NEWS that health bosses are determined to go ahead with plans to add fluoride to the Southampton city regional water supply should not surprise us one drop.
The fact the South West Strategic Health Authority (SHA) has already fought and won one highly expensive legal battle at tax-payers’ expense to stay on course with their controversial scheme is a good indicator that they mean business.
Only an appeal against the rejected private judicial review brought by local mum Gerri Milner stands between the health authority and its highly unpopular plans to add the controversial chemical to tap water.
This week the Daily Echo reported that in an answer to Hampshire County Council it confirmed it was still making plans in readiness for the switch-on despite the fact the SHA itself will he abolished within the next 12 months. The admission was greeted with dismay from protesters and local politicians in Southampton and the wider county. But no one will surely have been surprised by the fact
An authority that has gone this far with its scheme is unlikely to do an about-turn now, even if its dogged stance in the face of howling opposition is seen more as stubbornness if not fanaticism than a principled stand. The final outcome of the saga is difficult to call. The legal appeal may yet delay the introduction of fluoride long enough for the SHA to ride into oblivion. The appeal may well be upheld, in which the project is dead in the still untainted waters.
But what if the chemical is added shortly before the SHA is abolished?
With power passing into the hands of local authorities for such matters, and with Southampton City Council’s Tory leadership now openly against the scheme without a full public referendum (which will be lost), can’t they just simply switch off the fluoride once they get their hands on the taps?
The answer is not a simple ‘yes or no’. The exact detail of any new powers given to local authorities has yet to be decided by Parliament. And in a throwaway line the council’s deputy leader Councillor Jeremy Moulton yesterday admitted that it “would not be very sensible” if the chemical was introduced at great expense and then had to be switched off at further great expense. For a seasoned council-watcher like myself I read that as a ‘definite maybe’, and ‘we certainly want a referendum vote from the public to spend the cash’.
If the SHA does win the immediate race then we can look forward to several months, maybe as much as a year’s worth of fluoridated water being pumped through the region’s taps. The time to invest in shares in bottle water companies is rapidly approaching.