A SHAKE-UP of the way that fluoride can be added to tap water is expected to be passed in Parliament today.

Councils will have the power to scrap fluoridation programmes under the controversial Health and Social Care Bill, which will be debated in the House of Lords.

As well as headline measures that will hand more power to GPs and increase competition, the Bill will also allow councils to make decisions on any new fluoridation schemes.

Strategic health authorities, the bodies previously in charge of the decision, will be axed.

With Southampton City Council having voted last year to oppose the move, it is likely that the proposals for Hampshire would have been thrown out if the Government’s reforms had been in place at the time.

Despite its pending demise, South Central Strategic Health Authority has pressed on with the plans.

Stephen Peckham, chairman of Hampshire Against Fluoridation, said: “Both Southampton and Hampshire councils are against it, so why does the SHA insist on doing something in its final 12 months?”

Officials say the health reforms will “increase the democratic legitimacy of decisions on fluoridation”.

Councils would be given responsibility for “termination and variation” of proposals, and a new quango, Public Health England, will manage existing fluoride schemes, which are likely to include Southampton.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “It is proposed that, following the abolition of SHAs, local authorities take responsibility for decisions about new fluoridation schemes. Public Health England would hold and manage contracts for existing and new schemes.”

A spokesman for South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) said: “Although SHAs will cease to exist from April 2013, the strategic health authority (SHA) still has responsibility to promote good public health in the region and therefore its position on fluoridation remains unchanged. The SHA will continue to follow the law laid down by Parliament.

“The SHA remains confident with its decision to support the local NHS in Southampton with their plans to increase the fluoride level in local water supplies.”