowman, who led the delegation, said: “Convenience stores have had to contend with inflation-busting increases in the National Minimum Wage as well as coping with rising utility costs, bank charges and business rates, as well as other employment law changes that have brought costs and administrative burdens. With the country facing uncertain economic conditions, and with the Government tightly controlling public sector pay increases, now is not the time for further increases that would damage our sector.
“Businesses are dealing with these extra costs through cutting back on staffing overtime, reducing pay increases and working extra hours themselves. Many businesses that in the past prided themselves on paying above the minimum wage are now unable to. Any significant minimum wage increase could lead to further cut backs on staff numbers and hours, as well as making it harder for retailers to invest in their businesses.”
The ACS called on the Low Pay Commission to listen to the chancellor Alistair Darling’s comments earlier this year when he said: "Pay awards in both the private and public sector have to be consistent with our inflation target, which is 2.0 per cent." The ACS said it had made the case that if the chancellor believed that big business and the public sector should be receiving pay rises of 2% then this should be reflected in the minimum wage.