CAMPAIGNERS are urging MPs to crack down on cheap alcohol to ease rising pressures on the NHS and region's councils.

A police officer and a shopkeeper are among those backing a national campaign calling for the Government to reduce the harm drinking has on society through tackling cheap alcohol.

North East Alcohol Office, Balance, and the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) UK are encouraging MPs to end alcohol tax breaks in the upcoming budget to instead increase alcohol duty – 2 per cent above inflation – and introduce of minimum unit pricing of alcohol.

The two organisations are joined by Durham Police alcohol harm officer, PC Claire McNaney and Teesside newsagent Stephen Tate.

PC McNaney, of the force's Alcohol Harm Reduction Unit, sees the impact that cheap alcohol has on the county’s communities every day.

She said: “The majority of domestic incidents are alcohol-related, and there are also shocking examples of vulnerable people, often the homeless community or youngsters, coming to harm after drinking cheap alcohol products.

“The problems stemming from these drinks are a massive burden for police and take up a lot of time.

"Many of the vulnerable people we try to assist are still in need of intervention, a network of support and treatment services, but making cheap alcohol products less affordable would be one step in the right direction and would discourage people from drinking as much.”

Stephen Tate, who owns Addison News in Stockton with wife Julie, said: “We are members of the Federation of Independent Retailers and our members strongly believe that minimum unit pricing is the right thing to.

"That might not be the view that is often represented by the alcohol industry, but it is definitely the feeling among many shopkeepers.

"We recognise the serious harms that alcohol can cause and it’s vitally important that something is done to bring about change.”

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “Cheap alcohol places a huge burden on communities in the North East, the NHS and public services and it can’t be sustained."

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