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Tamworth’s fat tag: Wheel fight it on the cycle tracks

March 13, 2013
ON YER BIKE: Checking out those 26 miles of tracks with chief inspector Ian Coxhead

ON YER BIKE: Checking out those 26 miles of tracks with chief inspector Ian Coxhead

HE’S famous for leaping to the defence of snowball-throwing children – now Tamworth’s top cop is on the track of saving his town’s reputation from being billed as the unhealthiest in the UK.

In my role as deputy police and crime commissioner, I joined chief inspector Ian Coxhead in unearthing 26 miles of cycleway in and around the district – a good starting point for fighting Tamworth’s unwanted title (shared with Gateshead) of fattest town in Britain.

Figures have revealed that one in three people in the town is obese, according to data collated by the National Obesity Observatory.

Doctors are calling on the Government to tackle the epidemic, which they say is sweeping the country and now represents the biggest crisis facing the NHS.

I feel we should be getting on our bikes as part of a healthier, active lifestyle. Sitting at our desks all day and in front of the telly all night is a potential recipe for disaster.

It is trying to save the health of a generation.

Earlier this year the Tamworth police chief answered critics in Kettlebrook who were upset at youngsters throwing snowballs. He commented: “I’d say that a little tolerance is needed, we were all children once and we all enjoyed a snowball fight.”

Now he and I are trying to open the cycling arteries of the town as Tamworth Borough Council invest £17,000 in free swimming lessons in an effort to tackle the obesity problem.

The local authority is fighting back too. In 2009 just over 9,000 adults in Tamworth were taking part in sport, but by 2011 this had risen to 11,000.

Former council leader Jeremy Oates has acknowledged there is a problem. “We can run around saying the figures are out of date, but the bottom line is there is still an obesity issue,” he said.

“It’s not just elderly but overweight people using mobility scooters,” he says. He recently saw four men in early middle age with walking sticks.

“We’re almost on the verge of a lost generation – obese parents who aren’t recognising that their children are obese. Getting parents to recognise that is quite tricky,” he added.

Local GP John James, chairman of the clinical commissioning group that will decide what NHS services the area needs, says people do not notice that others are overweight any more, because almost everybody is.

“I have been a GP for 30 years,” said Mr James. “We look around the room at other people and say, I’m fairly tall or I’m not very tall. So in a room full of overweight people, nobody thinks they are fat.”

Tamworth is not out of step with the rest of the West Midlands, which has an average adult obesity rate of 26.4per cent, just as Gateshead is within the general range of the north-east, where adult obesity averages 27.8 per cent.

The figures are out of date, because they are based on 2006-08 data from the Health Survey for England, but experts claim that is the most up-to-date information there is.

At the current rate, it’s estimated in the UK that 60 per cent of men, 50 per cent of women and a quarter of all children will be obese by 2050.


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