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Councils call for cut of fast food VAT to tackle obesity

Councils are calling for at least a fifth of the current value of VAT on fast food, soft drinks and confectionary to be ringfenced for local areas to tackle the growing levels of obesity in their areas.

As part of what has been called an ‘Obesity Action Fund’, the Local Government Association (LGA), which took over responsibility for public health in 2013, stated the extra £1bn from this share of VAT could help transform the lives of the three and half million overweight or obese children in this country.

It has been estimated that the NHS currently spends 10% of its annual budget tackling diabetes. In addition, one in four adults is obese compared to less than 15% in 1993.

LGA chairman David Sparks said: “By taking a slice of existing VAT we would raise millions which would help transform the lives and futures of obese and overweight people –

including the country's three and half million children – rather than simply swelling the Treasury's coffers.

“This extra money would be a massive boost in the battle to combat obesity. It would help tackle head-on the crippling problems often associated with the condition, like diabetes.”

The LGA stated that councils are well placed to take action on important local issues to tackle obesity, such as commissioning weight management services, exercise referral schemes and extending the offer of free or reduced-cost sport – for example swimming – and leisure facilities. This extra money would go towards giving these services greater reach and impact.

The LGA highlighted these case studies of where councils are already tackling health issues:


'Be Active' is a scheme provided free of charge by Birmingham City Council to tackle health inequality and associated deprivation levels by offering access to free physical activity sessions. Residents can take part in free swimming, exercise classes or attend the gym at any council-run leisure centre. The scheme, which has now been expanded into the city's parks, has over 400,000 members – well over a third of Birmingham's population. For every £1 spent on 'Be Active' the return for the local NHS is £22.80 in terms of health care related benefits.


Trim Down Shape up is a Wigan Council Weight Management service for men in Wigan delivered by ABL Health. It is one part of Wigan Council's nationally acclaimed Lose Weight Feel Great weight management programme for men and women which includes; a 12 week Community Weight Management Programme, a consultant led Specialist Weight Management Service, a Health Trainer service for healthy lifestyle support, web based support and support for pregnant women and their families. Trim Down Shape Up was commissioned by Wigan Council specifically to increase the number of males accessing weight management services in Wigan.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Faith Ponsonby   19/07/2014 at 12:21

In our local shopping parade, there are more than 10 out of 80 units selling 'fast food' or pies, rolls, etc. I believe Birmingham have limited the number of outlets in any area to no more than 10%. Are any other councils doing this?

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