COUNCILS will be able to turn off fluoride from Hampshire’s water supplies if people don’t want it, new Government guidelines say.

Councillors could scrap the controversial scheme within months once the health authority pushing it is axed, if Department of Health (DoH) proposals are rubber-stamped.

It would mean councillors will be able to vote to axe the project if residents say they are against it, once Strategic Health Authorities are scrapped at the end of this month.

Although the Hampshire fluoridation scheme won’t be in place until next year at the earliest, a new body, Public Health England, could carry on the work to get it up and running.

It is not yet known whether the organisation will actively work to get fluoride put in the water. But even if it does, councillors can vote to say they want the scheme scrapped.

The draft regulations say public opinion is as important a consideration as scientific arguments and ethical concerns when councillors are considering which way to vote.

Councils will be expected to consult people but there is no requirement to hold a public referendum.

The proposals remove the controversial clause that saw South Central SHA ignore negative responses to its plans to put fluoride in the water in parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.

Despite 72 per cent of people who responded to the SHA’s consultation saying they didn’t want fluoridation, health bosses unanimously approved the scheme in 2009 because they said they were convinced it would bring health benefits. Government rules at the time said decision-makers had to assess the strength and scientific basis of arguments put forward.

But four years on, that restriction has been removed.

New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis, who has campaigned against fluoridation in Hampshire, believes the new rules are an improvement, but don’t go far enough.

He said: “It’s a superficial step in the right direction, but it falls short of any guarantee that public opinion would not be overridden.”

However fears have been raised that Hampshire residents could be forced to drink fluoridated water for 20 years under the new guidelines.

If any attempt to stop fluoridation fails, council must wait two decades before trying again.