William Eichler 30 June 2022

Seven in 10 councillors face abuse, survey reveals

Seven in 10 councillors face abuse, survey reveals  image
Image: asiandelight/Shutterstock.com.

Local authority leaders are calling for a change in legislation to allow councillors to withhold their personal addresses as evidence of abuse and intimidation grows.

A new survey published by the Local Government Association (LGA) found that seven in 10 councillors reported experiencing abuse and intimidation within the last 12 months.

Published in the LGA’s report Debate Not Hate: the impact of abuse on local democracy, the poll also found that one in 10 councillors were experiencing abuse frequently.

Social media was the most common place for abuse to take place, but two thirds had experienced abuse in person, with many citing examples of threatening and discriminatory language and physical abuse such as spitting.

The LGA called on the Government to work with local authorities and partners to urgently address toxic discourse and abuse against councillors.

The association, in particular, urged the Government to prioritise a change in legislation to put it beyond doubt that councillors can proactively withhold their home address from the public register. This would reflect changes in 2018 to allow candidates running in local elections to choose whether to publish their home addresses on ballot papers.

‘Councillors are as much a part of the community as those they represent, and they should not expect to be subjected to any form of abuse because of their position,’ said LGA chairman Cllr James Jamieson.

‘Debating and disagreeing with one another is an essential part of democracy, however abuse has no place in politics and stops residents from engaging in local government and councillors from reaching their full potential in the role.???

‘Council officers, including some frontline staff, are also reporting higher levels of abuse which is completely unacceptable.

‘We need to see concrete action to protect current councillors and ensure potential future councillors feel safe to stand for election. Anyone, regardless of their background or political affiliation, should feel safe and proud to represent their community.’

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