Councillors told they cannot take part in debate about disability access – because they are disabled

Officials in York said the pair could not be neutral on blue badge parking

Colin Drury
North of England Correspondent
Saturday 17 July 2021 01:02 BST
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Two councillors were told they could not take part in a debate about city centre disability access – because they are disabled and would have had a personal interest.

Ashley Mason and Katie Lomas were reportedly ordered to leave the York City Council meeting during a discussion about blue badge parking as they themselves are blue badge holders.

Ruling officials said their disabilities meant they would hold prejudicial views.

The pair were forced to exit the room before a U-turn was made during a break following remonstrations from both other councillors and among those following proceedings on social media.

“Having a disability isn’t an ‘interest’,” Mr Mason, who is registered blind, told The Independent on Friday morning. “It’s a way of life. It’s like saying someone cannot hold an opinion about buses because they use buses.

“The fact we were eventually let back in to the meeting is one thing but we should never have been put in that position in the first place.

“No councillor anywhere should ever feel that their disability precludes them from taking part in any kind of discussion. To do so is simple discrimination.”

He pointed out that the monitoring officer’s decision to exclude the pair had, technically speaking, not been reversed.

Rather the lord mayor, who chairs the meetings, had given Mason, a Liberal Democrat, and Lomas, a Labour member, special dispensation to be readmitted.

“That’s important because, what it means is, if we had the same debate again tomorrow the same rules would bar us from being there again,” he said. “So this needs to be reviewed and the rules need to be changed over what constitutes an interest.”

Speaking at the meeting itself, Lomas asked: “Would a woman be advised that she cannot take part in a debate on women’s rights? Would a person of colour be advised that they could not take part in a debate on racism?

She added: “It cannot be that the code of conduct excludes people from debate on the grounds of a protected characteristic.”

The Independent has contacted York City Council for comment.

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