UK

More protection needed for councillors ahead of local elections, says LGA

Tory councillor James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), said that an “increasing number” of candidates are being subjected to “abuse, threats and intimidation”, both in person and online.

He warned that this abuse “poses a threat” to democracy, and called for evidence of it to be presented to the LGA.

It comes ahead of Thursday’s local elections, when millions of Britons will head to the polls across Scotland, Wales, and parts of England.

“Becoming and serving as a councillor is a responsibility, a privilege and a hugely rewarding undertaking”, Mr Jamieson said.

“However, we are aware that an increasing number of councillors and candidates are being subjected to abuse, threats and intimidation both online and in-person, undermining the principles of free speech, democratic engagement and debate.”

Mr Jamieson added that he supported the proposed ban on running for election for anyone who has intimidated candidates, councillors and campaigners.

“Abuse of public servants is never acceptable and poses a threat to democracy,” he said.

“We support the inclusion of a provision to ban anyone who has intimidated candidates, councillors and campaigners from standing for election or holding public office in the Elections Bill which is currently going through parliament. However, more may be needed to protect councillors and local democracy.

“As well as highlighting our councillor Guide to Handling Intimidation, we continue to call for evidence of abuse and intimidation of councillors across the country to further understand the experience of councillors and to ensure robust measures can be taken to tackle this growing issue.”

On Friday, it was announced that individual MPs are to be given “bespoke” security advice on any threats they may face following a review carried out in the wake of the murder of Sir David Amess.

The Southend MP was stabbed by Islamic State fanatic Ali Harbi Ali at a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, last October in twisted revenge for a vote on Syrian air strikes.

While Labour MP Jo Cox was stabbed and shot by far-right extremist Thomas Mair in Birstall, West Yorkshire, just days before the Brexit referendum in June 2016.

Details of the support that will be given to MPs remain confidential for security reasons.

However it is understood that a new multi-agency team will look at the threat faced by individual MPs and recommend what measures they should take to protect themselves and their staff.

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