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Police and council clash over town centre nightlife
7:00am Thursday 26th September 2013 in News
WARRINGTON Borough Council and Cheshire Police are at loggerheads over controversial pictures taken of nightlife in the town centre.
Press photographers were invited onto Bridge Street over the weekend as part of police campaign Totally Wasted.
It is aimed at spreading awareness of binge drinking and the issues officers face in dealing with drunk people.
The council say the photos, printed in national media, have damaged attempts to restore the town centre’s reputation.
Deputy leader Clr Mike Hannon accused police of a ‘set-up’ to suit their push for an earlier closing time to be enforced for bars and pubs.
He said: “I am bitterly disappointed with the police.
“The pictures were of scenes that could be seen in any town in the country.
“Warrington was used as a gimmick and totally exploited.
“I and others are doing our best to boost our town’s image.
“The police attempted to destroy this and bring in a outside media team to encourage some photo shots that depict images that are not Warrington.”
Police say they have a ‘responsibility’ to show the ‘reality’ of the town centre, although admitted it was a ‘quiet’ weekend.
Insp Richard Spedding, from Cheshire Police, said drunk behaviour in the town centre has to be changed.
“We have a responsibility to report things as they are," he said.
“If that is the reality we have a responsibility to show it.
“Warrington town centre isn’t something any of us are proud of.
“That is something that the council and police are trying to change.
“It takes longer to change the culture than the reality.
“We need to change the reality first and hopefully the reputation will change.”
Pub owners on Bridge Street said police have ‘blown everything out of proportion’.
Ed Bristol, chairman of Pubwatch in the town and landlord of Bridges, said: “It’s nowhere near as bad as the police are making out - they are making it worse.
“I walk along Bridge Street on busy nights over the weekend and don’t see anywhere near as many problems as there are supposed to be.
“The good times that people enjoy here, weddings and birthdays, never get any publicity.”
FIGHTING, drunks and carrying drugs.
All were incidents police responded to in the town centre on Friday and Saturday night.
Nine arrests were made including one for an officer being assaulted.
Insp Richard Spedding said: “Over the weekend police officers were active in tackling disorder and making arrests.
“That affected our ability to police the rest of the town and does so every weekend.
Live updates on the Cheshire Police Twitter feed provided information on action by officers in the town centre, as part of campaign Totally Wasted.
Police were joined by licencing officers and drug action teams from Warrington Borough Council.
The initiative was held in tandem with a campaign on alcohol harm reduction by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Insp Spedding is calling for pubs and bars to drop cheap drink promotions and close earlier to tackle drink related problems.
He also wants a change in the type of establishment on offer in the town centre, with a focus on food and families.
“That means some places will have to learn, shut and change,” said Insp Spedding.
“The whole partnership understands there is a problem in Warrington and we are seeking opportunities to address it.”
A decision on restricting opening times until 2am is due to be made by Warrington Borough Council during a meeting next month.
Cheshire’s Police and Crime Commisioner has backed the work of police tackling drunken behaviour in the town.
John Dwyer said: ““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 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.
“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.
“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.”
Here are details of incidents and arrests in the town centre last weekend -
Friday - 9pm to 7am
Arrests - 2
People ordered to leave town centre - 8
Total incidents - 15
Saturday - 9pm to 7am
Arrests - 7
People ordered to leave town centre - 10
Total incidents - 29
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