Some councils in the West Midlands are spending up to three times more on tackling obesity than encouraging people to take exercise.
Analysis of councils’ budget on public health shows that spending by Walsall Council on countering obesity in the financial year 2016/17 was an estimated £1.3m.
Of the total, £1.1m went for adults while £251,000 for tackling obesity in children.
In order to reduce obesity, councils promote healthier food and drink choices or provide weight loss services.
During the same financial year, Walsall council spent £167,000 on reducing inactivity and increasing physical activity among adults and £230,000 among children.
Spending on countering obesity has also decreased from £1.9m in the financial year 2013/14, while spending on physical activity increased from £21,000.
Solihull, Sandwell and Dudley saw the second local bigger gap with spending on tackling obesity two times higher than spending on physical activity.
In Wolverhampton the gap is smaller, £594,000 for countering obesity against £398,000 on promoting physical activity.
On contrary, Birmingham council spent more on promoting physical activity, £4.5m than on tackling obesity at £4.3m.
According to the latest health survey for England, 67 per cent of adults are overweight, or obese and 30 per cent are inactive, which means they don’t meet the government guidelines for 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week and strength activities on at least two days a week.
Councils have had responsibility for public health since April 2013, when the Government transferred it to them from the NHS.
Overall, in the financial year 2016/17, councils’ spending on tackling obesity was an estimated £99m across the UK country while spending on promoting physical activity was an estimated £86m.
According to Local Government Association (LGA), councils are doing everything they can to curb obesity at a local level and will have spent hundreds of millions of pounds tackling obesity since they took over responsibility for public health.
The cuts to public health budgets by the government will make this task harder.
LGA said that while councils are running fantastic schemes which are helping children stay healthy, and working with schools and business on a range of physical activity and healthy eating projects, they could do so much more with the right resources.
According to LGA, councils’ public health budgets are being cut by £531m between 2016/17 and 2020/21.
This amounts to a reduction of almost 10 per cent.
Reductions in public health funding have already led to councils having to take difficult decisions such as closing obesity clinics and cutting services such as smoking cessation and breastfeeding support.
It warns further services will be under threat of being reduced or stopped, unless government reinstates the funding.
Public Health Walsall responded, saying: "We are required to code our services against Public Health England categories and these may not capture the full extent of the interventions and initiatives we deliver and therefore should not be taken out of context to our service provision. Furthermore, the way in which services are reported can vary across local authorities and can create anomalies against the figures being compared.
"We would wish you to note that Walsall Council has invested heavily in preventative services across leisure and physical activity services, planning, transport, housing, health, social care infrastructures and businesses. Obesity is a national issue, it is complex and cannot be addressed solely by healthy eating and physical activity; rather, wider engagement and cultural change is also needed.
"We are seeing good results from development of our parks and green spaces through improved signage of walking and cycling routes, promotion of food growing in local allotments and active travel schemes which encourage and increase physical activity. We have seen an increase in the usage of parks and green spaces for health reasons from 6% in 2011/12 to 18% in 2015/16.
"Educational work in schools and early year’s settings is well established. The A*STARS programme of walking, cycling, scooting to school alongside road safety initiatives further develop and reinforce safer and healthier lifestyle choices for all. This has led to walking rates in the borough being 7.8% more than the national average (51.8% vs 44.0%).
"In addition, the Council has in partnership with Sport England, England Squash and the FA, invested £24.3m in the new Oak Park and Bloxwich Active Living Centres. The Active Living Centres investment has had a dramatic impact on recreational physical activity in Walsall. Visits to the borough’s leisure centres have more than doubled. Nearly 10,000 residents are now enrolled in one of the Council’s leisure membership schemes. Importantly, almost half of the gym members pay the concessionary price of only £15 per month, ensuring access to more disadvantaged communities. Furthermore, the Council has recently invested £1m in the refurbishment of Walsall Gala Swimming and Fitness Centre and the refurbishment of Darlaston Swimming Pool commenced earlier this month.
"The council is also working through planning and licensing to create an environment where healthier choices are made easier for the residents of Walsall. Local workplaces are being supported to develop healthy working environments that will benefit staff as well as businesses themselves.
"In Walsall, there is recognition that all agencies must work together with our communities to combat the complex factors that cause obesity. Our partners are committed to working with us and we will continue to work with Walsall residents, business, community organisations and other key stakeholders to tackle this important problem. "