The idea of the Conservative-run Westminster Council in London to cut the housing benefit of fat and lazy people may seem a touch radical.

At least the council is trying to do something about obesity.

Claimants who do not turn up for sufficient sessions at the gym, swimming pool, or yoga class will be penalised. Those who take exercise will be "incentivised and rewarded". A council spokesperson said it was "a carrot and stick approach" but denied that people would be made to eat carrots and chased with big sticks.

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Other ways local authorities can help fat claimants get thin:

Don't let them fritter their benefits on fried food. Give them vouchers to eat at the municipal Workhouse Café with healthy pulse stews (which may resemble gruel). In a free and easy atmosphere, calorie-conscious inmates can approach Mr Bumble the Beadle and ask: "Please, sir, may I have less?"

Exercise is important, so claimants will be required to run on the spot whilst attending interviews at the council obesity inspectorate department. There will be trips to the country where chubby city-dwellers can work off a few pounds by putting on a fox hat and running across field and meadow just ahead of the baying hounds kindly supplied by the local hunt.

It will be relatively simple for councils to impose sanctions and controls on those fat people reliant on the public purse. But not so easy to incentivise the OBIE -- Obese But In Employment. The answer may be food rationing under the control of local authority food health officers. All residents with a body mass index over 30 could buy food only with an Oyster-type card. This allows them to purchase as many oysters as they like but very little in the way of sugar and fat. Biscuits, when allowed, will be on a pay-for-two-get-only-one basis.

It will be an offence for fat people to hang about outside Greggs and ask thin customers to buy them a sausage roll. Children whose parents persistently steal their sweets will be taken into care.

You will be wondering how wealthy folk in Westminster can help. They are asked not leave out scraps of fatty foods for the poor. And they might also consider hiring the unemployed as sedan chair carriers. Good for the economy and the climate.