‘We will steal booze if the price goes up’

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“If the price of alcohol goes up we will steal it.”

That is the stark message from three street drinkers downing cheap vodka in Spalding town centre.

While one of them responded to questions with a two-finger gesture, another was eager to have his say about whether the Government’s proposals to increase the unit price of strong alcohol to 45p would encourage them off the streets and into pubs.

He said: “You want to know what we will do? We will steal it. I have done it before and been to prison for it.

“All we want is to have a drink with friends in the street. It’s not breaking the law.”

The general response from the trio came as no surprise to one local councillor, who predicted hardened drinkers would steal when the government plans were announced.

In a tweet shortly after the announcement, Coun Gary Taylor said: “Minimum alcohol pricing could be a tax on the law abiding poor. There is a need to target those guilty of offences.”

Later, he said: “Hardened drinkers will find the money, whether it’s by not paying their bills, going without food – or even stealing.

“I know the Government is targeting binge drinkers, and that is good, but the real people who will suffer are the hardworking residents, probably on a minimum wage, who might not be able to afford to go the pub at the end of the week but want a quiet drink at home to relax.

“Pubs and local breweries are already suffering and we don’t want to see any more closing.”

Spalding man Shayne Wilson was looking at the bulk-buy alcohol deals in a local supermarket and said the smoking ban had driven him out of pubs.

He said: “My friends and I stock up and enjoy a drink together at home.

“We’ll still buy at supermarkets even if the price of alcohol goes up.

“It’ll still be cheaper than buying a drink at a pub.”

* An unedited version of this story was briefly published in error on Thursday evening, containing information deleted from the version intended for publication. Because people have read and commented on the original story, which we feel could go against the Editors’ Code of Conduct, we have had to block comments on this story.