The council has issued a response and confirmed a by-election will take place, following the sudden resignation of long-serving Highwoods councillors Gerard and Beverley Oxford.
In a joint statement issued last night (20 October), the pair expressed disappointment over efforts to repair the Town Hall lift, which they said had prevented Cllr Gerard Oxford attending council meetings in person.
Responding to their concerns, the Leader of the Council, Cllr David King, expressed his sadness that both councillors had decided to step down now, rather than as planned next May, but stoutly defended the council’s efforts to fix the lift and provide alternative arrangements that did not prevent Cllr Gerard Oxford from participating in council meetings.
Whilst the Town Hall is fully accessible, a residual fault is affecting one part of the building, which may delay the lift once called. Once inside the lift, however, all floors are accessible, including those hosting events and meetings, and is being used by people every day without issue.
Despite assurances that the lift is working and has been certified as safe, Cllr Gerard Oxford remained anxious that it might break down with him inside.
Cllr King added: “Out of respect for how he felt, and to demonstrably meet the council’s equality obligations, all official meetings of which Cllr Oxford was a member were moved to the Old Library on the ground floor. Cllr Oxford was also able to attend all other meetings virtually.
“We are disappointed that these efforts were felt not to be enough, despite discussion in Full Council with Cllr Oxford present. We can confirm that we had already commissioned an independent assessment of the Town Hall, and its compliance with the Equalities Act has also been commissioned. We will take any learning we can from that review but know we have worked hard to meet our equalities commitments and reduce any inconvenience for members, visitors and staff. And we hope to fully repair the lift soon.
“Cllrs Gerard and Bev Oxford have served their residents and the wider council well, over many years. They leave a big gap and an example to those that will follow them. Like other councillors cross party, I thank them wholeheartedly for all their efforts over many years and wish them well for the future.”
Following both resignations, which Chief Executive Pam Donnelly has formally accepted, a by-election will be held in Highwoods in due course.
Page last reviewed: 21 October 2022