United Kingdom

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham calls for 9pm alcohol sale curfew

Police, scientists and politicians joined forces yesterday to call for Boris Johnson to rethink the controversial 10pm curfew amid claims it does ‘more harm than good’.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, demanded an urgent review of the rules which he said had led to people buying drinks in off-licences and holding house parties.

On Friday the pub curfew contributed to a fall in footfall on high streets of 55 per cent after 11pm, analysts Springboard said.

Mr Burnham’s warning came after footage circulated of crowds in city centres across the country on Saturday night, with people piling on to public transport and queuing to buy more alcohol.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, demanded an urgent review of the rules which he said had led to people buying drinks in off-licences and holding house parties

‘I received reports that the supermarkets were absolutely packed out to the rafters with people gathering,’ the mayor told Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘I think there needs to be an urgent review of the emerging evidence from police forces across the country.

‘My gut feeling is that this curfew is doing more harm than good. It creates an incentive for people to gather in the street or more probably to gather in the home.

‘That is the opposite of what our local restrictions here are trying to do. I don’t think this has been fully thought through.’ Mr Burnham suggested one option could be to impose a 9pm curfew on alcohol sales in shops to prevent the rush to off-licences after the pubs close. 

Scientists said ministers should have foreseen that closing bars and restaurants earlier would lead to a build-up of crowds and busier public transport.

It came as it emerged that only 3 per cent of coronavirus outbreaks investigated by Public Health England were due to people gathering in bars and restaurants.

It had been illegal for two households to mix if inside or in the garden, but it was only guidance that they should not meet at public venues, including restaurants and pubs. Pictured: A group of girls head out on the streets of Newcastle

Health minister Helen Whately said the Government was keeping an ‘open mind’ about the new regulations, which came into force in England on Thursday last week. 

John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation, said police had difficulty dispersing large crowds with only limited numbers of officers available.

‘You might only have one or two people in a busy high street at 10pm when hundreds and hundreds of people are coming out on to the streets,’ he told Today.

‘My colleagues will do the best they can to encourage and coerce people to move on but it is really difficult. All that you need is a hostile group that turns against those officers and the resources for that city centre are swallowed up dealing with that one incident.’

Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said it was always ‘predictable’ that ejecting people on to the streets at the same time would lead to crowds forming.

Professor Michie, a behavioural scientist at University College London, said it was ‘especially concerning’ that people were being pressed together on public transport and that it was of the ‘utmost importance’ ministers listened to scientific advice.

‘These consequences of the curfew undermine the gains saved by shortening the latter part of the evening and may even be counterproductive,’ she said.

‘The measure is another example of a restriction brought in without a coherent strategy and without sufficient consultation with relevant experts and communities.’ Professor Robert Dingwall, a sociologist who also advises the Government, said: ‘The disdain for the night-time economy reflects the puritan streak in public health that has marked so many interventions.’

Mrs Whately said ministers are seeking to learn from experience but insisted that the Government had to act last week in response to the rising infection rate.

‘It is clearly early days,’ she told Today. ‘We are constantly learning and seeing what has the most impact but we clearly need to take a step because of what we have seen with the rates going up across the country.’

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