HEALTH chiefs are wasting time and money pressing ahead with plans to fluoridate water supplies – because council bosses would be able to simply switch it off again once they are handed public health powers, it was claimed last night.

South Central Strategic Health Authority has insisted it wants to go ahead with the scheme to add the chemical to tap water, saying it is needed to improve poor dental health in Southampton.

There are just months left before strategic health authorities are axed and their powers over public health are handed over to elected councillors.

The law is not yet in place, as the Health and Social Care Bill 2010-11, which includes the proposal to axe SHAs, is currently at the committee stage in Parliament.

    A Department of Health spokeswoman said the de-tails would only be thrashed out once the bill has passed.

    She added that no decision has been made on how that secondary legislation pro-cess will be completed and whether councils will be given the chance to have their say in how their powers are shaped. But if the law remains the same, even if the SHA is successful in getting fluoride into the water supply before it is scrapped, campaigners claim council bosses would be able to simply stop buying the chemical once they are in charge.

    Hampshire Against fluoridation chairman Stephen Peckham said: “It could be done simply, subject to their will to do it.

    “If they don’t think it is cost effective, they could cease water fluoridation, based on the law as it stands.

    “Even if they have to go to consultation, if the law stays the same that consultation would surely mean they just have to stand outside the Civic Centre and ask someone what they think and that would be enough.”

    Southampton’s deputy leader Jeremy Moulton said last night the council is “looking into” its legal position before any decision on how to proceed can be made.

    He said: “If they put it in at considerable expense and then the council takes it out again at great expense that would not be very sensible.

    “I would be making the case to the SHA that it would be crazy to make the decision and have it reversed.”