Council condemns abuse and intimidation directed at councillors
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
A council has condemned the abuse and intimidation reportedly directed at councillors in the run up to this year’s local government elections.
The leaders of all political groups at Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) have condemned the reports of abuse and intimidation, which include verbal abuse, malicious poster campaigns, vandalism and social media trolling.
The Council has warned that such behaviour will be reported to South Wales Police.
Chief Executive of BCBC, Mark Shephard, said: “Unfortunately, a small minority of people appear to believe that they are entitled to abuse and intimidate councillors, that this kind of irresponsible behaviour is somehow tolerated, and that it will never be reported to South Wales Police, but they are wrong on all counts.
“Nobody enters local politics expecting to be praised on all sides. While debate in encouraged and the very nature of the role means that councillors should expect fair criticism, the level and nature of the abuse that some members have been experiencing is completely unacceptable.
“Those responsible should understand that such actions have consequences, and that all political parties and elected representatives at Bridgend County Borough Council stand united in condemning and rejecting such behaviour.
“With a wave of prospective candidates standing for election on Thursday 5 May and ready to represent local people, this understanding is more important than ever.”
A review of the electoral ward boundaries in 2021 means that this year’s local government election on May 5 will be the first in Bridgend to feature a 28-ward structure. In previous local elections, it was 39 wards.
The boundary changes in Bridgend also mean that the number of councillors will reduce from 54 to 51. Seven wards will elect two councillors and eight will elect three councillors.
Monitoring Officer Kelly Watson added: “With a report on councillor safety set to be considered at a future meeting of the Democratic Services Committee, a wide range of support is already available to help members deal with potential abuse and intimidation.
“The Local Government Association offers specific guidance on themes such as handling intimidation, personal safety and handling online abuse, and councillors are aware of the ways in which they can raise concerns, make a complaint or report an incident.
“They have access to a wide range of resources produced by the likes of the Local Government Association, Home Office, Community Safety Partnership and the Prevent Programme, and the council has also organised a series of personal safety training events and is seeking to repeat the sessions later in the year.
“Democratic Services staff remain available to advise any elected members who experience abuse and intimidation.”
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