Portman Group seeks to run alcohol misuse fund

A row is brewing between the alcohol industry and health charities about which organisations should run a Government-proposed fund to tackle alcohol misuse.

The Portman Group, the alcohol industry body that promotes responsible drinking, is handing its campaigning and educational functions to its charitable arm, the Drinkaware Trust.

The group intends the trust to be governed independently and is about to start the process of appointing a chair and 12 trustees. Its first campaigns will focus on binge drinking, alcohol-related violence and drink driving.

It also wants to convince the Government that the trust should become the National Producers Fund. The fund was mooted in the Government's Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England in 2004.

The strategy proposed that the fund, which would launch innovative schemes addressing alcohol misuse nationally and locally, would be independent but funded by contributions from industry.

At a meeting today attended by the Government, at least three charities and other stakeholders, the Drinkaware Trust is due to argue that its transformation will make it a prime contender to run the fund.

Although the Portman Group is funded only by drinks producers, the trust will also receive money from supermarkets and pubs as their contributions to reducing the harm that alcohol causes.

But Srabani Sen, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, stressed that whoever administered the new fund must be independent of industry, although the industry should fund it.

"The drinks industry has a duty to contribute to reducing the damage its products cause," she said. "But in order for this fund to be credible, it is essential that it is governed and administered truly independently of industry."

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