Fluoride Action Network

Southampton: Complaint over fluoridation vote

Source: This is Hampshire | February 25th, 2009 | By Jon Reeve
Location: United Kingdom, England

A FORMER Southampton mayor is being investigated over claims she broke council rules by influencing a vote on controversial plans for fluoridation in the city.

Labour councillor Parvin Damani spoke passionately in favour of the scheme to add fluoride to nearly 200,000 Hampshire residents’ water, and voted to back it when city councillors examined the proposals last November.

But her actions are now being studied after a complaint was lodged arguing she should not have been allowed to join in the debate because she holds a post with the health trust behind the plans.

Anti-fluoride campaigners say her intervention in the meeting was crucial.

John Spottiswoode, chairman of Hampshire Against Fluoridation, said: “The even-handedness of the vote in the city council was undermined and the whole vote should be wiped from the records as unsound, or re-done.”

Southampton was the only council to back the fluoridation plans, which would affect residents in two-thirds of the city, as well as about 36,000 people in Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.

Hampshire County, Eastleigh Borough, New Forest District and Test Valley Borough councils all passed motions opposing the scheme.

“It was an extremely important vote because if Southampton City Council had voted against fluoridation then every single council would have voted against fluoridation,” said Mr Spottiswoode. “That would have killed the whole proposal then and there.

“As it is, Ms Damani could be responsible single-handedly for tipping enough votes to mean that Southampton becomes fluoridated, much against the wishes of the vast majority of citizens.”

Cllr Damani is a member of Southampton City Primary Care Trust’s senior public health team. She works as an equality and human rights advisor.

The trust proposed fluoridation as a way of combating poor dental health among the city’s youngsters, particularly in more deprived areas.

The board of South Central Strategic Health Authority, which oversees the region’s healthcare, will vote on the plans tomorrow.

In a free vote city councillors came out 26 to 18 in favour of fluoridation.

Cllr Steve Sollitt declared an interest and left the meeting because he works as an accountant for the NHS. Cllr Damani also declared an interest as an employee of the health service, but remained, spoke and cast a vote.

She told the meeting. “This is not a poison. Nobody has died from it.”

A council spokesman said the authority is unable to comment or confirm an investigation is ongoing. Cllr Damani declined to comment.