17 Jul 2009

Lymington Times

Call to county council to back flouride referendum
ANTI-FLUORIDE campaigners are trying; to force a referendum on whether the chemical should be added to Totton's drinking water in an NHS plan affecting 190,000 people.
Opponents have not given up since Southampton Primary Care Trust's scheme was approved in February by South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA), despite a Mori poll showing 38% opposed against 32% in support.
Totton councillor David Harrison was due to put a motion to Hampshire County Council on Thursday calling on members to back a referendum. They cannot order one but their support for the idea would add pressure on health chiefs to consider it.
Opponents to fluoride fear it has harmful side effects, but the SHA argues it is key to reducing above average child tooth decay in Southampton. Totton is included because of the layout of the pipes.
Coun. Harrison said: "When the prime minister visited Southampton he clearly said that this is an issue for local people to decide. I agree with him. There is no better way of settling the matter once and for all than by holding a referendum.
"If Hampshire County Council supports my motion, it will be impossible for the government and the strategic health authority to ignore." In Totton 8,000 people will be affected by the scheme if it goes ahead next year.
Liberal Democrat Coun. Harrison has also joined with the Conservative New Forest East MP, Julian Lewis, in submitting a joint complaint to the health ombudsman, alleging the consultation was biased.
Dr Lewis said: "I strongly welcome this initiative and urge the county council to back it. The SHA is riding roughshod over people's wishes.
"Even the Labour MPs for Southampton, who support fluoridation in
principle, have called for it not to go ahead in the absence of public support. A referendum can and should be organised to resolve the matter once and for all."
The original three-month consultation cost £166,440, according to the SHA. The costs could be even higher if a referendum is held or the consultation is re-run should Dr Lewis and Coun. Harrison's complaint of bias be upheld.
The call for a referendum opens up yet another front in the anti fluoride battle which already features a bid by a Southampton woman for a judicial review. Hampshire County Councillor voted last year voted to object to fluoridation.
Prime minister Gordon Brown's reported comments that fluoridation should be "up to local people" was claimed by junior health minister Ann Keen to be a reference to the SHA's legal duties to consult and ascertain opinion before deciding.

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