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Sugar levy should be spent by Councils to tackle physical inactivity and ensure lasting Commonwealth Games legacy

AS the country celebrates the success of the Lionesses' Euro 2022 victory and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for money raised from the soft drinks industry levy to be reinvested in Council run initiatives to boost physical activity and find the sporting champions of the future.

The levy, designed to reduce consumption of sugary drinks, has raised around £1.2 billion since its introduction. However, it is no longer ringfenced to be spent on efforts to tackle obesity and physical inactivity despite a commitment from the Government to use the levy to fund:- "programmes to encourage physical activity and balanced diets."

A recent study suggests that only 45% of Primary School aged children have 1 hour a day worth of physical activity, with data collected by Councils also revealing rates of childhood obesity are still above their pre Pandemic levels.

Councils already run a number of initiatives to tackle obesity, including:- delivering the National Child Measurement Programme, and are uniquely placed to run weight management initiatives in local communities.

However, earlier this year the Government cut funding for locally commissioned adult weight management programmes, meaning a number of Councils have to cancel vital support programmes to help people lose weight in their communities.

By reinstating this funding and devolving sugar levy funds, the Government can ensure Councils can continue to provide vital services such as tackling childhood obesity and encouraging greater physical activity in their local areas.

Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said:- "The whole country has been incredibly proud of the achievements of our Lionesses and Commonwealth Games champions, many of whom started their journeys into elite sport at Council run sports facilities. If we are to capitalise and ensure a lasting legacy from these successes, we've got to get as many children active as we can. The sugar levy has been used as 1 of many tools to tackle growing levels of obesity across the country. However, it is concerning that it is increasingly unclear how the revenue generated from this is spent. It is vitally important that money raised through the levy is reinvested in physical activity programmes in local communities and other support to tackle childhood obesity."

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chair of the Local Government Association's Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said:- "Sporting events like the Commonwealth Games are fantastic at influencing international perceptions of the UK and marketing the UK to international visitors. But we must ensure that participation boosts fuelled by events like these are not short lived. Councils provide the majority of public swimming pools and leisure facilities, which are now under increased pressure as a result of rising energy costs. Urgent intervention is needed to prevent Council run leisure facilities from closing under cost of living pressures. Coupled with long term investment in public sport alongside major UK sporting events, this will help to inspire people to be more active for generations to come."

Thousands of free gifts to be given away by Merseyrail

THOUSANDS of free gifts are being given away to passengers on Merseyrail over the next few days, as train staff hand out vouchers worth up to £150. 7,500 envelopes containing a voucher, for anything from a £150 shopping credit to a free coffee, are being distributed throughout morning and evening peak times, at 16 stations, over 8 days. This give away started on:- Saturday, 6 August and lasting until:- Saturday, 13 August 2022.

During recent weeks, train maintenance issues, and infrastructure problems created by the heatwave severely affected Merseyrail's ability to meet their usual high standards, resulting in cancellations and late running of services. The giveaways are to acknowledge the disruption faced by passengers, and will be distributed at the stations that have been most affected.

Suzanne Grant, Commercial Director at Merseyrail, said:- "Since 2003, we have taken great pride in delivering the most reliable and punctual rail service in the UK. However, in recent weeks we have not met the high standards we have set for ourselves and that our passengers have rightly come to expect from us. I want to apologise for the disruption on our network, and as a way of thanking passengers for their patience and loyalty Merseyrail is giving away a range of gifts across the network. We know that some journeys have been difficult recently and that affects passengers' plans, so we hope this gesture will make their next journey, or even their day, just a little bit better."

Coram Beanstalk appeals for volunteer reading helpers in Liverpool to combat children's learning loss this summer

CORAM Beanstalk is calling for volunteers in Liverpool to come forward this summer to train as reading helpers with the charity and support local Primary School children with their reading from next term. Schools in Liverpool have a particularly high demand for reading helpers with many children waiting to receive vital support to not only boost their reading confidence and attainment but also inspire a love of reading.  In the wake of the disruption to children's education caused by the Pandemic, recent research by the Education Policy Institute found that children in the North of England suffered greater learning losses than those living in other Regions. With news that this year's SATs results have slumped, as well as the projected summer learning loss that disproportionately affects children from disadvantaged households, Coram Beanstalk volunteer reading helpers will play a crucial role in re-engaging children in the autumn term.  New volunteers in Liverpool can begin training anytime during the year, and those able to start now can join training in August or September to be ready to start working with children as they begin the new School year.

Amy Lewis, Head of Coram Beanstalk, said:- "Our volunteers are the face and heart of Coram Beanstalk, we really value the time they give to the children we exist to help. We love to hear of the fun they have in School and are delighted that 98% of our volunteers would recommend us to a friend. If you:- 're thinking of joining us, go for it!"

Local Schools that partner with Coram Beanstalk are also clear about the benefits volunteers bring. Caroline Smith from Middlefield Primary in Liverpool praised the dedication of volunteer reading helpers and their ability to get children excited about reading:- "Fully trained, professional in manner and all have lovely dispositions with our children. They provide enthusiasm and support for children who are less confident in reading and give them the self-esteem to answer and ask questions in whole classroom situations. The children constantly ask:- 'when is it my reading day' and we have a queue of children ready and willing to take part."

For Coram Beanstalk volunteers, 1 of the most rewarding aspects is the rapport they develop with the children. The 1 to 1 relationship means that volunteers can really get to know a child and find out which books might spark their interest. Liverpool volunteer Stephen Donoghue said:- "At 1st, I saw 4 hesitant and unsure children. Now I see blossoming confidence, energy and wonderful smiles. It's smashing being a Coram Beanstalk Reading Helper."

From application to introduction to a local School, where a match is waiting, the whole recruitment journey for new volunteers is currently averaging 30 days from application to completing training and DBS checks. For more information on becoming a volunteer, visit Coram Beanstalk's website.

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