The British Medical Association (BMA) yesterday condemned ‘draconian’ proposals by Tory-controlled Westminster Council to cut the benefits of claimants judged overweight or unhealthy.
The measures are contained in a joint report entitled A Dose of Localism: The Role of Council in Public Health, by Westminster Council and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU).
Responsibility for promoting public health will move from the NHS to local authorities in April.
Westminster said the aim was to save £5bn from the NHS budget by cutting benefits to overweight or unhealthy people who refuse to attend exercise sessions.
GPs would be told to prescribe leisure activities like swimming and fitness classes under the plans.
Smart cards would be brought in to monitor the use of leisure centres, meaning local authorities could reduce welfare payments for those who fail to follow their GP’s advice.
Resident, housing and council tax benefit payments ‘could be varied to reward or incentivise residents’, the report said.
Chair of the BMA GPs Committee, Dr Lawrence Buckman, called the ‘draconian’ proposals ‘some of the silliest things I’ve heard in a long time’.
He added: ‘The best way councils can intervene is to stop restaurants and fast food chains providing the kind of food that makes people put on weight, and interfere with the way foods are sold in shops.’
Meanwhile, the Defend Council Housing (DFH) campaign has warned: ‘Council housing is more important than ever, but faces major threats in 2013.
‘Councils will decide whether to remove some Secure Tenancies and introduce up to 80% market rents. And rent rises plus housing benefit cuts threaten more poverty, debt, evictions and homelessness.’
It added: ‘Rent rises and benefit cuts will hit council tenants in 2013. Many councils are proposing rent rises well over inflation and benefit changes from April 2013 will cut 14-25% off housing benefit for up to 600,000 tenants hit by the “bedroom tax.”
‘Council Tax Benefit reductions mean millions will have to pay more and from October 2013 the introduction of “Universal Credit” will cut benefit further for some, including disabled people, households with two earners, mothers and people paying for childcare.’
There are also plans to end the universal winter fuel allowance for pensioners by introducing a means test, removing 75% of the recipients, and saving £1.5bn by freezing pensioners.
• Police have warned that people are moving the lids from tombs in a cemetery between Mill Road and Norfolk Street, Cambridge, so they can sleep in them for the night.
PC Alan Tregilgas of Cambridgeshire Police said in a statement that in some cases ‘tombstone lids have been pushed off so they can sleep inside them’.
A local resident told News Line: ‘I thought you only had this kind of thing in “Third World” countries like Egypt.’
The cemetery is maintained by Cambridge City Council, on behalf of 17 parishes.
Parish committees representative, Reverend Margaret Widdess, said: ‘The cemetery is open to the public and that includes people who are down on their luck.’