Councillor opens up about ‘horrible’ abuse and death threats in diversity debate
Katy Jenkins, local democracy reporter
A councillor has spoken out about “horrible” abuse he received – including death threats through his door – as members discussed bid to improve diversity.
Cllr Joshua Beynon shared with Pembrokeshire council that “horrible, disgusting” abuse was directed at him following his support for the Black Lives Matter movement and his stance on Penally camp, which was used as makeshift accommodation for asylum seekers.
Councillors were discussing a Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) plan that all councils commit to becoming diverse in 2022.
This led to the drafting of a deceleration which includes providing clear public commitment to improving diversity in democracy, demonstrating an open and welcoming culture to all and setting out a local diverse council action plan before next year’s elections.
At full council on Thursday (July 15) a number of Pembrokeshire councillors supported this part of the deceleration but raised questions about other aspects, which they argued were outside the scope of the council.
When speaking about the abuse he’d received Cllr Beynon said he got “more and more severe threats”, adding that did not want to put people off standing for election, but “someone has to stand up”.
He said the report was all “well and good” but people’s “lived experience” must also be considered and “there are still very outdated views out there”, adding homophobic slurs directed him and death threats posted through his door, which ultimately had an impact on his health.
“There’s hate and there’s no place for it in Pembrokeshire, and certainly no place for it in Pembrokeshire County Council,” added Cllr Beynon as he urged councillors to vote for the declaration as well as committing to calling out hate in their communities.
“There’s a massive difference between criticism and abuse,” said Cllr Alison Tudor, adding she did not agree with an assertion that “abuse comes with the territory of being a councillor.”
Cllr Reg Owens said you can’t force certain groups to stand for election, adding he had not stood as a disability candidate but as Reg Owen, while Cllr David Bryan said it risked “positive discrimination” which was not democratic.
Others argued that more could be done to make council work more accessible, and Cllr Guy Woodham said the plan was about “working together across political groups to try and remove any barriers that there are preventing people from applying.”
Council voted in favour of an amendment that the report goes back to scrutiny for further discussion before a decision is made.