A cash-strapped council is spending half a MILLION pounds on replacing pavements in a bizarre bid to get FAT people to exercise, it was revealed today.
Nottinghamshire County Council will replace damaged pathways in four areas worst-hit by obesity in the hope it will encourage overweight residents to walk and cycle more.
Workmen will resurface near to schools and shops across the county – recently shamed as Britain’s obesity capital – and revealed they will also be reinforcing the pavements to cope with the extra weight.
The authority claim the move – which is funded by a Government payout – will combat obesity by inspiring chunky locals to lead healthier lifestyles.
But residents in the affected areas and campaigners yesterday branded the idea a ‘waste of money’ and say there are better ways to encourage people to shed the pounds.
Office administrator June Ward, 44, from Eastwood, Notts, said: “I have some friends who are slightly overweight and I doubt they will suddenly have an urge to walk just because there are new pavements.
“I can’t see anyone noticing a difference, which is why I believe nothing will change and people will carry on driving instead of walking.
“The council really should have thought of a better way to spend the money, it seems like they have spent it all on the first thing they thought up.
“Why not invest in leisure centres or cycle paths – it’s left people really scratching their heads.
“It’s absolutely baffling.”
Another resident Mary Gray, 36, said: “I can’t understand how they can spend this much money on this sort of thing.
“There is no way this will make people want to go for a walk or a run.
“It is a complete waste of money and I seriously do not understand how they can justify spending that sort of money when it could be used elsewhere.
“What about healthy eating programmes in schools or more play areas for children?”
Emma McFarlane, 68, said: “We hear that money is tight, so why is the council spending money on pavements that are all right?
“How will that help obese people get fit anyway?”
Jo Eftekhari (corr), 52, who runs a Slimming World group in Stapleford, Notts, was just as baffled by the move.
She added: “Improving the pavements isn’t the first thing that I would think of when it came to ways to beat obesity.”
The plans were approved at a council transport and highways meeting on Thursday (4/7).
The areas for the improvements – prioritised using obesity prevalence data and footway condition surveys – are Eastwood/Brinsley, Stapleford, East Retford and Central Newark.
The #500,000 is part of a #2 million package of Government funding which was awarded to the authority.
Campaigners also criticised the plans and attacked the council for frivolously spending taxpayer cash.
Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “This looks like a silly publicity stunt and Notts County Council should be more serious about how it spends taxpayers’ money.
“Particularly when the amounts at stake are equivalent to the entire Council Tax bill for hundreds of families.
“There are plenty of reasons for the county’s heavier residents to put down the fork, but the council should not repair pavements just for the sake of making a point.”
Despite the backlash Andy Warrington, council service director for highways, said the move was one of several measures to promote healthy lifestyles.
He said: “It’s all about encouraging people to lead healthier lifestyles and is part of a wider package.”
A report on the plan outlined ‘footway networks’ in four key areas to be targetted under the new scheme.
It said: “Work is now underway to identify footway networks…to local shops, schools and other facilities within specific housing estates in the areas to encourage people to be more active and therefore help tackle obesity and its associated health impacts.”
Andy Warrington, the county council’s service director for highways, said: “It’s all about encouraging people to lead healthier lifestyles and is part of a wider package.”
* NHS figures released in May revealed Nottinghamshire topped the table for the most obesity-linked hospital admissions with 2,878 per 100,000.