With the next council meeting being next week the agenda and draft minutes were published this week. Upon reading them they read.
N. Seach – Objected KHM Concerns over Disabled Access. Should spend money on improving Ketts Park Facilities.
Now this is a massive underselling of what I actually said, where I quoted that the Council were failing in their Public Sector Equality Duty at Ketts Park (I shared 11 photos of the flooded park with no access to Ketts Park) and if they move the park from KHM to Browick rec it would be Disability Discrimination under the Equality Act (2010) as there is no disabled access at the Rec. Furthermore the minutes made no mention of the fact I handed in a formal complaint under the Equality Act (2010) to the town Mayor immediately after the proposal to move the park was passed.
Now I am perhaps a little naive here and although being fully aware of a party whip in parliament and times where people are instructed to vote one way on a particular motion but to see this at local level by people who knocked on our doors and promised to do what was right for the town was a real shocker. Even worse when it is the Town Clerk involved who supposedly should be impartial and who’s job it is to be accurately recording the meetings.
To undersell and omit such information was not something I expected nor was I going to tolerate. Yet more emails fired off to the council. This time I emailed all the Councillors and the Town Clerk.
I fired off the following email late last night;
On 24/02/2016 23:18, Neil Seach wrote:
I wish to make it stated that I take exception to the recording of my comments at the last meeting. Where it states I objected with concerns over Disabled Access and money should be spent on improving Ketts Park.
I clearly stated “the council had thus far failed under its Public Sector Equality Duty to install a path at Ketts Park a Park that was now flooded” – for which I provided several photographs as evidence. Furthermore I added “under the Equality Act dismantling the one accessible play area with green space was Disability Discrimination” and I want the minutes to reflect this.
Furthermore there is no mention of me wheeling over to the Mayor immediately following the KHM proposal being passed and handing in an official complaint under the Equality Act 2010 on the grounds of Discrimination over a protected characteristic – my Disability, this happened in a public meeting, I told the members of the public what I was handing over and surely therefore needs to be recorded too.
It took long enough for a reply to come, my cynicism is growing that many emails were being fired off behind the scenes, early afternoon this reply was sent
Sent: Thu, 25 Feb 2016 12:49
Subject: Re: Draft Minutes from meeting 2 February 2016
Good afternoon Mr Seach
Thank you for your email.
To answer your first question your comments have been noted and it is for the Councillors to decide at the next meeting of the Council if they are happy to accept the minutes or not.
To answer your second point the Council meeting on the 2nd February had been suspended for by the Chairman for a comfort break when you handed him some papers. The Council were not is session and therefore anything that takes place is not recorded, as is the case before the meeting starts and after it is formally closed.
Wymondham Town Council
This reply did nothing to fuel my disgust in fact it angered me more as the second part about when I handed in my complaint was a complete load of crap, I could not hand in my complaint until a decision on the Proposal had been reached by the Town Council because until the proposal was passed moving the park half of my complaint had not happened. I was fully prepared for the motion to be passed because one of the majority party Councillors was one of the three or four complainants and I now realise the vote was a done deal because the two non majority Councillors were the only ones unaware that a vote to spend £60,000 was going to happen that night. My reply certainly was more voracious, I really feel as though the council think my wheelchair somehow diminishes my brain. It is true I get a foggy head from my meds, it is true I can get angry, fall asleep or forget things however it is also true that I make damn sure important things are logged correctly. My response was as follows;
Good afternoon Trevor,
I will leave it with the other Councillors to clarify whether the minutes are a true reflection of what I said at the meeting.
With regards to the comfort break, that took place before the Councillors discussed the KHM issue and was when Jack Hornby left the meeting. The remainder of you returned after this break except Councillor Flatt as he had a declared interest. Councillor Halls asked for the vote to be recorded as a public record. The Council then voted on the proposal set out by Councillor Hornby. It was once the Councillors had voted in favour to pass the proposal that I brought the complaint letter up, because until you passed the motion part of my complaint over Disability Discrimination moving equipment to somewhere I could not access would not have been a valid complaint. This was not part of any break but during the meeting itself and I will call several witnesses who can confirm this, including Councillor Osborne who stopped me on the way to say he was concerned with Disability Issues and Councillor Halls who came after me as I left the meeting in disgust to say he would bring the issue of Disability Access up at your items for next meeting a later agenda point, he could not stop to talk to me further as the meeting was still in progress.
Councillors Halls and Osborne, you are copied into this reply by Mr Gurney, as are all the Councillors please can you think back to the meeting and email us all back and confirm if you recall the meeting was in fact in progress and it was after the comfort break that I handed over my complaint.
Having got this so drastically wrong, I would suggest that my concerns over you recording my comments are equally incorrect.
I did not move during the comfort break, I was in too much pain with my disability having sat there for so long already.
I am still waiting to hear back from the Town Clerk and all but one Councillor. So far the one Councillor to respond has said this
Dear Mr Gurney I think Mr Seach may be right on this and apologise for not remembering correctly. It was a fraught meeting and this took place very near the end well after Hornby Junior had left the building
I wait with baited breath to hear back from the other Councillors, I just cannot believe how it is left to ordinary members of the public to bring to the attention such glaring inaccuracies, is this not what people are paid for?
I know I shouldn’t be surprised as my treatment thus far has been by most of the Councillors contempt over their legal duty to abide by the Equality Act (2010). Even an email by Councillor Halls this week to his fellow Councillors asking them to re discuss the issue at another meeting a motion which requires 3 signatures and only him and one other Councillor are from a different political party has fallen on deaf ears. Despite pointing out that much of the information supplied including the distance of equipment from the fences, and the anti social behaviour was not true and that suitable alternatives and a working group would be a far better way of proceeding. He pointed out the legal case for moving the Play equipment is simply not proven as the second evasive and imprecise letter from South Norfolk that he received confirms. To approve or confirm the proposal to relocate this equipment at a cost to the precept of £60,000 without a clear and thorough exploration of alternatives, hopefully cheaper, could result in formal censure from the National Audit Office to say nothing of the electorate whose opposition to this proposal is very clear. finally and most importantly he asked Also:- Have we as a council fully addressed the lack of provision for and consideration of persons of protected characteristics at the sites we propose to re locate the equipment to? This is a legal requirement
These pleas fell on deaf ears and it would apparently seem behind the scenes that one or two Councillors (given that the proposer is a close personal friend with children who went to school together of the Councillor whose property backs onto the KHM) have turned the KHM into a Party issue to the benefit of 3 very verbose complainants who might have a small case to answer and some of which have certainly been economical with the truth. One of the beneficiaries one has to note is a new Conservative Councillor.
I have spent much of the last few nights stressing, crying, and so incredibly tense and upset over the situation that I really do not know what to do. I do not have the strength to take on the Council alone, nor do I have the expertise or ability. I have fortunately spoken to a few Disability Rights campaigners and I have the support of other members of the Town, without whom I would have thrown in the Towel by now. I simply cannot do nothing as my LG gets so upset every time there is a picture of the park in the news and seeing her crying means I must try all that I can to get the council to fulfill its obligations under the Equality Act. The act is designed to make sure people are not discriminated against and not only am unable to see my daughter play and have fun with friends and family, as her primary carer I am not able to take her out to the four parks closest to me as they do not have suitable access.
I wonder how many of the Councillors have their wives help wash and dress them, require others to put their mobility scooters together for them before going and doing a stressful full time job. How many have to plan every minute deal of a trip to the park, the ability to get to the play area with a 3 year old LG, to be able to get around the equipment so that if she falls and hurts herself they can get to her. I wonder how many really understand what it is like to live in constant pain and take powerful painkillers.
Above all this though, I wonder how many of them would put up with the discrimination I have faced and still be doing what I am doing busting a gut to create an “Enabling Access” Group to work with planners, councils and with the support of Equal Lives. How many would take such a negative low point and turn it into a lasting legacy for the town. I am because I love my family, I love the town and I am passionate about the underdog.