A COUNTY councillor who uses a wheelchair had to discuss a matter with an officer in a car because a council office was not accessible, he told colleagues this week.

The incident was flagged up by Cllr Reg Owens during discussions on Pembrokeshire County Council's ongoing  'transformation' process.

Part of that process has involved 'smarter working' for staff.

Western Telegraph:

Cllr Owens said he believed that moving some staff to Thornton, Milford Haven, potentially breached aspects of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) after a licensing officer had to discuss a matter with him in his car.

Cllr Owens said he was told: "You'll never get into my office."

He raised concerns at corporate overview and scrutiny on Thursday (November 7).

He added that he had written to council leader Cllr David Simpson and chief executive Ian Westley about the issue.

Cllr Owens said the Thornton site was built as a work depot and using empty space just because it was available was "in some cases, trying to put a square peg in a round hole."

As a wheelchair user and a member of the Access Group, Cllr Owens said although County Hall is accessible he was concerned staff were being transferred to spaces that do not comply with the DDA.

"I wouldn't like to think we are taking a backward step and putting staff in a place that is difficult to access for members of the public and also to make it difficult to employ disabled people," he said.

Cllr Neil Prior, the cabinet member responsible for transformation, said the matter would be investigated.

Cllr Owens also said that councillors are told that staff are adjusting well to the changes which have seen more staff based at County Hall with flexible work space and desk provision.

But those he spoke to "say it's awful."

Cllr Prior said that getting rid of buildings allowed staff to be retained and "there will always be people that gripe and complain."

He added that a recent audit of smarter working showed that 66 per cent of staff felt it had a positive impact on their working environment.

He also welcomed Cllr Owens' call for closer scrutiny of the programme.