Britain has a complicated relationship with alcohol. Despite the tabloid hysteria, the evidence shows that overall we are drinking less than we were a decade ago. At the same time, it is clear that some communities suffer from severe problems related to underage drinking, the harms of binge drinking and dependent street drinkers. The Government has not brought forward a strong national policy and in its absence, local authorities and Health and Wellbeing Boards who hold responsibility for public health will now lead the way.

Sobering Up investigates what is already happening in communities across the UK and highlights best practice in the hope it will become wider spread. The research looks particularly at the role of shops and incorporates the views of local councillors, council officers, public health representatives, police, trading standards, alcohol support charities and shop owners and workers. It also includes case study areas – Blackpool, Ipswich, Manchester, and Kent – chosen for their mix of alcohol-related problems, as well as their geographical and demographic range.

The report argues that each problem, in each community, is different and should be treated as such. However, some examples of best practice stand out. It recommends tackling the growing problem of proxy-purchasing through greater community policing of the offence and tougher punishments for those caught, and that city centres troubled by bingedrinking should do more to restrict access to those already very drunk. It also advocates more local partnerships to ensure local authorities, police and retailers are joined up – and that real effort is made to engage small retailers as well as the large chain retailers. Each of these measures could make a real contribution to tackling the alcohol-related harms that Britain still faces.