TOO little, too late – that’s a Bournemouth MP’s verdict on Labour’s pledge to turn back the clock on 24-hour drinking. Prime Minister Gordon Brown used the party conference to announce plans to give councils the power to impose blanket bans on round-the-clock drinking.

They will no longer have to wait for complaints from residents or the police before stripping late-closing pubs of their licence and they will also be able to charge pubs that contribute to late-night antisocial behaviour.

Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, said it was “inevitable” that the government would have to “backtrack” on its licensing policy.

“What he’s calling for is exactly what we’ve been saying for some time,” he said.

“We want local councils to have the power to determine the number of pubs and clubs that can operate in their area. We want some control over the loss leader approach to selling alcohol in supermarkets.

“He’s right to identify that this is a massive problem, that a minority of people are ruining our town centres and giving us a very bad reputation.

“But it’s six years now since the Licensing Act was passed and it’s a bit late to wake up to the fact that, far from answering our problems, it was well out of step with what Britain wants and needs.”

And David Clutterbuck, chairman of the Bournemouth Town Centre and East Cliff Residents’ Association, said any measures to give councils greater powers were welcome but he was sceptical as to how effective they would prove.

“For residents living in the town centre, life can be a nightmare at times,” he said. “The clubs must bear some responsibility.”

Cllr David Smith, Bournemouth’s cabinet member for community, said: “It sounds a great idea in principle but as usual, the devil is in the detail.

“Until more specific proposals come out, it would be very difficult to comment at this stage.

“However, we’re prepared to look at any initiative that would make our town cleaner and safer for residents and visitors.

“I’ll be discussing the measures announced by Gordon Brown with the local police to see if there’s any mileage in it.”