Northamptonshire councillor sues chairman for disability discrimination after being asked to cover insurance for iPad

Stephen Pointer
Stephen Pointer

A Northamptonshire councillor has sued his council chairman for discrimination after he “failed to make appropriate adjustments” to his disability.

Stephen Pointer appeared this week at an employment tribunal in Bedford, accusing chairman of Brixworth Parish Council, Michael Lacey, of deliberately “discriminating” and “ostracising” him by asking him to cover insurance costs for an iPad provided by the council to help him read and participate in council meetings, despite being visually impared.

Mr Pointer also claimed that he was “harrassed” during a meeting called by the council to try to resolve the situation outside court because someone shouted out: “Outrageous - shame on you.”

Following the events between June and September of last year, Mr Pointer has not attended council meetings because, he claims, without the iPad - which he refused because of the conditions it was offered with - he cannot participate fully.

It was after deciding to take legal action that the public meeting was called to debate whether the costs of the iPad should be covered by the council.

But Saara Idelbi, prosecuting, said that the meeting was an “opportunistic dig” which “offered Mr Pointer up in a sacrifical manner, demanding him to justify himself” and that “he was effectively having to pay to be a councillor.”

She said that the reason for Mr Pointer not turning up to recent meetings was “not properly communicated to the public by the parish council, giving the impression that he was no longer working as a member”.

Mr Pointer also claimed that Mr Lacey had been “aggressive” to him over the phone, that he had been “mocked” by “hecklers” for being offered the iPad, and even that some councillors had suggested he was “faking his disability.”

However, the case was adjourned to next year as Mr Moore, presiding over the case, said that Mr Pointer has “consistently tried to change his case” and that his claims were “tortured”. He said: “We must consider whether it is, in fact, improper for a councillor to be questioned during a public, democratic meeting.”

He added that he was not surprised by any aggression that Mr Pointer might have met since deciding to take legal action, saying: “In over 45 years in law, I have never seen anyone who was happy about being sued.”

Mr Moore also questioned why the prosecution had taken the case to an employment tribunal when, as fellow councillors, Mr Pointer was not employed by Mr Lacey.