Councils promise action on childhood obesity as debate over sugar tax continues

EK sugar tax

A sugar tax could be a viable approach by councils to tackle the issue of childhood obesity in the ELL boroughs

Local councils in the Eastlondonlines boroughs have pledged to tackle the childhood obesity crisis as figures show the area is among the worst in London.
The figures come as debate continues over the need for a tax on sugary drinks, despite it being ruled out by the Government.

Statistics from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) 2014/15 reveal that Lewisham and Croydon’s rate of obese 10-to 11-year-old is six per cent above the national average. This comes despite Croydon being hailed as a flagship borough for tackling child obesity last year. 

Councillor Chris Best, Lewisham Cabinet member for health, wellbeing and older people, said: “A tax on sugar sweetened drinks would be welcome. There is no silver bullet to tackling the nation’s obesity epidemic but without [more] policy action… obesity rates are unlikely to come down.”

A spokesperson for Croydon Council said: “Croydon has a ‘whole systems’ approach to tackling childhood obesity.  As a Food Flagship borough, we have many initiatives to encourage children, families and communities to engage with healthy eating, cooking and growing opportunities.”

Tower Hamlets fared the worst of all with the highest obesity rate in England. 42 per cent of 10-11-year-olds, making up a massive 1,200 children in the borough, are overweight or obese, a much heftier figure than the national average of 33 per cent.

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “Tackling child obesity in Tower Hamlets remains a priority… the council delivers or commissions a range of activities to support children and families to eat more healthily, to be more active or to lose weight.”

Hackney has the eighth highest rate of overweight or obese children among 5- to 6-year-olds in England and the fourth highest of all London boroughs, behind Barking & Dagenham, Greenwich and Southwark.

A Hackney headteacher, who preferred not to be named, said: “We do things that aren’t necessarily on the obesity agenda but are a wider part of a health and wellbeing programme.”

“We try and get children to have a positive relationship with food and see it as not just fuel. It’s important for us as a school to know that children are getting a proper meal and not just filling up on sugar.”

On November 30, the House of Commons debated a petition calling for a tax on sugary drinks in the UK. The petition had over 150,000 signatories and was started by TV celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, whose Channel 4 documentary, Jamie’s Sugar Rush, “waged war” on sugar last month. He joined MP for Totnes Sarah Wollaston on the debate panel on Monday.

Advocates for increased taxes on sugary drinks include the British Dental Association and the charity Action on Sugar, founded by cardiologist and son of deputy chair of the British Medical Association Aseem Malhotra. The Government rejected the proposals for a tax in September despite much public support.

ELL asked the public for their thoughts on a proposed tax on fizzy drinks.

EK Maggie Lund credit Emmanuella KwenorteyMaggie Lund, 24, trainee lawyer, New Cross: “I think it’s a really good idea, I think it’s been really
effective in the countries that they’ve trialled it in and all the second studies published recently have really backed up the science behind it so as an evidence based policy it’s a good idea. I do understand that the policy might punish the poor because a lot of the cheapest food out there is filled up with sugar but I think the public health issue really outweighs that to be honest.”


Monty CoPic: Emmanuella Kewnorteyle, 76, retired, west Croydon, said: “I don’t think we should make fizzy drinks more expensive. The Government should talk to manufacturers to keep obesity down. One out of every three people I see on the streets are obese. Men, women, children, everyone – it was not as bad in my day as it is now. There are too many chemicals in food.”



EK VenislaveVenislave Petkova, 19, student, Manor House: “It will be good to raise such a tax, but I am afraid it won’t change people’s attitude towards this type of food a lot. Maybe they will start to think about it and reduce their daily intake, but it seems other measures are needed.”



By Emmanuella Kwenortey and Dorien Luyckx

Leave a Reply