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MPs: Fight grog-fuelled crimewave with PDAs

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So how in the world is it more affordable than it used to be?

Well - so goes the thinking - it's because we have more money. While on average the price of stuff has tripled since 1980 in pounds and pence, on average we have about six times as many pounds and pence in our household disposable income as we did then - our real household disposable income has effectively doubled. Thus we can afford more stuff than we could back then - more booze, if we choose, though mainly we don't. Percentages of household budget spent on booze are down by a third, indicating that in real terms household expenditure on booze is stable or increasing only slightly.

Still, by rather convoluted logic, alcohol is 69 per cent more affordable - to householders - than it was in 1980. But that's because all retail products are more affordable - most of them much more so than alcohol. Using this sort of ridiculous economic voodoo, any ordinary retail product has become a hundred per cent more affordable than it was in 1980, as opposed to liquor which is up by only 69 per cent.

Hell - let's play this game ourselves. Booze has failed to increase in "affordability" at the same rate as other retail products. It has actually lagged in relative affordability compared to other products.

Yes, you read it here first, people. Booze is not only hugely, inflation-bustingly more expensive than it was: it has actually fallen behind 30 per cent in affordability compared to other retail products since 1980.

The whole "booze is too cheap" thing is an offshoot of the philosophy which states that everything is too cheap - that people being richer than they used to be is actively bad, and may indeed destroy the planet. Perhaps the medical profession should go back to looking after sick people, and leave the economics and climate theory to people whose business it is.

Anyway. Funnily enough, the behaviour around the supposed alcohol-fuelled crime wave complained of by the cops doesn't bear out the idea that people - especially non-householding youngsters - are finding booze more affordable than of old.

A recent study found ... individuals increasingly consuming alcohol at home before they go out — ‘pre-loading’ — in order to cut costs.

We encountered some scepticism about the impact of price on drinking habits ... the UK has the second highest duty rates on alcohol in Europe but worse drink-related problems than most other European countries.

Nonetheless, the plods say they're overwhelmed by boozy, violent hordes all night long. Indeed, the MPs quote the costs to the nation of alcohol-related crime as £7.3bn annually, though only £1.73bn of this was actually a matter of the police responding to crimes - the rest was estimates of lost productivity and so on.

Just to put that in perspective, the government makes more than £15bn each year in alcohol duty*.

The cops reckon they should be given (a lot) more money, but at least the MPs were sceptical on that one, suggesting that it might be better if they spent a bit more time out and about and a bit less doing paperwork back at the station.

In 2007/08, 13.8 per cent of officers’ time was spent on patrol and 64 per cent of their time on ‘front-line duties’.

We are … worried by the Minister's definition of ‘front-line policing’ as including work in the police station on case files and report preparation. These tasks may be essential but ... Their inclusion skews the statistics and gives an exaggerated impression of the Government's success in returning police officers to street duties. We recommend that the definition of ‘front-line policing’ should be changed to exclude time spent dealing with paperwork indoors ... the Home Office should keep the public informed of the amount of time officers spend on visible patrol.

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