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Friday 28 October 2016
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Obesity to cost councils half a billion by 2017

The fight against obesity is set to cost councils more than half a billion pounds by 2017 since taking over public health from the NHS three years ago

The fight against obesity is set to cost councils more than half a billion pounds by 2017 since taking over public health from the NHS three years ago.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has said local authorities are anticipating a £505 million total spend on obesity reduction in adults and children by 2017, following the transfer of public health responsibility to councils in April 2013.

However, councils are warning that the recent government cuts to their public health grants are already having an impact on their ability to reduce obesity.

The LGA, which received £3.38bn in 2016/17 from the Government for public health will receive £3.13bn by 2020/21.

Newly published figures forecast councils will spend £127 million on tackling obesity in 2016/17 – down from the £140 million estimated in 2015/16.

Furthermore, in 2014/15 councils spent £126 million, and £112 million in 2013/14 on tackling obesity.

The LGA said these figures illustrate the amount of prevention work councils are carrying out and show the scale of the obesity crisis the nation faces.

The figures include commissioning weight management services, exercise referral schemes and extending the offer of free or reduced-cost sport and leisure facilities.

The numbers also include the cost of running the Government's National Child Measurement Programme, which councils are responsible for.

The programme currently calculates a child's BMI when they start and leave primary school.

The most recent figures for England in 2014/15 found that one-in-10 four and five-year-olds and one-in-five 10 and 11-year-olds are obese.

If current trends are not reversed, the overall cost of obesity to the economy and overweight conditions could increase from between £6 billion and £8 billion in 2015 to between £10 billion and £12 billion in 2030.

The LGA has previously called on the Government to bring in measures to reduce sugar content in fizzy drinks, teaspoon sugar labelling to enable more informed choice, greater provision of tap water in schools and restaurants, and for councils to be given powers to ban junk food advertising near schools.

Izzi Seccombe, the LGA's Community Wellbeing Portfolio Holder, said: "The staggering amount of money councils are having to plough into obesity prevention work shows the sheer scale of the crisis we face.

"Councils are without doubt the best placed to tackle obesity before it becomes a problem, and the huge investment they are making shows how committed they are to dealing with the issue.

"From working with children who are obese and overweight to encouraging children to cut their consumption of sugary drinks, since taking over responsibility for public health three years ago, local authorities have been leading the way in the fight against obesity.

"But we would like assurances from the Government's new administration that the long-awaited childhood obesity strategy is still on track and that it includes tough measures that will help to reverse the rise in costs and children becoming obese.

"Today's obese children will be tomorrow's obese adults, and with this comes a range of costly and debilitating major health conditions."