Everyone enjoys a drink at Christmas but when your last mulled wine leads to a stay in hospital or a black eye, who is to blame? Was it the pub’s fault for selling you cheap drinks, did the council make an error licensing said pub, or are the emergency services not policing the streets well enough? Cardiff has a well-known reputation for alcohol fuelled revelling but is it really any worse than other cites in the UK and can it cope with the mass influx of high-spirited people over the festive season?
Nearly every article written about the capital refers to high levels of alcohol consumption and last summer it hit the headlines described as being in danger of becoming the binge drinking capital of the UK.
Dr Tony Jewell, Wales’s Chief Medical Officer, released his annual health report on Wednesday.
A Wordle picture of Dr Jewell’s report, the words in the largest text are words he has used the most.
Dr Jewell said: “About 45,000 hospital admissions and 1,000 deaths every year in Wales can be described as alcohol-attributable.” Christmas is a time when people tend to drink more, but these figures suggest underlying alcohol problems in Wales are bleak.
The plan proposed to tackle this is to introduce more education schemes, starting at secondary school level. When someone is admitted to hospital they will also be given advice on alcohol to try and change their drinking habits.
Jenny Wilmott,MP, believes the real problem is a lack of overall government funding.
She said: “Ultimately, we need to tackle the growing levels of alcoholism across the whole country, not just in Cardiff, and this includes substantially increasing the level of funding for alcohol treatment programmes and centres.”
A major issue is supermarkets charging low alcohol prices. Recently both Tescos and Sainsburys stores, in St Mary Street, were denied an alcohol licence. The licensing committee refused these because they felt it would only fuel the drunken antics of the public in this area.
St Mary Street has been designated a saturation zone because of its high number of problems with alcohol related crime and disorder. This means the licensing committee will automatically deny licenses in the area to bars and clubs, and the police have greater controls to confiscate alcohol.
Councillor Ed Bridges, head of the licensing committee, talks about his thoughts on Cardiff and his role within the committee.
The police ask people they find intoxicated which bars and clubs they have been to and if a club is named repeatedly for encouraging binge drinking steps are put in place to remove its license.
A Designated Public Place Order Act was introduced in October which gives police more power to take alcohol away from those who are being violent or anti-social.
The council and the emergency services work closely together and Councillor Simon Wakefield believes it is best to leave the policing to the police because they know the beat and the reality on the ground better.
Police Inspector Tony Bishop believes Cardiff is not any worse than other UK cities and it has gained a bad reputation because it has an international stadium and several busy streets in such a compact area.
Insp Bishop discusses why Cardiff is such a unique city
During Christmas and the New Year the Millennium Stadium is used as a temporary hospital for minor injuries while the more serious are sent to University Hospital of Wales, Heath, Cardiff.
The Street Pastor team spend most of their weekends dealing with people who have had too much to drink. Ruth Samways, a member of the team said: “We are in direct contact with the emergency services and are able to administer basic first aid, hand out flip flops to replace high heels, or sit with people who are lost, distressed or disorientated – due to too alcohol intoxication. This frees up the police and ambulance crews to deal with the most severe cases.”
Cardiff is a thriving city and it seems everyone, from students, Cardiff natives and visitors from the rest of Wales and England love to party here. It is easy and cheap to travel to the Welsh capital and when you’re here – the night entertainment is compacted in a very succinct area making it easy for the media to portray the city as a zoo at night.
The truth is the council and emergency services work closely to stop areas like St Mary Street being over-run with clubs and bars and they are well-equipped to deal with arrival of people over the festive season.
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