Drinkers may have to work more hours

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A London borough plans to discourage its employees from having a leisurely pint at lunch by forcing them to stay late to make up for lost time.

Labour-run Tower Hamlets council is reviewing its policy on midday drinking after councillors pushed through a vote forcing workers who smoke to stay an extra half hour at the end of each day to make up for their smoking breaks.

Although the report is not due for months, the anti-alcohol proposal has already stirred up opposition. Janet Ludlow, the council's Liberal Democrat leader, said an attack on drinking during the working day would be demoralising.

It would mean "people working in the town hall aren't trusted," she said. "What does it do to a working team's relationship not to be able to socialise?

"I'm not saying 'go out and down two bottles of wine each' - there is, naturally, common sense involved - but people should be trusted," she said. "It's getting to be a nanny state in the council at the moment."

The anti-smoking measure, to be implemented in October, will cost one of the poorest boroughs in Britain up to £10,000 to introduce. Barrie Duffey, a Liberal Democrat councillor, said: "Surely there must be more pressing issues in this borough for us to be dealing with?"

A spokesman for the council said the new smoking rule was being opposed by the union.