A DEAF West Somerset resident has hit out against the council for not providing a sign language interpreter for him.

Steven Heard, a well-known member of the community in Minehead, likes to keep up to date with local politics by attending council meetings - but to understand what is being said, he needs a sign language expert to translate.

Mr Heard, who is spotted throughout the town regularly clearing dog poo and litter, says it’s his ‘legal right’ to a translator - but the council says otherwise.

He said: “I received an email telling me West Somerset Council wouldn’t be able to provide an interpreter for me to attend the Minehead Area Panel meeting. I need an interpreter to understand what is going on in the meeting.

“Minehead Town Council will provide one for me no problem, but West Somerset Council won’t, and they are bigger than the town council.

“I’m disappointed. They don’t even speak face to face or talk slowly. It’s hard for me to understand and I normally only understand around two out of every 20 people.”

Mr Heard says he regularly attends council meetings, where councils provide an interpreter, which can cost around £500 per meeting.

But the council says it is not legally obligated to provide one for the specific area panel meeting and there is a limited budget to hold the meetings.

Bruce Lang, assistant chief executive and monitoring officer for WSC, says the council is working with Mr Heard to find a reasonable solution to the problem.

He said: “There is no clear statutory requirement to provide translation services at area panel meetings and although we are constrained by a limited budget for such meetings, we are committed to making reasonable adjustments to better enable Mr Heard to participate.

“These measures could include receiving any issues/concerns in advance of the meeting so that we can provide a typed up comprehensive response following the meeting: reorganising the seating layout to better suits particular needs, for example to aid lip reading; and changing the order of the agenda so that items of interest can be discussed at the most convenient time.

“We are currently seeking a mutually agreeable adjustment with Mr Heard and will also welcome and look into any solutions that he may like to put forward.”