This section puts forward some suggested ways that council officers can support their members. The LGA will be expanding this guidance.
- It is helpful for councils to have an officer to support councillors experiencing public intimidation, and to provide a liaison point with the police
- Political groups on the council could consider nominating someone to provide a support role on these issues
- Councils can develop their policies, procedures and regular briefings to assist councillors experiencing intimidation. A Model Local Resolution Protocol developed by One Voice Wales is available
- It is advisable to encourage councillors to use the model rules of engagement developed by the LGA on their personal websites and social media. Read all LGA guidance on digital citizenship.
- 1. How councils can support their councillors
Councils can support their councillors by:
- Appointing an officer to undertake a role as a sounding board for any councillor or officer who wishes to make contact in confidence if he or she has received intimidatory contact or communication from an external or internal source. This officer can provide support and advice rather than a solution to such abuse, and could also provide practical advice on personal safety. Any serious allegation of criminal activity may have to be taken further.
- All councils are now required to have a local councillor code of conduct to help councillors model and balance their behaviour, understand the expectations of their role, and to indicate the type of conduct that could lead to action being taken against them. The Local Government Association (LGA) has developed this Model Councillor Code of Conduct, in association with key partners and after extensive consultation with the sector, as part of its work on supporting all tiers of local government to continue to aspire to high standards of leadership and performance.
- In Wales, Local Resolution Protocols have proven a useful tool to deal with low level complains and solve internal disputes. English councils are advised to develop their own resolution protocols.
- Encouraging each political group within the council to likewise appoint either the leader of the group and/or one of their number to perform a similar role for their elected members.
- Establishing a council policy setting out procedures and protocols, should a councillor feel they are being publicly harassed, intimidated or abused. Regular briefings for all councillors, including those who have been newly elected, to share experiences and concerns can both help identify persistent offenders and look at council-led solutions.
- Working with the local police, establishing a named officer responsible for handling the serious threats to councillors and to advise on personal safety and security.
- Ensuring that council insurance arrangements cover injuries or loss suffered by elected members arising from their role as councillors in respect of any intimidation.
- Considering what steps should be taken by the council to mitigate the risk to councillors in the event of severe intimidation and threats. In some of the cases that have been researched in the production of this guidance, councillors who have been subjected to death threats have been supplied with personal alarms by the police and, occasionally, by their council. All councils could consider what steps they can take to address any risks or threats.
- Controlled online meetings have helped to minimise abuse from the public. Some strategies include asking participants to pre-register, to monitor or disable the chat function and read opening statements indicating that abuse of any kind will not be tolerated.
- 2. Working with the police
The research undertaken in the development of this guide found that the police response to councillor intimidation varied across the country.
We are aware that some police forces are reviewing their responses to such threats, and that the issue is being looked at by Government. The LGA highlighted this issue in its response to the consultation on ‘protecting the debate: consultation on intimidation, influence and information'.
It is recommended that councils are proactive with their local police force and police crime commissioner in establishing protocols for how councillors should report intimidation and threats that are made to them in their role as a councillor. The police can also provide upfront and more detailed advice on how to respond and the factors that will determine their response to any threats, abuse or intimidation.
- 3. Wellbeing of councillors
Experiencing abuse, threats and/or intimidation can have an impact on wellbeing. Your council may have a Mental Health Champion who can offer support to fellow councillors, or you may have an at work support scheme that councillors could also benefit from. If a councillor reports any incidents, it is recommended that they are asked if they also require support with their wellbeing.