17 Jul 2009

Daily Echo - Let voters decide on Fluoride

Hampshire: One council demands a public poll on tapwater treatment while county stops short, pending a court hearing
Let voters decide on Fluoride
GIVE the people the choice.
That is the message to health chiefs from a Hampshire council backing the Daily Echo's calls demanding a referendum on controversial plans to fluoridate water supplies in the county. Eastleigh Borough Council last night voted overwhelmingly to urge South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) to hold a public poll - and be bound by its results. The move came just hours after Hampshire County Council reaffirmed its opposition to fluori-dation, but stopped short of calling for a referendum, for now. County council leader Ken Thornber said he wants to delay voting on the motion to avoid prejudicing the possible judicial review of the decision.
Eastleigh's councillors last night backed the calls from campaigners angry at the way they believe public will has been ignored over the plans to add fluoride to the tap water delivered to almost 200,000 Hampshire homes. During last year's consultation, the SHA received more than 10,000 responses, with 72 per cent of those from people in the affected area - covering parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams - saying they don' t want fluoridation. A separate phone survey of 2,000 residents found 38 per cent opposed fluoridation, compared with 32 per cent in favour. But in February, the SHA's board voted unanimously to give fluoridation the green light, saying they had been convinced by scientific evidence showing it will improve dental health.
Cllr Wayne Irish, who proposed the Eastleigh council motion, told the Daily Echo it is essential for democracy that the people are now given a binding vote on the subject. "This unelected quango, who don't even live in the area, have not listened to people at all through the consultation and that's why it is vital that we have a referendum," he said. "It is not right to give enforced medication, people should have the right to choose." The SHA has consistently insisted it met or exceeded all its requirements under the legislation governing how fluoridation can be introduced.
But many remain unhappy with the decision. A Southampton woman has lodged an application for a judicial review of the SHA's considered by the courts.
Last month, Hampshire Against Fluoridation delivered a 15,300-name to Downing Street, urging Prime Minister Gordon Brown to step in to force the SHA to put its plans on hold. And Southampton's Labour MPs Alan Whitehead and cabinet member John Denham - both supporters of fluoridation - said the scheme should be delayed in the face of public opposition.
New Forest East MP Julian Lewis, Romsey and Southampton representative Sandra Gidley and Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne have all gone further and said the pub-lie must be given a vote on the issue.
The county council motion backing those calls was proposed by Totton councillor David Harrison, who with Dr Lewis has already submitted a complaint to the health services ombudsman about the "biased" nature of the consultation.
"Local people should decide the issue, which as it stands they clearly cannot," he told yesterday's full council meeting. "If the SHA are successful then it will not stop there. Every one of you councillors will be seeing an uprising of residents saying they don't want fluoridation." He said given the results of the public consultation, councillors should challenge SHA's decision with "all the democratic means available".
During the consultation, Hampshire, East1eigh ,Test Valley Borough and New Forest District councils all opposed fluoridation. Cllr Thornber said: "We do need to engage with the Strategic Health Authority on the possibilities for a future referendum or public ballot, but any decision in support of such action should be deferred until we have had a chance to first look carefully at several issues." He said the legal position of a potential referendum needs to be examined before the council votes on it, how much it would cost, who would pay, and how it would be conducted.

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