Birmingham is to get a "fat tsar" to lead the battle against child obesity.
The city council lead officer on children's and young people's health and nutrition will be offered a 12-month contract to March 2008 on a salary between #41,667 and #45,480. Yesterday the health scrutiny committee heard how, three years after a review was first commissioned, Birmingham's attempts to tackle obesity "are failing".
Schools are still regarded as part of the problem "rather than the solution" due to the prevalence of a cafeteria culture and vending machines stocked with fatty and sugary foods.
A decline in physical activity, linked to increased television-watching and time spent playing computer games, was also cited as a major concern.
The officer will be required to drive the city and its partners' aims to reduce obesity rates and improve children and young people's nutrition and health. Shortlisted candidates are due to be interviewed shortly. Funding for some city schemes, including those which encourage schools to grow their own fruit and vegetables, and offering cookery classes to parents is set to end next month.
The report, first presented by Coun Jilly Bermingham (Lab, Erdington) in May 2004, revealed that of the 158,920 children aged between five and 15, one in four children were overweight (39,350), with one in eight being clinically obese (19,890).
It found that 50 per cent of overweight children go on to become obese adults, and half of Birmingham's population is overweight. Nearly 500 deaths a year across the city are attributed to obesity.
But a review of its recommendations and how they have been implemented, compiled by Coun Sue Anderson (Lib Dem, Sheldon), claims effective intervention for preventing and treating obesity in children "is weak".
"At present there is no coherent pan-Birmingham, inter-agency approach for tackling obesity" it states. "Policy-making and strategic planning are not sufficiently integrated between the NHS and local government."
Coun Deirdre Alden (Con, Edgbaston), who chairs the health scrutiny committee, admitted she was exasperated at the time it had taken to introduce the necessary changes.
She said: "I don't think this is a topic that's going to go away, nor is it one we can afford to write off as the situation is not getting any better. This review was first presented in May 2004 and it's almost three years on and we're still ticking items off this to-do list.
"This is a serious matter and it's been allowed to drift for too long."
Funding for the lead officer's post was found following the reconfiguration of the council's health education unit.