Conservatives have criticised Brighton and Hove City Council for excluding disabled people from a key meeting. Westbourne Ward Councillor, Graham Cox, said that it did not send out a good message.
The council is planning to hold two meetings of the full council in the top-floor chamber at Brighton Town Hall this afternoon (Thursday 12 December). One of the meetings is to confer the freedom of the city on Brighton and Hove Albion president Dick Knight.
But Patcham Ward Councillor, Brian Pidgeon – aged 78 – who walks with the aid of a stick, has confirmed that he will not be able to make the 3 floor ascent to the council chamber.
Councillor Pidgeon said: “If it was at Hove Town Hall I’d have no trouble as you can just walk straight in.”
Councillor Pidgeon is one of three people who regularly attend council meetings who have trouble with their mobility.
Along with his 53 fellow councillors he received an email this morning which said: “Please accept my apologies as the lift at Brighton Town Hall has broken down and despite the best efforts it will not be operational for the afternoon’s meetings.
“By way of back up there will be arrangements in place for any members of public unable to walk up to the council chamber to view the meeting from Committee Room 1 via the live webcast.”
Councillor Cox said: “The council meeting will effectively be inaccessible to anyone who is disabled – one of our councillors can’t get up the stairs. Their justification is that you can watch the meeting in a ground floor room. It’s not acceptable bearing in mind we have another town hall at Hove which is accessible to disabled people. I’m not a lawyer but it seems to me to be a breach of the spirit if not the letter of the Disability Discrimination Act. Whether it’s legal, it’s undemocratic and it’s certainly discrimination against disabled people whether they be councillors, members of the public who want to come along and watch democracy in action or indeed people who work for the council but now can’t get into the council chamber. I’m a bit surprised that preparation wasn’t made for this as I understand the lift’s been playing up for some time. I’m surprised a council run by a so-called progressive party is holding a meeting in a chamber which disabled people can’t access. It’s not a very good message to send out.”