Council chamber sound hitch

SOUND issues at a landmark �20million local government centre have left some councillors overseeing meetings they cannot hear, it emerged last night.

Five members of St Edmundsbury Borough Council are understood to be hard of hearing and use the audio-loop system in the council chamber at West Suffolk House in Bury St Edmunds.

However, ever since the building, which brought Suffolk County Council and the borough council under one roof, opened last year, the audio loop system in part of the chamber has proved problematic.

Despite repeated attempts to fix the audio-loop system, problems have remained. The council now claims it has solved the issue and is hoping tonight’s full council meeting, which will be held in the chamber, will run problem-free for the hard of hearing.

Conservative Moreton Hall councillor Terry Buckle had lodged a motion to this evening’s meeting demanding to know “when the continuing problems encountered with the hearing loop in the Conference Chamber will be finally rectified”.

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In his motion, Mr Buckle said the audio-loop system was esssential so that “those with hearing difficulties can take a full part in debates”.

He told how on one occasion, when he was chairing a licensing meeting, the audio-loop system failed, leaving him unable to hear what was going on.

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“It was terrible,” he said. “I’ve learned to live with it.” He said he was looking forward to tonight’s meeting to check whether the problem had been fixed.

David Lockwood, leader of the Labour group on the council, said the audio-loop system had “been a problem”. He said he too had experienced issues while serving as the chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee.

Mr Lockwood said: “It is not just us that it affects, it is the public as well.”

He said councillors had been affected in different ways depending on what type of hearing aids they had.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “There have been problems with the hearing loop technology which we have been working to resolve.

“The meeting of the full council tonight will be a good test to see if we have managed to sort them all out.”

In addition to Mr Buckle’s motion tonight, Independent councillor David Nettleton will be seeking to get all council meetings, including panels and working parties, opened up to the public.

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