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Council Leaders seek clarity over water fluoridation

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Further talks were underway between the Leaders of Hampshire County Council and Southampton City Council this week to establish what decision-making powers the local authorities have over water fluoridation proposals.

The County Council has sought legal advice as to whether South Central Strategic Health Authority and Southern Water had 'relevant arrangements' in place to secure implementation of the scheme, on the 1 April 2013, which is when responsibility for decision-making transferred to local authorities.

The County Council has been seeking clarification over the status of this scheme - to add fluoride to drinking water in Southampton and parts of south west Hampshire.

A Notice of Motion submitted to today's Full Council meeting of Hampshire County Council asked the Council to reaffirm its position that the addition of fluoride to water supplies should not be adopted until such time that clear evidence of benefit and or harm from mass medication was established.

Council Leader Roy Perry responded that the legal advice received was for the Council not to take a pre-determined position in relation to the matter. "We have a legal argument which suggests that the appropriate contractual arrangements were not in place by the 1 April and have yet to receive evidence to the contrary. We will be writing to Public Health England to seek their comments in light of this advice, making the Secretary of State aware."

In November 2008, the then members of Hampshire County Council made a unanimous decision that the Council, after weighing up the evidence, did not support the proposals to add fluoride to drinking water supplies in Southampton and south west Hampshire. Councillors concluded that more research and reassurances were required before Southampton City Primary Care Trust took any further steps with its proposals.

A panel was set up by the Council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee to investigate the benefits and risks associated with artificial fluoridation. The panel was asked to provide the Council with a view on whether water fluoridation should be supported as a public health intervention after hearing evidence from witnesses over two evidence gathering days. The panel found a lack of robust and reliable scientific evidence to support the proposals. It also reported that scientists and health professionals have recognised that there are still 'unknowns' in relation to the effect of fluoride, not just on teeth, but the body as a whole. It was their view that there were other more targeted measures that the Primary Care Trust could and should explore to improve the oral health of those communities it specifically wanted to help and that there needed to be more research and consultation carried out before such a significant step as adding fluoride to drinking water was taken.

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