HEALTH bosses were last night accused of arrogance after revealing they are ploughing ahead with controversial plans to add fluoride to water supplies.
South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) wants to bring in the scheme that will affect 200,000 people in Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams as soon as possible even though it is still subject to a legal appeal.
Campaigners and politicians last night said they were outraged at the unelected body’s move, which comes just a year before it is due to be scrapped by the Government and powers over fluoridation are passed to local councils.
The decision to press ahead with fluoridation emerged in a letter from SHA chief executive Andrea Young to Hampshire County Council.
She wrote that the authority “will put a project in place that will specify the stages required in the next few months,” including work with Southern Water to discover how much the scheme will cost.
Ms Young said the SHA still believes fluoridation is needed because “the dental health of children in the Southampton area remains as poor.
She went on: “Our view is that this scheme has been consulted on in accordance with the current legislation and that we are bound to follow through on the results.”
Hampshire Against Fluoridation chairman Stephen Peckham said there was absolutely no justification for fluoridation to go ahead.
He said Southampton’s dental health figures were no longer below national average, adding: “If they go ahead now it’s absolutely appalling. Any justification they had has gone, all the councils, the MPs and the majority of local people are against it and they’re acting in defiance.”
Southampton mum Gerri Milner last month lost her judicial review case arguing the SHA should not have ignored public opinion in making its decision to go ahead with the plans. But she has appealed against the High Court judge’s decision not to allow her legal challenge that the authority board members failed to properly consider all the evidence. That appeal has not yet been heard.
When the judicial review decision was made the SHA said it would consider its next steps, but consistently refused to answer any further questions.
Southampton City Council leader Royston Smith said: “It is perverse for a quango in its death throes to be carrying out anything as controversial and significant as adding fluoride to our water when it has caused so much controversy and opposition.”
He slammed the secret planning which had prompted his deputy Jeremy Moulton to pen a letter this week demanding to know what was happening.
Cllr Moulton, who was last night waiting for a response, accused authority chiefs of being “extremely arrogant and undemocratic”.
“We are furious they did not tell us about this directly, that we had to hear about it second hand and it had to be dragged out of them,” he said.
He vowed: “We will object in the strongest possible terms.
We will do everything we can to get them to change their position.”
Cllr Pat West, chairman of the county council’s health scrutiny committee, said everyone at the authority would be “very disappointed”
by the SHA’s decision, adding: “I would really like clarification over how and when it is going to be done. They’ve made a stand and they’ve stuck to it, but they don’t seem to have listened to the other aspects that people want to have the choice.”
Additional reporting by Matt Smith