THE last formal attempt to stop health chiefs putting fluoride in Hampshire tap water has been rejected.

The decision by a Parliamentary watchdog to reject a complaint about the controversial scheme gives the green light for South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) to plough on with its plans for Southampton and the surrounding area.

But the organisation now faces a race against time if it is to get the chemical into the water supply before it is axed next spring by the Government, as part of NHS reforms.

The last-ditch bid to halt the controversial scheme had been made by New Forest East MP Julian Lewis and Hampshire County Councillor David Harrison.

But the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has ruled against their complaints.

The pair wanted the SHA brought to book over its “sham” consultation, the waste of public money in pushing the scheme through, and fears the fluoridated area may have to be larger than initially thought.

If they had been successful it could have halted the project, which will affect 200,000 people in parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.

But the ombudsman turned down the complaint, saying the issues raised were either out of its remit or had already been examined by the High Court during a judicial review which the SHA successfully defended.

Cllr Harrison said he was “disappointed”

with the decision, which he said gives the green light for public organisations to fritter away taxpayers’ cash.

He told the Daily Echo: “The SHA are to be abolished in April and both Dr Lewis and myself felt it was a real folly and a massive waste of public money for them to continue in the knowledge that all the local councils were against it and have stated their intention to reverse the decision.

“The ombudsman has essentially said as long as it’s legal it can waste as much money as it likes, which seems quite breathtaking.

“The NHS isn’t over-endowed with funding and already a great deal of public money has been wasted.

“Everybody who pays taxes should be outraged by this.”

After winning the judicial review last year the SHA restarted work with Southern Water on plans to introduce fluoridation and believes it is on track to get the scheme in place before next spring, arguing it still believes it will benefit public health.

The authority has previously said: “The SHA Board unanimously decided that the health benefits outweigh all of the arguments against water fluoridation for the population described in the consultation and remains confident with this decision.”

But as revealed by the Daily Echo, fears have been raised the pipe network means some homes outside the consulted area could find themselves in a fluoridated zone.

Cllr Harrison said: “The ombudsman has agreed that if the water is fluoridated outside of where the consultation took place that would indeed be illegal, but we don’t know for sure if that’s going to happen, so we can’t yet take any action.”

But he believes with time running out for the SHA, he is “reasonably optimistic” the scheme will not be in place before responsibility for fluoridation is handed to councils, all of which have expressed their opposition to the project.

Cllr Harrison added: “It really would be sensible for the SHA to admit defeat.”

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