COMEDY nights and live music and poetry will be used to tackle Bolton’s alcohol problems.

Bolton Council’s new two-year alcohol strategy will see a range of measures put in place to try to combat the health and crime problems which result from the town centre’s drinking culture.

According to the strategy, Bolton has 700 licensed premises, with the food and drink industry employing 2.5 per cent of the borough’s workforce.

But it also said alcohol makes a “substantial contribution” to poor health, and is a “major factor” in violence, crime and disorder.

The report said the town centre’s offer was currently based primarily on alcohol.

To tackle this, it calls for a “diversified midweek programme of live music, poetry and comedy” which will offer “something for all sections of the community in a safe environment”.

The plan is part of the council's strategy to improve Bolton town centre, and follows an announcement earlier this week that town hall bosses want to turn Newport Street into a "European-style boulevard".

Steve Hoyle, owner of the Brass Cat pub in Churchgate, said: “I went out recently and it was very quiet. Bars need to do something to attract people in rather than just lowering the price of drinks. I’ve been doing this kind of thing for a while, with comedy nights and bands.”

Richard Greenwood, who runs Ye Olde Man and Scythe in Churchgate, added: “This is the only way forward for the night time economy full-stop.

“People will only go out if you can offer them something they can’t get at home, so things like live music rather than just cheap drinks.

Other measures in the strategy include introducing an alcohol awareness scheme in secondary schools, education programmes as an alternative to handing out fines, and an initiative to work with employers to address the problems of alcohol with workers.

The report said the average man in the borough has his life expectancy cut by 13 months due to the health problems caused by drink, higher than the national average of nine.

The average Bolton woman loses six months, slightly higher than the national average.

The report said: “This strategy responds to the need to rebalance our night time economy and to narrow the inequalities of life expectancy, poor health and crime in Bolton of which alcohol is a significant contributor.

“By working with licensees and others to diversify our early evening offer, we anticipate that this will reduce the reliance on alcohol related income later in the evening.

“It will also enable our town centre to be a more inviting destination for all sections of the community.”

Ch Supt David Hull said only 15 per cent of alcohol-related violence in Bolton occurred in the town centre.

He added: “This is a strategy with three very clear strands, regeneration, health prevention and enforcement and licensing.”

Cllr Linda Thomas, executive cabinet member for health and social care, said: “Talking to a lot of our children’s social workers, a lot of cases will relate to alcohol and domestic abuse.”

Conservative leader David Greenhalgh — who also sits on the borough’s licensing committee — said he fully supported the strategy but called for a set of best practice conditions for licensed premises to be drawn up.