Hundreds of children under the age of five are severely overweight in Bucks, prompting calls for more action to be taken to tackle childhood obesity.

Council figures show that up to 1,000 children in reception classes across the county are overweight or obese, or the equivalent of one in six children.

The issue appears to become more severe as children get older, as more than a quarter of pupils in year six are classed as being either overweight or obese.

The statistics were revealed in Bucks County Council’s (BCC) annual report for public health – which investigates the overall wellbeing of Bucks residents and highlights plans to address any ongoing issues.

At a meeting of BCC’s cabinet this morning (July 9)  children’s services chief, councillor Warren Whyte, asked what action has been taken to tackle the “disconcerting” numbers.

He said: “There are rather disconcerting figures on the overweight and obese children we have.

“One in 15 children in reception are obese, and more concerning news that one in six children are overweight. That’s 18 per cent of children.

“What more can we do to encourage and empower parents to look after happier and healthier children? Because this is really disconcerting.”

BCC’s director of public health, Dr Jane O’Grady, said a number of schemes have been launched in a bid to tackle childhood obesity, including promoting breastfeeding.

However she added “it is a much bigger issue” than the council can handle alone, as action is required “at all levels” – from government to schools – to encourage children to eat healthier.

Dr O’Grady said: “A problem with a lot of these issues are they societal issues as well.

“They require action at all levels, so action by the NHS, action by parents, action by schools, but also national actions on things like sugary drinks and reformulation of food, TV advertising before the watershed, all those kinds of things.

“There are some excellent papers going around about how to change behaviours in a very complex system, so even things as taking the sweets of the end of supermarket aisles.

“They all impact, but you need all those things working together to move the dial on these things.”

Leader of BCC, Cllr Martin Tett, also called for more light to be shed on how effective the various actions are on actually helping people to lose weight.

He said: “Everything in this report it is very hard to disagree with and it is great to see what we are doing. What I am never clear on is how effective it is.

“So, we have a problem, we have various actions but the outcome is people get slimmer. The rate of obesity reduces, or does it just go up les quickly?

“I am never clear on the problem statement, the actions and the outcomes.

"That is something that would be very useful to know better.

“It is great to have the objectives, we just don’t know how we are impacting on things.”