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Council clerk loses disability discrimination claim after filing several official complaints about his own authority

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

In the case of Mr G Roberts v Penrhyndeudraeth Town Council Mr Roberts, who has been on sick leave since June 2022, was said to suffer from anxiety and depression, Tourette’s Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and “phobic states with intrusive thoughts”, and the council acknowledged his disability.

But the tribunal heard how relationships between him and members, whom he accused of not knowing their roles, grew increasingly difficult in 2021, resulting in some of them resigning, others stating they would not be standing again for election and difficulty in recruiting new councillors.

Mr Roberts lodged grievances against the authority, arguing that he was disadvantaged because of his disability, but to help him his working hours and duties were reduced, and he was given a mobile phone for work purposes. He argued, however, that even those helpful steps had not been approved in the correct manner.

“There is evidence of frustration on the part of councillors but not of personal animosity,” said Employment Judge Vincent Ryan.

Rejecting his claim, the panel said they doubted whether Mr Roberts would ever consider that the council had acted appropriately.

“The tribunal considers that the claimant sees himself as the ultimate arbiter of good practice. He will brook no question or challenge.

“He will not accept the propriety or even the rationale for acting contrary to his advice and his strict adherence to practical standards as he interprets them.

“The tribunal finds that the claimant considers that in all matters relating to council governance he is right and that anyone who does not agree with him is by definition wrong.”

The tribunal found that the council had acted correctly in following advice and making appropriate adjustments, but that Mr Roberts would be satisfied only if the council admitted maladministration even though there had been none.

That, said the Judge, “could have had very far-reaching effects on the administration of local democracy”.

At the hearing Mr Roberts gave notice that he intended to appeal if the judgment went against him and also threatened to take further legal action.

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