A campaign to persuade people to lead healthier lives has been labelled a waste of money.

Brighton and Hove City Council spent £30,000 last year on its ninelives campaign, which looked at the daily routines of ordinary people and suggested ways of improvement.

Brian Oxley, city councillor and leader of the Tory opposition, said: "I am sure valuable lessons were learnt but there are many groups and organisations promoting healthier living and environmental issues.

"I question whether the council, given its financial difficulties, should really be spending £30,000 on projects duplicating the work of others."

A group of nine people were chosen for Brighton and Hove's version of the hit TV show Big Brother, launched last summer.

The aim was to put nine ordinary people on show on the internet, not to make them famous but to turn them green.

They were seen gardening, cycling to work and cooking with organic ingredients after being given digital camcorders to record the highs and lows of their progress in leading sustainable lifestyles.

The nine participants were coached by experts in subjects including gardening, energy efficiency and healthy eating during the nine-week project.

The initiative, believed to be the first of its kind, followed the Local Government Act which gave councils the duty to produce a community sustainability strategy to improve the environment.

Council Leader Ken Bodfish, defending the scheme, said: "I'm disappointed the Conservative leader cannot join us in celebrating what really is a success story.

"Locally and nationally, ninelives is being applauded as a brilliant attempt to explain and engage people in the ideas of sustainability.

"Ninelives is being actively considered as a case study to be looked at by world leaders at the Sustainability Summit in Johannesburg this autumn.

"Ninelives also helped launch our Sustainability Strategy and last week's launch and conference were so successful we were turning people away at the door.

"Incidentally, the campaign did not cost £30,000 as we received £10,000 back from the Environment Agency. We also received significant sponsorship and in kind support from a range of local businesses.

"We could have spent several thousand pounds simply producing a leaflet explaining what sustainability is about. I am absolutely certain this would not have had the impact of ninelives".

Ninelives participant Ruth Farber-Nathan believes the scheme has not only changed her life but those of her friends and neighbours.

She said: "If other councils had campaigns like this, it would do them the world of good.

"My life has completely changed. My house has had a makeover and I recycle everything now.

"My baby is due next week and I'm going to use real nappies instead of disposable ones."