The considerable challenges associated with implementing national level alcohol policies have encouraged a renewed focus on the prospects for local-level policies in the UK and elsewhere. We adopted a case study approach to identify the major characteristics and drivers of differences in the patterns of local alcohol policies and services in two contrasting local authority (LA) areas in England.
Data were collected via thirteen semi-structured interviews with key informants (including public health, licensing and trading standards) and documentary analysis, including harm reduction strategies and statements of licensing policy. A two-stage thematic analysis was used to categorize all relevant statements into seven over-arching themes, by which document sources were then also analysed.
Three of the seven over-arching themes (drink environment, treatment services and barriers and facilitators), provided for the most explanatory detail informing the contrasting policy responses of the two LAs: LA1 pursued a risk-informed strategy via a specialist police team working proactively with problem premises and screening systematically to identify riskier drinking. LA2 adopted a more upstream regulatory approach around restrictions on availability with less emphasis on co-ordinated screening and treatment measures.
New powers over alcohol policy for LAs in England can produce markedly different policies for reducing alcohol-related harm. These difference are rooted in economic, opportunistic, organisational and personnel factors particular to the LAs themselves and may lead to closely tailored solutions in some policy areas and poorer co-ordination and attention in others.