Cumbria’s seven district and county councils are pledging to make tackling obesity a top priority.

To date, six local authorities have now signed up to the Local Government Declaration of Healthy Weight - with Carlisle City Council set to follow suit in the coming weeks.

Town and parish councils are also backing it, making Cumbria the first county in England with all three tiers of local government signed up to the pledge - committing to tackling worrying obesity rates in both children and adults.

With the Cumbria Association of Local Councils (CALC), which represents all town and parish councils across the county, on board it means all local councillors are now treating this as a priority.

The announcement was made at a high-profile Healthy Weight Summit, organised by Cumbria County Council’s public health team, which was held in the county yesterday.

It follows latest childhood obesity figures, showing that rates among reception-aged children in Cumbria are growing faster here than they are in other parts of England.

If current trends continue, more than 40 per cent of the county’s children will soon be overweight or obese by the time they start secondary school.

The summit, held at the Stoneybeck Inn, near Penrith, saw more than 100 people - including health professionals, teachers and community leaders - get together to look at the current picture and how to change it.

Colin Cox, Cumbria’s public health director, said the Local Government Declaration was a good start as it demonstrates that there is a real will to tackle these issues on a countywide level.

“Cumbria County Council is signed up to this yesterday and five of the six district councils (Barrow, Allerdale, Copeland, Eden and South Lakeland) are already signed up. Carlisle will sign up shortly and CALC is also signed up.

“We now have a clear commitment across all three tiers of local government in Cumbria to take action on this.

"We will be the first place in the country to have all their councils signed up to this. We will be a trailblazer.

“But signing a declaration is easy, the real challenge is action.

"However, the fact we have got so many people here at the summit shows that the will is there, and it is wider than local government.”

Robin Ireland, director of research at Food Active, is working to tackle obesity across the north west region.

He told council representatives: "We need to take obesity seriously.

"By signing this declaration you are making yourselves accountable and I hope communities will challenge you on that."

Among the delegates at the event was Brendan Sweeney, vice chairman of Barrow Borough Council's executive committee.

He said: "I'm here because it is a big problem across Cumbria and we have significant issues in Barrow.

"We have got some good work going on in Barrow, but this is about what we can do as a council, as leaders and shapers, to make sure we are all pulling together on this."

Colin Glover, leader of Carlisle City Council, was also there.

He said Carlisle already has Healthy City status, which means it has shown a commitment to improving local health, and recently launched a Sugar Smart campaign.

The Healthy Weight Declaration would therefore be an extension of that, helping to further focus their efforts.

"It's so important that we make healthy options easy options for people.

"We need to think about lifestyles, and how do we create these healthy opportunities that are also practical," he said.

"For example, when we've been designing Bitts Park after the floods, we didn't want to just put in a play area.

"We wanted to enhance it and make it more attractive.

"We've also committed to an outdoor gym for adults so people who don't have a membership can access one."

The summit featured several speakers, talking about current trends and what action is needed going forward.

James Noble, a research fellow from Leeds Beckett University, spoke about why a whole system approach is needed in Cumbria and how that can now be put into action.

He warned that it won't be a quick process, but it will have far more impact if everyone is working together.

Other speakers included Deborah Earl, county council portfolio holder for public health, Lindsey Ormesher, children and families public health lead, Cumbrian GP John Howarth, and Ken Gyles and Anna Quary, from the Better Health at Work initiative.