THE town’s public health chief has joined colleagues across the North West in calling for the minimum price of alcohol to be set at 50p per unit.

Liz Gaulton spoke out after reports the figure of 45p is believed to be under consideration by the Government.

She believes that five pence difference could save more than 1,000 lives nationally over the course of a decade.

St Helens’ death rates related to chronic drinking and admissions to hospital because of alcohol abuse are among the worst in the country.

Ending cheap booze officers in supermarkets or bars is seen as a key tactic in the battle against binge drinking.

Ms Gaulton, the director of public health for St Helens, and other public health leaders want to see the proposed price increased as part of the National Alcohol Strategy Consultation.

At present there is no minimum unit price for booze, however, politicians are keen on introducing one amid health leaders’ concerns about the damage caused by alcohol, which can be bought cheaply.

Ms Gaulton said: “The only real independent evidence out there at present is a University of Sheffield study, which predicts that after 10 years a 50p price level could save 3,060 lives – 1,020 more than a 45p level.

“There are similar big gains in terms of hospital admissions, days absent from work and crime.”

Running alongside a 50p unit price, the directors also said they wanted to see a ban on multi-buy promotions – such as 12 cans of lager for £8 – in shops and off-licences.

They believe this will remove the availability of cheap alcohol – and reduce the culture of bingeing.

Licensing condition measures – including the banning of irresponsible promotions, access to free tap water and age verification – were welcomed by the health professionals.

But they urged the government to go a stage further by insisting that conditions should require soft drinks to be priced less than the cheapest alcoholic drinks – removing a key incentive for many drinkers.

Meanwhile, Councillor Sue Murphy, the cabinet member for public health, suggests the minimum price could actually prove beneficial to pubs.

She added: “Pubs could well benefit from this proposal as people are less likely to ‘preload’ on alcohol bought from off-licences – and shift their consumption of alcohol to on-licence premises.

“It also means young people are likely to benefit from reduced access and availability of alcohol in the home.”