THE Government’s decision to scrap the alcohol duty escalator is “extremely disappointing”, according to Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office.
The escalator had been introduced to automatically increase the tax on alcohol by two per cent above the rate of inflation.
Mr Shevills believes the Chancellor has bowed to pressure from the alcohol industry.
He said: “George Osborne has listened to the global alcohol industry. He has gone even further than they demanded by freezing duty on whisky and cider and reducing it on beer.
“Cheap, strong alcohol is already the drink of choice for children and heavy drinkers.
“Alcohol is already 61 per cent more affordable than it was in 1980, as a result of which consumption has doubled since the middle of the last century.
“Our region already suffers at the hands of alcohol.
“As well as costing the North East about £1.1bn each year, we have the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions, the highest rate of alcohol-specific hospital admissions for under-18s and the highest rate of under-18s in alcohol treatment services.
“This latest decision will make a bad situation worse.”