Local councils to tackle residents' unhealthy habits

The quit smoking and New Year diet adverts are yet to hit our TV screens but there will soon be little escape from a healthy lifestyle because new Government proposals look set to give local councils the power to encourage residents to give up their bad habits.

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As part of the proposal, ministers hope to appoint more than 150 directors, each of whom will report back to the Public Health England quango, to help local authorities with their plans to convince us to cut back on booze, quit smoking and jack in the junk food.

And that means councils will be given a chunk of a national public health budget worth £4 billion aimed at tackling obesity, binge-drinking and smoking.

The plan is not likely to be put into action until 2013 and it is not clear just how local authorities will spend their slice of the budget pie but each will be set targets to increase the number of people quitting their bad habits and getting involved in more physical activity.

Should those goals be met, more money will be put back into the successful schemes.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the Daily Mail: "People's health and well-being will be at the heart of everything local councils do. It's nonsense to think that health can be tackled on its own.

"Directors of public health will be able to champion local co-operation so that health issues are considered alongside housing, transport, and education."

The quango is also responsible for nationwide screening and vaccination programmes as well as research into the nation's health problems.

But critics say it may only encourage councils to pry further into our private lives.

As Daniel Hamilton, from Big Brother Watch, pointed out: "People need to decide for themselves what food they want to eat or if they want to drink alcohol."

What do you think? Should the British public be left to make their own lifestyle decisions and are the proposals a waste of much-needed Government funding? Leave your comments below...