Paula Bradshaw: Sugar tax funds should be used to boost school sport

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

The introduction of the so-called sugar tax on sugary drinks must be backed by a bonus to schools in Northern Ireland to promote healthier lifestyles, notably through sport.

The UK government has already determined the expected £415 million revenue raised from the tax in England will go to schools, with the objective of increasing physical activity and thus adding to the value of this policy intervention on health promotion.

This uplift would equate to around £14.5 million in Northern Ireland, but of course that money will go straight to the Department of Finance.

The temptation will be to reallocate it to hard-pressed budgets elsewhere.

However, this would have the effect of depriving schools in Northern Ireland of funds which could be used to promote healthier lifestyles and would see pupils here left behind.

We should be under no illusions about what the consequences are if we do not invest in healthier lifestyles from the outset.

Higher obesity rates equate to higher rates of conditions such as diabetes, but also to generally poorer mental well-being and to higher rates of other serious conditions – for example, many may not be aware 5% of cancers are related to obesity.

If the public are to believe such taxes are designed as policy interventions for the greater good rather than ways of raising revenue for the government, we have to match the targeted interventions with targeted funding for targeted actions.

Given this is a UK-wide tax and the purpose of the reallocation of the revenue from it, as well as of the tax in the first place, is to reduce rates of obesity and improve overall health, it is essential the money is ring-fenced in Northern Ireland the same way as in England.

Paula Bradshaw MLA, Alliance Party Health spokesperson, South Belfast