Ambulance concern for Bideford New Year’s Eve drinkers

Joseph Bulmer

South West Ambulance Service requests funding to provide extra cover

CONCERN over the number of young people found drunk in Bideford last New Year’s Eve has led to a call from the South West Ambulance Service for extra cover to be provided.

Bideford Town Council will tonight (Thursday) be considering a request for �1,000 to provide extra cover for The Quay, where thousands of costumed revellers gather annually.

The gathering has been happening spontaneously in Bideford for many years, with organised entertainments being added only in more recent times.

A spokesperson for the ambulance trust said: “South Western Ambulance Service staff shared their concerns at a recent meeting regarding the anticipated number of people expected for the New Year celebrations on Bideford Quay. Last year over 30 individuals were treated for alcohol related conditions at this event.

“The Trust, in conjunction with partner agencies, is currently trying to ascertain the nature and level of cover provided in the area for this event. It is sincerely hoped that these arrangements will be confirmed in the coming week.”

Steve Clarke, one of the organisers of the evening’s entertainments, said last year the number of young people found drunk had risen from eight the previous year to 34 and the large majority of these were young girls, giving concern for their safety.

He did not think the blame for this necessarily lay with the New Year’s Eve entertainments, said Mr Clarke. People were out anyway, drinking in the clubs and bars and some, before they came out.

“Police have said that this year there will be a zero tolerance policy and have a dispersal order in place, so anyone found to be drunk will be asked to leave the town,” he warned.

The real answer was one of education, he said.

“I have been talking with police and ambulance personnel about ways of being pro-active. In other towns young people have been filmed on CCTV and this has been played back to them the next day. They have realised how dangerous they have been to themselves. It has worked well and some of these young people have gone on to talk with peers groups about the dangers.”

Town Clerk George McLauchlan confirmed that the council’s finance committee will tomorrow (Thursday) be considering a SW Ambulance request for extra funding.

The council was already providing �12,500 for the celebrations, which brought many people and money into the town, he said.