Government fluoridation plans stall Southampton decision

Southampton city council will await the outcome of a government consultation before deciding if they will consult residents on whether the fluoridation scheme should go ahead or be stopped.

Last year, the council voted against plans to add fluoride to tap water in Southampton, but had no power to stop it. The debate came after a 6,000-strong petition against the scheme.

At the time, councillors agreed to use any future powers the authority may be given to prevent the implementation of a proposed fluoridation scheme by health chiefs.

It is just seven months until responsibility for fluoridation moves to councils with the abolition of the Strategic Health Authorities. Councils wanting to stop or start schemes would have to consult widely, details of
which will be set out once the consultation closes.

As it currently stands, Southampton council said: 'Since this meeting, the council's position has not changed.'

The council has said it will await the outcome of the consultation, including how much a consultation could cost, before it decides whether the current scheme should be changed or stopped.

The issue is not a party political one and Labour and the Conservatives councillors will be given a free vote on the issue, when it is next discussed. The Liberal Democrats will oppose fluoridation.

Liberal democrat group leader councillor Adrian Vinson said: 'The motion which led to a change in Southampton City Council's position on fluoridation, from support to opposition, was moved by the Liberal
Democrat Group. Though the other parties were divided on the issue the clear majority was opposed to fluoridation and in favour of the Council using any powers it may have or be given to secure the abandonment of the Hampshire scheme.

'As this resolution has not been amended or reversed, this remains the Council's current position, and is certainly that of the Liberal Democrat Group.'

Councillor Royston Smith, Conservative group leader said opinion was split and councillors would be given a free vote.

He added: 'I have been against from the start because I don't believe in mass medication without the permission of those who are to be medicated. Some in my group are against because they believe fluoride may be
poisonous. Some in my group are medical professionals who believe it will help cut down unnecessary cavities. And some in my group are responding to their constituents in one way or another.'

Deputy leader of the council, Labour's councillor Jacqui Rayment confirmed Labour members would be allowed a free vote.

Southern Water which will carry out the fluoridation has said a feasibility study is ongoing. The scheme has already seen off a legal challenge and will proceed as planned.

By Anika Bourley, Parliamentary Correspondent

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