WIRRAL Council is to make the battle against teenage alcohol abuse one of its top priorities.

A raft of initiatives have been announced to tackle worrying evidence of major health problems in the borough caused by boozing.

The moves come in the wake of a report published yesterday showing Wirral is the fourth worst area in England for drink-related hospital admissions of people aged under 18.

The findings, by the North West Public Health Observatory at Liverpool John Moores University, ranked Wirral 322nd out of 326 local authority areas for teenagers needing hospitalisation through drinking.

It also showed the number of males across all age groups needing hospital treatment due to drink-related illness is nearly a third higher than the national average at 916 per 100,000 - the average is 666 - and for women the figure is 497 compared to an average of 348.

Deaths from chronic liver disease are also higher than average, as are months of life lost through illness caused by drinking.

Wirral Council's cabinet member for adult care and social inclusion Cllr Anne McArdle said today: "The data is a cause for serious concern for us here in the Wirral and has confirmed that we still have a considerable amount of work to do.

"But it is important to note that we are not delivering this work from a standing start.

"Taking into account the reports submitted to Wirral Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee by Fiona Johnstone, Director of Public Health, in November 2010 and March 2011, we can see that our work is beginning to have a positive effect on alcohol-related harm."

Councillor McArdle said examination of the data regarding alcohol-related admissions to hospital has shown a halt in the increase in the rate of admissions.

She added the most recent Local Alcohol Profiles for England data confirms that in 2009-10, Wirral recorded a zero per cent increase in hospital admissions due to alcohol.

Nowhere else in Merseyside or indeed in the North West has managed to achieve the same result.

"However, the rate of hospital admissions for alcohol specific conditions for persons aged less than 18 years remains a very serious issue for us in Wirral," she said.

"It is intended that the ‘rate of hospital admissions for under-18 year olds’ will be adopted as the high priority and a key performance target for the young people's alcohol programme."

The council is intending to invest more resources in this area including setting up a peer mentoring service for young people to tackle alcohol consumption.

An alcohol awareness and diversion programme, supported by Merseyside Police, wil be aimed at young people already identified as being at greatest risk of excessive drinking.

And further support will be given for the alcohol education programme in Wirral schools.