PLANS to increase the minimum unit price of alcohol have been met with a mixed response in Worcester.

The Home Office is proposing a cost of at least 45p per unit in a bid to tackle problem drinking, put an end to multi-buy offers at supermarkets and off-licences, improve health and reduce crime.

A 10-week consultation has been rolled out with a price 5p higher than suggested by ministers in March.

The ban on cheap booze was not favoured by Toby Scaria, owner of Deeway Stores, Teme Road, Tolladine, Worcester, who was concerned his business would suffer.

He said: “That’s too much, I am not happy with it at all. If it is increased like that then my customers will try to get it somewhere else.

“You are concerned if people can afford it.”

However, Jasbir Singh, owner of Harrys Wines in London Road, welcomed the idea. “Most of my alcohol prices are within that guideline already – at about 40 to 50p.

"It should be a good thing as it would give everybody a reasonable share of the market.”

Mark Haslam, of Camra (Campaign for Real Ale), believes it could be a boost to the struggling pub industry.

“Such a measure would be supportive of pubs because supermarkets are selling alcohol at cost prices or certainly using it as a loss leader.

"The consequences are more people drinking at home and more importantly creating social harm in terms of health and anti-social behaviour.”

The Government believes the price will reduce alcohol consumption by 3.3 per cent, cut the number of crimes by 5,000 per year and hospital admissions by 24,000 as well as there being 700 fewer alcohol-linked deaths annually.

According to the department, the public purse stands to lose about £200 million in excise duty due to falling sales and it would cost £500,000 to enforce the rules.

However, it estimates the health benefits will be worth more than £400 million each year and the reduction in crime nearly £13 million.

Neither NHS Worcestershire nor the Worcestershire Drug and Alcohol Team were able to comment.

l A unit of alcohol is half a pint of standard strength (3.5 per cent) beer, cider or lager, a single 25ml measure of spirit or half a standard 175ml glass of wine.