Plans to curb 24-hour drinking have come under attack from critics who say new council powers to place blanket bans on problem areas don’t go far enough.
Council authorities will be able to limit late opening across an entire area, but only between the hours of 3am to 6am, according to the plans.
Critics have said the changes still don’t help residents who face alcohol-fuelled problems from the 24-hour drinking law.
For councils to enact the bans they must show the restriction is necessary to prevent crime and disorder or public nuisance, or to promote public safety.
And the authorities must first ask for views from everyone affected, including local residents, the police and licence holders.
Campaign group Alcohol Concern criticised the plans, which came in the form of an amendment to the Crime and Security Bill.
Chief executive Don Shenker said: “This announcement is a belated acknowledgement that the Government has not been able to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder effectively on behalf of local residents.”
He added that these changes “will still not allow residents any greater say over local licensing issues – a travesty for those who’ve had to suffer alcohol-fuelled night time disorder for too long”.
Government Minister Gerry Sutcliffe defended the proposed changes.
He said: “The Licensing Act has done a great deal to make it easier for local residents and councils to deal with alcohol-related nuisance and disorder, and the number of 24-hour licences remains low.”
Mr Sutcliffe added: “But we recognise that some concerns still exist about anti-social behaviour, and are determined to give councils the powers they need to act.”
Gordon Brown said in September that local authorities would be given “power to ban 24-hour drinking throughout a community in the interests of local people”.
He admitted the controversial all-day drinking law was “not working”.
Last year Professor Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians, told MPs that the Department of Health’s efforts to reduce alcohol problems had been derailed by 24-hour drinking.
He said: “It was in my view unfortunate that the plan coincided with a change in licensing laws which made it easier for places to stay open longer, and made it more difficult to turn down applications for licences, with no need to take public health into account.”
Prof Gilmore said that up to 40,000 deaths a year are caused by alcohol, including deaths from cancers, high blood pressure which leads to strokes and heart attacks, and violence.