CHILDHOOD obesity, dirty streets and improving sports facilities were top of the agenda when Minister for Sport, Richard Caborn, visited Accrington on Tuesday.
Mr Caborn spoke exclusively to the Observer when he dropped into Hyndburn Leisure Centre in the run-up to the 3 May local elections. He also met Labour candidates when he called into Hyndburn MP Greg Pope's new office in Abbey Street, Accrington.
The minister expressed concern about the high levels of obesity in the borough and said the Government was ploughing billions of pounds of investment into improving sports facilities and access to them, both in and out of school.
Last year's local authority health profile, published by the Public Health Observatories, showed that 23 per cent of Hyndburn's adult population was overweight.
Mr Caborn said: "Childhood obesity is one of the targets we are aiming to brng down along with type two diabetes. It's a health timebomb waiting to explode and that's why we need to act. It's not an option anymore, it's a necessity. We have got to get the country involved in sport."
He outlined the policies of Hyndburn's Labour group and stressed the importance of keeping the area clean.
Mr Caborn added: "I have come to look at what the borough is doing on sport and supporting the Labour Party here in the local elections. I think the main thing here is to make sports facilities affordable. It's about health and social inclusion and all these things coming out of a good sports policy.
"On other issues the Labour group is responding to the concerns of the people. We clearly need to make sure unreliable people do not get access to taxi licences to ensure the safety of the people of Accrington.
"Clean streets are very important. Labour is going to bring back the community wardens and would implement a zero tolerance policy in terms of dirty streets. It's something the Labour group has clearly taken very seriously."
He added: "I think the Labour group has listened to the people of Hyndburn and has responded with positive policies which will address their concerns."
Mr Caborn's trip to Accrington comes just weeks after visits to the borough by Home Secretary Dr John Reid and Minister for Constitutional Affairs Harriet Harman, showing it is one of Labour's top target seats.
Councillor Jones said: "We were talking about how the elections were going in Hyndburn. Mr Caborn had spoken to John Reid about his visit and he wanted to come up to Hyndburn to lend his support."
A planned visit by Alistair Burt, Conservavative Shadow Minister for Communities and Regeneration, was cancelled after he was called back to Westminster to take part in Tuesday evening's vote of no confidence in Chancellor Gordon Brown over the pensions crisis. The motion was defeated.
Council leader Peter Britcliffe said he hoped the visit could be rearranged.