PLANS to fluoridate Hampshire’s water could be axed as health chiefs lose powers to approve the controversial scheme.
The Government has revealed councils are to be given responsibility for fluoridation as part of a shake-up of the NHS that will see strategic health authorities (SHAs) axed.
Every local authority in the area affected – covering parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams – has already said it should not go ahead.
And after the controversy over the Southampton scheme, the Department of Health (DH) will also examine if the law needs to be changed to ensure people have more of a say on any similar proposals.
Pressure is now mounting on South Central Strategic Health Authority to scrap its plans, and abandon its expensive defence of a High Court legal challenge over the way the project was approved.
Chairman of Hampshire Against Fluoridation, Stephen Peckham told the Daily Echo he believes there is now no future for the Southampton scheme, which has already been on hold since last June until the outcome of the judicial review.
He said: “With SHAs being abolished by April 2012 this is just becoming an absolute nonsense.
“We want to know how they can justify this.
“It seems totally crazy they’re continuing with the scheme and spending £400,000 fighting the judicial review.”
In a letter to campaigners, the DH revealed that, by scrapping SHAs, councils would take responsibility for public health measures, including fluoridation.
The letter said: “This will ensure that there is a democratic basis for decisions on fluoridation.
“In drawing up the legislation that will be required for the new arrangements, the DH will be giving further consideration as to how more account can be taken locally of the views of the people who would be affected by any proposals for a new fluoridation scheme.”
During the consultation, in which more than 10,000 people had their say on the plans, 72 per cent of respondents said they opposed fluoridation.
Hampshire county, Eastleigh and Fareham borough and New Forest and Test Valley district councils all passed motions saying they also disagreed with adding the chemical to tap water supplies.
Southampton City Council voted in favour of the plans, but councillors have since called for a binding referendum to be held before fluoride could be added to the water.
City Council leader, Royston Smith said the Government’s announcement could now spark a public vote.
“I have consistently supported the proposal to hold a referendum to ensure that the majority of the population can decide for themselves.
“In light of the Secretary of State’s letter I will be investigating how a vote could be held in the future – perhaps to coincide with a local election.”
The SHA has consistently argued it believes fluoridation will improve dental health, and that it met or exceeded all its legal requirements during the public consultation.
A spokesman said: “The SHA is fully aware of the DH’s plans for the future, however the SHA still has the responsibility to promote good public health in the region and therefore our position on fluoridation remains unchanged.”