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News and Comment March 2012

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30 March (Part 1) - Bexley council. Not listening; not wanting to be listened to

I retold the story of councillor Alan Downing’s verbal attack on a partially deaf man as best I could having heard it from a distance on the way out of the Civic Centre. Since then I have been sent a note by the man concerned. He says the exchanges went like this…

Hearing loop signDuring the meeting I raised my arm and said to councillor Downing “Excuse me Mr. Chairman, I cannot hear what councillor Craske is saying, could you ask him to turn his microphone on and speak into it please.” Councillor Downing looked at me, ignored my request and allowed councillor Craske to continue speaking without using his microphone.

I then stood up so that councillor Downing could see me and said “Excuse me Mr. Chairman, I don’t want to interrupt the meeting but I cannot hear what councillor Craske is saying, would you please ask him to turn his microphone on”. Councillor Craske shouted at me “Don’t talk over me”.

Councillor Downing then said “If councillor Craske doesn’t want to put his microphone on, it’s up to him. I can hear what he is saying. If you can’t, you must have personal problems. Now sit down and be quiet”.

I then sat down whilst councillor Craske finished addressing the meeting without turning his microphone on.

When councillor Craske later responded to a question from another committee member he turned his microphone on and I was able to hear what he was saying.

After councillor Downing had closed the meeting but before any committee members had left their seats, I stood up and said to councillor Downing “Mr. Chairman, as someone who has been diagnosed with hearing loss and having asked you on two occasions to ask councillor Craske to turn his microphone on because I couldn’t hear what he was saying, I am deeply offended by your public comment that I must have personal problems. I think you owe me a public apology”.

Councillor Downing said “Didn’t you hear what I said, the meeting is over.” He then turned his back on me.

I went over to him and said “I consider both your comments and your conduct to be deeply offensive and I will be making a formal complaint against you for being disrespectful and for discriminating against someone with a physical disability”.

Councillor Downing then said, in a loud voice so that everybody could hear him, “Good, I will look forward to that. Did you hear what I said; I will look forward to that?” He then pointed a pen within inches of my face and said “Don’t you threaten me.”

A number of Conservative councillors then started laughing and jeering.

A formal complaint has been made to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and to Bexley council.


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