Sugar tax: Plan gets thumbs up from Hartlepool Borough councillor

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A senior councillor has welcomed Chancellor George Osborne’s controversial moves to cut the sugar content of fizzy drinks.

The so-called ‘sugar tax’ was announced in this week’s Budget.

The tax – which will be introduced in two years’ time to give manufacturers time to drive down the sugar content of their drinks – has not yet been set, but the Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated it could add 18p to 24p to the price of a litre of fizzy drink if the full cost is passed on to the consumer.

The move is expected to raise £520million, which will be used to double the amount of funding for sport in every primary school.

Childhood obesity is a serious problem nationwide, with the North East a particular black spot.

More than 40% of children in Hartlepool are overweight or obese by the time they reach Year 6, according to figures released by the National Child Measurement Programme in January, while a further 25.9% are obese by age 11, totalling 41.7%

In reception, which children join at age four, 13.7% were overweight last year and a further 11.6% were obese.

Hartlepool Borough Council is responsible for public health promotion in the town.

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, chairman of Hartlepool’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “Being overweight can have a significant and detrimental impact on a young person’s life and I welcome the announcement that soft drinks companies will pay a levy on drinks with added sugar from April 2018, particularly as this will be used to fund sport in primary schools.

“Of course on its own, the sugar tax plans aren’t enough and that is why Hartlepool’s Health and Wellbeing board will continue to view it as a key health priority for the town.

“A 10-year Hartlepool Healthy Weight Strategy was launched in September 2015 which aims to help people live healthier lifestyles, make healthier choices and ensure the services needed to tackle excess weight are provided across the town.

“Progress is already being made. The ‘Move a Mile’ campaign, which aims to get people more active, has successfully launched and trading standards staff are working with takeaway food providers to support healthier cooking practices.

“An obesity infographic has also been developed to improve awareness of healthy weight services in the town and this was circulated to all homes in the most recent edition of the Hartbeat magazine.”

Mr Osborne told MPs obesity cost the economy £27billion a year: “One of the biggest contributors to childhood obesity is sugary drinks,” he said.