FIVE Birkenhead off-licences are the first to join a campaign to cut the availability of low-cost, high-strength alcoholic drinks across the borough.

Reducing the Strength is a voluntary scheme designed to stop or reduce the number of shops selling high strength beers and ciders cheaply.

It was launched by Wirral's public health, environmental health and trading standards teams, who are working with police, local charities and other stakeholders.

Cheaply sold 'super-strength' beers and ciders (6.5% ABV and above) have been shown to cause harm to people who drink them and can have a knock-on effect within communities.

Other areas around the country where retailers have signed up to Reducing the Strength campaigns have experienced falls in anti-social behaviour and other crime, such as theft in participating shops.

Cllr Christine Jones, Wirral cabinet member for adult social care and public health, said: "Drinking a single can of some of these 'super strength' lagers can exceed a man's daily recommended alcohol unit allowance in one go.

"I am very pleased that we are able to work with and support local retailers who want to play their part in reducing the burden that alcohol harm places on individuals, communities and services."

Cllr Bernie Mooney, cabinet member for environment and sustainability, added: "I'm pleased that local businesses are coming onboard with this campaign.

"It shows that they take their social responsibilities very seriously and can see the bigger picture when it comes to selling some of these more troublesome products on their premises."

The Birkenhead stores committed to the campaign are Morris Store, Corner Store, Alex and Shirley’s, Go Local Bon Accord and PDP Convenience Store.

Michelle Jones, premise licence holder from Alex and Shirley’s, said: “Not selling beers, lagers and ciders above 6.5% ABV has made such a difference already.

"Customers and staff feel more safe and its brought a nice atmosphere in the area and the shop as staff are not receiving abuse from street drinkers.

"The Reducing the Strength campaign is benefitting my community and business as new customers are now using my shop daily."