GIVE us a vote. The Daily Echo today backs calls for a referendum on controversial plans to fluoridate Hampshire’s tap water.
Campaigners argue that faith in democracy has been damaged by health chiefs approving the scheme to add fluoride to the water supplies of nearly 200,000 homes, despite widespread opposition.
Calls for a direct referendum on the controversial plans have been made by opponents of fluoride, and one of the city’s most powerful politicians.
Earlier this month campaigners delivered a 15,300-name petition to Downing Street, urging the Prime Minister to step into the row over fluoridation.
During last year’s public consultation, more than 10,000 responses were submitted to South Central Strategic Health Authority.
Of those from people in the affected area, 72 per cent said they were against it.
In a separate phone poll of 2,000 residents, 32 per cent said they would like to see fluoride added to tap water.
But 38 per cent said they opposed the plans, affecting parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.
The SHA board approved the scheme, saying they had gathered opinion as required by law, but were convinced by scientific evidence showing fluoride will improve dental health in the city.
Southampton city council’s deputy leader, Cllr Royston Smith, said he was normally opposed to using referenda, but wanted to see one on fluoridation.
“People are rightfully saying what’s the point of asking me and us being part of the political system if we’re just going to be ignored,” said Cllr Smith, who is standing for the Tories in Southampton Itchen at the next election.
“What annoys me is this is an act of political cowardice by the Government. They have devolved responsibility to the SHA and are then saying it’s not us that made the decision.
“Actually on this point, it is time we put it to a democratic vote and let the people have their say.”
Hampshire Against Fluoridation’s chairman John Spottiswoode said his group had always favoured a referendum as the best way to decide on the subject.
“Why have a consultation if you’re going to ignore what the people say, and the other issue is it is fundamentally unethical to force people to take something without their consent,” he said.
“A referendum would properly sort that one out.
“But if you do have a referendum it has got to be done on a level playing field and people are given proper access to information on both sides.”
SHA campaigns manager Kevin McNamara said the authority has no view over what the law should be, but simply follows what it says.
“The SHA is required to follow the law that’s in place at this current time, and if the law was subject to any change we would follow that,” he said.
“The issue of what that law should be is for politicians to debate in Parliament and decide on, we just work within that law.
“That’s what the politicians have done with this legislation, which was decided through a free vote, and we’re working within it.”