TACKLING obesity in Swindon will take more than the introduction of a sugar tax according to the council's cabinet member for health.

Councillor Brian Mattock took a middle ground in the debate between Prime Minister David Cameron and celebrity 'naked' chef Jamie Oliver over the introduction of a sugar tax after a Public Health England (PHE) report suggested a levy of up to 20 per cent would reduce obesity in the long term.

Mr Cameron vetoed the move on the grounds there are more effective, alternative ways to address sugar consumption.

Councillor Brian Mattock, deputy leader and cabinet member for health and adult social care for Swindon Borough Council, which runs a number of groups and organisations to tackle excess weight and obesity in the town said: “There is growing evidence to show the damaging effects of excessive sugar consumption on people’s health.

" The issue is especially relevant to children, who are easily tempted by sugary foods and drinks. It is therefore important to explore ways to reduce their exposure to high sugar products – regulating advertising and increasing prices through the introduction of a ‘sugar tax’ are two possibilities currently being considered.

"Such measures, however, are not answers alone. We are committed to helping and supporting people, including children themselves, to make sensible choices through education with our Healthy Schools programme and wider awareness of healthy, tasty alternatives which are not laden with sugar.

"Our healthy lifestyle scheme called Alive ‘n’ Kicking, which works with families with children of all ages experiencing obesity, focuses on the vital roles of a well-balanced diet in combination with regular physical activity to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.”

Earlier this week Jamie Oliver praised the findings in the Sugar Reduction: The Evidence For Action study, which warned average sugar intake is 12 to 15 per cent of people's energy intake instead of the 5 per cent Government advisers say it should be.

For school-age children, sugar is 14.7 per cent of all calorie intake, and 15.6 per cent for teenagers.

He said: "I'm excited and relieved that we finally got to see Public Health England's courageous, forward-thinking report and its excellent recommendations such as a proposed sugar levy, cutting down on the advertising of high sugar food, all of which are powerful weapons in improving our children's health.

"Doctors, dentists, scientists, a large and growing percentage of the British public and many in the media are calling for action. The ball is firmly in the Government's court.

"There has never been a better time than now. Let's tackle this like parents not politicians."

A Number 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister thinks there are more effective ways of tackling this issue than putting a tax on sugar."

To register for Alive ‘n’ Kicking, call 01793 465412 or email jdunn@swindon.gov.uk.

Free advice and information about how to improve children’s diet and introduce more physical activity to their routine in fun ways is also available at www.change4life.co.uk.