PEOPLE are dying in their hundreds from drink in Wirral, shock new figures have revealed.

Over the past four years more than 1,500 in Birkenhead alone have suffered alcohol-related deaths and in Rock Ferry, Birkenhead and Tranmere wards loss of life through drink is more than four times the national average.

Violence, domestic abuse and sexual offences linked to drink has increased and more than 9,000 people were admitted to hospitals across Wirral because of drink-related illnesses and injuries over a 12 month period.

The annual cost to the borough has been estimated at £133m.

The figures are revealed in a strategy document outlining the key aims of Wirral’s health and wellbeing board.

Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil Davies, who chairs the board, said: "Tackling alcohol misuse is a priority – sadly it continues to be a major issue in Wirral and is manifested in the number of people who show up at accident and emergency units with alcohol-related illnesses.

"We are putting a lot of resources into tackling the problem and we have a high-powered board – including senior people from the NHS – set up under recent Government legislation to tackle health issues."

Cllr Davies went on: "Along with fellow ward councillors I have been objecting to the number of applications for premises to sell alcohol or to extend licensing hours. We have far too many in a small geographical area."

He added: "The economic downturn is causing stress in families and unfortunately people are turning to alcohol. Reducing the number of premises that sell alcohol is a really important step."

Cllr Brian Kenny, who represents Birkenhead and Tranmere also highlighted the dramatic increase in the number of applications for alcohol licences in the town centre as a key cause of street drinking.

He said: "There is no doubt in my mind that the growth in the number of such outlets in such a small geographical area has been a major factor in the number of anti-social behaviour and drink-related incident, committed by people who are able to obtain easy access to cheap alcohol.

"These people regularly make life an absolute misery for many constituents who live in this area."

Wirral Council's director of public health Fiona Johnstone said the latest strategy aimed to build on the successes already achieved from the first Wirral strategy covering 2007-10.

She said: "We have good foundations in place in Wirral to tackle the very serious problems that alcohol misuse can create in households and within the wider community."