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Friday, 21 August 2009

Local authority continues to put profit before health

I have some serious concerns to share on here about the conduct of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, in particular, the way in which it appears to be dragging its feet over the removal of sunbeds in three of its leisure centres across the county.

Back in May, a Vale Scrutiny Committee recommended in a report to the Cabinet that the sunbeds should be removed. The Council have met three times since then and, in what can only be described as a “reckless failure to uphold their duty of care to the local population,” each time they have failed to consider the issue or take action.

The sunbeds are making a profit of around £15,000 a year for the Vale Council.

Now that the authority is in recess over the summer it will be September, at the earliest, that the recommendation to remove them can be put back on the agenda.

It is a step in the right direction that the dangers of using sunbeds have been recognised by the Scrutiny Committee, but it is difficult to see why the council have not yet taken action. I sincerely hope it simply isn't down to the finance the sunbeds generate. Surely local authorities have a duty of care to the people they represent and a duty to promote public health don’t they?

The Vale is not the only Council to have sunbeds in its leisure centres – Wrexham and Flintshire also do and we have called on them to take action too. Leisure centres, especially those owned by local authorities, should be places where people go for healthy exercise and recreation. Local Authorities should be leading on health protection. It’s absurd that sunbeds are even there. Just one session a month will double the average individual's annual dose of ultraviolet radiation and it’s well known that this increases the risk of cancer, skin and eye problems in later life.

The BMA has been a strong advocate for increasing community access to local leisure facilities and playing fields and has called for increased provision and investment to secure their future.

If leisure centres wish to diversify the facilities on offer, this should not be to the detriment of health and well-being. For instance, the beauty studio at Penarth Leisure Centre should offer fake tan sprays rather than the two sunbeds it currently hosts.

BMA Cymru Wales has campaigned for the tanning industry to be regulated for many years and when we give evidence to National Assembly’s Health Committee next month this is exactly what we’ll be calling for. Across the board we’ll be asking for tough action on sunbeds - including unmanned and coin-operated ones.

In the meantime we are calling on the Vale, and other Councils to act responsibly on behalf of the people they represent by removing the sunbeds at the earliest opportunity.

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