The Soft Drinks Industry Levy has come into effect today (6 April), in a move which the government says will “benefit millions of children across the UK”.
Dubbed the ‘sugar tax’, the levy is a key part of the government’s childhood obesity strategy and was first announced in the 2016 Budget.
The UK joins a handful of nations – such as Mexico, Finland, France and Norway – to have introduced similar taxes.
In England, the new levy revenue will be invested in increasing opportunities for sport in schools, including programmes to encourage physical activity and balanced diets.
The tax was originally expected to raise £520m a year when plans for it were first revealed by then-chancellor George Osborne in 2016.
The tax will raise less than initially expected, however, due to soft drinks companies cutting the amount of sugar they use, meaning that they will escape the full force of the tax.
Estimates by the Treasury based on market data suggest 50 per cent of manufacturers have already reduced the sugar content of their drinks.
As a result, the tax is now expected to raise around £240m each year – less than half of the original estimates.
In his 2017 Budget, however, chancellor Philip Hammond pledged that the government would still increase funding of sport in schools by “the full £1bn we originally expected from the levy” by 2020.
Speaking today (6 April), Exchequer secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick, confirmed that the revenue from the tax would be ring-fenced and spent on sport and healthy living activities at school.
“All revenues raised through the levy will directly fund new sports facilities in schools as well as healthy breakfast clubs, ensuring children lead healthier lives,” Jenrick said.
Public Health Minister, Steve Brine, added: “Our teenagers consume nearly a bathtub of sugary drinks each year on average, fuelling a worrying obesity trend in this country.
“The Soft Drinks Industry Levy is a ground-breaking policy that will help to reduce sugar intake, while funding sports programmes.”
The tax has already had an effect on the funding of school sports and physical education.
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