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London's Westminster council has proposed that overweight people who refuse to go to exercise classes could have their welfare benefits slashed.

The proposal, from a report called 'A Dose of Localism: The Role of Council in Public Health' produced by the Local Government Information Unit think tank suggests that councils could ultimately save money by getting GPs to force unhealthy people to exercise.

Health complications linked to obesity reportedly costs the NHS £5.1 billion every year according to figures from the Department of Health.

The scheme aims to reward people who exercise and punish those who don't by cutting their housing benefit and council tax payments. The report suggests that "where an exercise package is prescribed to a resident, housing and council tax benefit payments could be varied to reward or incentivise residents."

Leader of Tory-run Westminster Council, Phillipa Roe said "Councils have a great opportunity to improve lives by thinking how public health can be integrated into existing local services...This report contains exactly the sort of bright, forward-thinking and radical ideas that need to be looked at."

Not everyone was happy at the proposed scheme. Baroness Hussein-Ece of the Liberal Democrats and member of the House of Lords called it a "completely outrageous notion!" on Twitter.

Local authorities will take over responsibility for public health services from April this year.


Images: Thinkstock 


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Obese in Westminster could lose their benefits say council
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