Deaf Councillor David Buxton asks council for more support

The Epsom Guardian reports:

A deaf councillor is being forced to spend a lot of his own money on sign language interpreters in order to fulfil his duties to his constituents.

Lib Dem Councillor David Buxton, who is believed to be the only deaf councillor in the UK using interpreters, says that he pays up to £300 a month for their services, despite only getting £160 a month in expenses from the council.

Epsom and Ewell council’s website recommends that councillors meet with “key local stakeholders” and “deal with all residents enquiries.”

It pays for interpreters for all council meetings, working groups, civic occasions and formal ward surgeries – but is refusing to pick up the bill for other events Coun Buxton attends such as non-official residents meetings.

However the council says that it has contacted the Disability Rights Commission and is fulfilling its obligations under equalities legislation.

Coun Buxton, who represents Court Ward, and is the chief executive of the British Deaf Association which raises awareness of deaf issues , said: “It is very difficult to manage as a councillor with a disability.

“I want to represent my community and campaign, but it is costing me a lot of money to do so.

“The council should do more to help, especially at local resident’s group meetings. The council feels these groups should pay for signers, but they don’t have any funding at all and are voluntary.

“All I want to do is have a full communication with my residents as their local councillor and at the moment I don’t feel this is the case.”

Lib Dem leader Julie Morris said that the money available to Coun Buxton is simply not enough to perform his role as an active councillor as set out on the council’s “how to be a councillor” section of the website.

She said: “The reality is that if he wants to be a good and active councillor he is going to have to fund it himself.

“It is difficult because he is having to pay a lot of money to do his role – far more than any other councillor.”

Back in September, Councillor Buxton spoke in the diversity debate at Liberal Democrat Conference, highlighting the difficulties he faces as a Deaf politician. His speech, which was translated from British Sign Language to English, was featured on BBC’s See Hear, a magazine show for the Deaf community.


Video also available on the BBC website.

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3 Comments

  • patricia roche 26th Apr '11 - 3:06pm

    This situation must not continue. Democracy is best served by diversity.

  • This is a disgrace and the council concerned should be ashamed.

    As for them saying

    “the council says that it has contacted the Disability Rights Commission and is fulfilling its obligations under equalities legislation.” –

    the Disability Rights Commission no longer exists so how can they have consulted with it? The body which was formerly the DRC is now one of the three former Commissions which now make up the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

    This Councillor has a right to whatever enables him to do his job effectively, and a signing (BSL) interpreter is essential in ALL the activities in which he takes part.

    Perhaps the council concerned would care to think about not spending vast amounts of money on “councillors jollies” and trips abroad and pay for the essentials instead.

    There are expenses and NECESSARY expenses – I would suggest that the provision of a full time BSL interpreter is a necessary expense – the “jollies” are not!

    The councillor concerned should perhaps take his case to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission himself indicating that his council is not providing him with full and necessary facilities with which to fulfil his job as a councillor in a satisfactory manner. I think that the EHRC would be telling a different story then!

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