THE EQUALITIES and Human Rights Commission could be called in to investigate the city council.

The call comes after an Argus report on “serious allegations” from Brighton Access for Disabled Groups Everywhere (Badge), who alleged the council have contravened the Equalities Act 2010 and made inaccurate statements in government bids for public funds.

The request to bring in the organisation – as well as the Local Government Association – to investigate has been brought by one of the city council’s own councillors, Conservative Lee Wares.

Rob Arbery, co-founder of Badge, said: “Our members are appalled that 161 days since disabled people first raised concerns very little has changed.

'We unequivocally back Cllr Wares' motion calling for a forensic and independent examination to find out the truth, who is responsible and prevent it from happening again.”

The controversial lanes in the Old Shoreham Road and A259 seafront Road were funded using £663,000 in government Covid-19 transport response cash.

The Argus:

In June, in a bid to get that central funding, the council told government it had consulted on the plans with bus operators, hauliers and local groups representing disabled people “as appropriate”.

However, this paper revealed that disabled groups were not consulted until July 14 – when they were sent an email from council officers.

The council also told government that “specific details” of the scheme were sent to “key groups” in the city.

The council later confirmed these “key groups” were limited to Brighton and Hove Bus Company, Friends of the Earth and Community Works.

When asked, it did not respond to questions seeking clarification as to which members of Community Works this included, nor did it respond for a request to interview the person who put the bid together.

The Argus:

In the bid, the council also said it had read the statutory guidance which stated the Public Sector Equality Duty still applies for Covid-19 response projects.

Badge has accused the council of breaking this duty, a breach of the Equalities Act 2010.

They point to the requirement to “have due regard” to the need to “remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by persons who share a protected characteristic”.

The concerns were echoed by Geraldine Desmoulins, chief executive of Possibility People – the largest organisation representing disabled people in the city.

The Notice of Motion – calling for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to be brought in to investigate – is being presented to an environment, transport and sustainability committee tomorrow.

When asked to respond to the allegations at the time, Green councillor Pete West, who previously co-chaired the ETS committee, said: “The Conservative government requested that councils across the country make changes to walking and cycling on a swift timescale so consultation during the design stage could never be as extensive as we would like. However it is our priority going forward to listen to the concerns raised and make changes where we can.

The Argus: The Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Councillor Pete West

“Much of the schemes we are now implementing were planned under the previous Labour administration. In the short time since the Greens became the minority leadership of the council, I have already met with disability groups to understand more about their concerns.”

The Notice of Motion is being presented to an Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee on Tuesday.

It reads: “In light of recent allegations in various media and press releases by the campaign group Badge and Possibility People, and to ensure that the council has not fallen into disrepute, this Committee requests that the Chief Executive:

“Asks the Equality and Human Rights Commission to instigate an investigation into the council such that the allegations can be fully assessed and independently reported on; and

“Asks the Local Government Association to review and report on the allegations regarding claims made in bids to Central Government for monies from the Emergency Active Travel Fund.”

Conservative spokesman for transport, Lee Wares, who proposed the motion, said: “We felt this necessary as these are serious allegations being levied towards the council.

“It seems therefore appropriate to allow the council to address these allegations and that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission should be invited in to investigate the council’s actions.”

Disability rights group to blast council’s actions

A DISABLED rights group formed in response to road layout changes across the city are set to make a presentation at a key meeting.

Badge (Brighton Access for Disabled Groups Everywhere) will speak at tomorrow’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability committee to blast Brighton and Hove City Council’s lack of action in addressing “discriminatory” road changes.

The group says many disabled bays have been removed and, in some cases, replaced by “lethal” alternatives for the city’s 13,500 blue badge holders.

Badge co-founder Pippa Hodge said: “Summer was curfewed for many disabled residents, due to the many city and seafront disabled parking and access issues, directly resulting from the Council’s Implementation of Covid Emergency Action Transport schemes. 

“We are disappointed that there is still no ‘due regard’ to providing a temporary solution for Blue Badge holders to park while councillors continue their Madeira Drive wrangle. 

“Consultation before or at the time of changes would have avoided this and all the other outstanding issues. We continue to raise these Equalities issues.”