Soft drinks levy needs to go further, say council leaders

The Local Government Association says that the money raised since the levy on sugar-sweetened drinks came into force should be used to help deliver vital public health schemes.

With funding from the levy currently going towards school sports and breakfast clubs, the organisation says that funding could go towards protecting and improving children’s oral health, providing early years play equipment and activities, while also encouraging healthier eating and exercise.

The LGA argues that councils, which are responsible for public health, know their communities best and are uniquely placed to work with local groups and health services such as sports clubs, volunteers and weight loss classes to keep children active. Therefore, a greater proportion of this levy should go to councils to spend on their local children’s health priorities.

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “In order to truly tackle our child obesity epidemic, councils need to be able to use this money to intervene earlier and do more to ensure that our children stay healthy, active and develop good eating habits, which they can continue into adulthood. This in turn will lead to less pressure on our already overstretched public services including the NHS, saving the country much more from obesity-related treatment in future.

“Councils are uniquely placed to tackle obesity, given their links to local health, community and voluntary services, as well as schools. This includes the costs of running the Government’s National Child Measurement Programme in schools, as well as programmes such as weight management services, exercise referral schemes and offering free or reduced-cost sport.

“Giving councils a say in deciding where the revenue from the soft drinks levy is spent will help lead to better, more innovative oral health education so that parents and children are supported to understand the impact of sugar on teeth and the importance of good oral hygiene.”

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