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Warrington's image Totally Wasted says town centre champion

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WARRINGTON’S town centre champion Cllr Mike Hannon has accused Cheshire police of discrediting the town and undoing years of hard work to improve it’s image, following an alcohol related publicity campaign branded “Totally Wasted!”
As a result of inviting the media into the town centre last Friday night, which police themselves admitted was a “quiet night” with just two arrests, various shameful images displaying drunken youngsters brawling, and a young girl lifting her skirt and showing her backside, were used showing Warrington in a poor light.
Cllr Hannon, (pictured left) who has put his heart and soul into trying to improve the image of the town centre, has been left feeling angry and outraged by the Cheshire wide campaign, which he believes was deliberately used to help “discredit” Warrington – where police are bidding to get licensing hours reduced to 2am.
The deputy leader of the council, who holds the portfolio for the town centre, said: “This whole thing was stage managed and people in the town were encouraged to show off to the camera.
“I am totally disappointed in how this was handled particularly by the Police. Warrington was used as a gimmick and totally exploited. We are no different than any town or city in the country.
“Myself and others are doing our best to build up Warrington’s economic profile and boost our town’s image.
“Single handed the police have attempted to destroy this hard work.”
Cllr Hannon said he believed Warrington had been targeted because of police attempts to reduce the licensing hours in the town centre.
“It doesn’t matter what licensing hours you have – the images in Warrington town centre could be replicated up and down the country at any time any weekend.
“Any one considering moving to Warrington to live or to work could be put off by what they may have seen in the national press.
“I am due to go a Bishop’s lunch in the town centre to help promote the town centre economy – on the back of all this negative publicity this is going to be highly embarrassing.
“I am very proud of Warrington and all the hard work going on in the town centre – and now all this hard work has been undone.
“The issues could have been tackled in a much more positive way with some proper partnership working.”
Cheshire Police denied they had targeted Warrington and said the campaign was to tackle increasing drink-related crime with stretched resources.
Nicknamed ‘Totally Wasted’, the campaign is an attempt to educate people about the impact drinking and alcohol-related crime has on the police force.
A spokes person for Cheshire Police said: “Last week, the National Association of Chief Police Officers campaign to focus on alcohol related harm began with the aim of raising public awareness of the issues caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol throughout the UK and the consequence this has to public sector agencies. This national initiative has been promoted to the media and as a consequence journalists from various outlets have been in contact and made arrangements to accompany officers on patrol in a number of town centres including Nantwich, Crewe, Northwich and Warrington. In addition, this weekend, regional television will be out in Chester.
“The issues highlighted on the streets of Warrington are not uncommon with those in many towns and cities across the UK during weekend evenings. The consequences of excessive binge drinking are well recognised and create significant demands on the police, health and Local Authorities. Cheshire Police are working with all of our partners and the licensing trade to seek sustainable ways forward to tackle this issue across the county.”
Meanwhile in an open letter to the people of Cheshire, Police and Crime Commissioner John Dwyer (pictured right) has outlined the problems being faced by the police.
Research showed that in the North West more than £947 million was spent in 2010/11 handling an estimated 47,000 alcohol related crimes, 34,183 alcohol related violent crimes and 863 alcohol related sexual offences.
“Of the incidents our Officers attended over the last 70 days, they recorded that; 40% of antisocial behaviour, 11% of crime and 20% of reports for someone?s safety had alcohol as a factor.
“Local Alcohol Profiles for England 2011/12 show that in Cheshire over 5,500 crimes could be attributed to alcohol (based on the calculation from the Government Strategy Unit).
“As the elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire it is incumbent on me to draw to your attention how much of your policing resources are being ‘Totally Wasted’ by officers having to respond to incidents where alcohol is a cause.
“This weekend alone in one of our towns we had 9 arrests, issued 18 notices directing people to leave the area to prevent disorder and recorded 34 other incidents that were alcohol related, all requiring a police response.
“There have been many changes to licensing laws to try to address the issues and change society?s attitude to alcohol. Changes to the licensing laws in 2005 enabled many towns to relax opening times, allowing bars to continue serving late into the early hours of the morning. This was intended to promote a continental culture and prevent the traditional last orders flashpoints, but in areas has bred competition, causing them to open later and later. It is not uncommon for them to still be trading after 5am.
“The culture and impact, especially amongst drinkers of ‘preloading?, drinking copious amounts of cheap alcohol at home before their night out, has increased and is now the norm. Bars compete to increasingly have cheaper and cheaper drinks promotions – inviting people to come out earlier, stay out longer and consume more alcohol. ‘Fresher?s Week? is a focus for new custom. The result is more drunkenness, disorder and violence in our towns. The demand is seen across public services not only by the police but also in our hospitals, ambulance service, fire service and local authorities, all of whom are left to deal with the consequences of alcohol abuse.
“How responsible is it to encourage people to pay a £5 entry fee give 5 drinks for 5 pence or 9 drinks for £9.95 or ‘Dice Nights? where you roll a dice, throw an odd number and get the round for free?
“You may have seen the coverage this week in the press and on our Twitter account to coincide with ‘Fresher Week? to help people keep safe. The pictures show people totally wasted in our towns this weekend – vulnerable to causing and being victims of crime.
“This is sadly a picture replicated across the country. The TOTALLY WASTED campaign is not to highlight specific areas, but to put a spotlight on the impact of alcohol and to change the attitude we have, that this type of behaviour is acceptable and stop it being seen as ‘a good night out,” he added.

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Experienced journalist for more than 35 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with six in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

8 Comments

  1. Well done Mike. You tell them. And well done to the council for making it more and more difficult for shops to operate in Stockton Heath while approving more bars and takeaways. One more bar that the council is waving through today I see. Bravo Mike. Bravo. Soon you will be able to point at Stockton Heath’s boarded up shops, discarded kebabs, used condoms, blood splatters, broken windows and piles of sick and say ‘It’s just like everywhere else.’

  2. The same campaign has been broadcast by Greater Manchester Police so I do not think Warrington is being targeted,although the police in general could do with mixing the info with other police info in order not to turn off the public that are seeing this info on Facebook,Twitter and other forms of communication with seeing a monotonous amount of info dealing with the same subject.

  3. We should not be too harsh on Cllr Hannon. He is working to improve the town’s image and his task is not made easier by this sort of publicity. But at the same time, it is no use trying to justify the situation in Warrington by saying it is just as bad elsewhere. We want Warrington to be better than elsewhere.

    The police want to limit licensing hours to 2am in Warrington. I think midnight would be a better closing time. And if that makes club owners quit and go elsewhere, so much the better because the drunken yobs and “yobesses”will also go elsewhere.

    These days it is older people who have got money to spend. The town centre should be trying to attract them – not frighten them away!

  4. What Mike Hannon is doing is shooting the messenger. The council can take steps to change things but won’t. It would mean an enlightened and joined up policy in both Warrington and – increasingly – Stockton Heath. What they are doing instead is grinding down retail businesses or shifting shopping to out of town retail parks while letting the centres go to the dogs. Then moaning when people point out the consequences.

  5. The crime commissioner is right there are too may alcohol related crimes. But what are the police doing to limit alcohol sales in the general area. Far more alcohol is sold by supermarkets at a fraction of the cost of a pub that in the town centre on a weekend. How many of the 47,000 alcohol related crimes happened in the town centre that year less than 1 percent. So when you close down town at 2pm how are you gonna reduce the other 99 percent of alcohol related crime?

  6. Aren’t you all missing the point? If the police set people up to flash their butts or engage in certain behaviour then that is unacceptable – its no different to any other ‘sting’ that the police might be involved with! The police are there to do their job, not to moralise or stage manage shows for the press

  7. Yeah, because if you go to Bridge Street on a Friday or Saturday night without a photographer all you’ll see there are meetings of the local Book Club and people from all age groups enjoying a quiet drink together.

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