The Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) has collaborated with a BBC investigation focused on the abuse and intimidation affecting councillors and those working within local government and join sector partners in advocating for change.
As stated in the BBC article, six bodies including SLCC, representing local authorities at all levels in England and Wales, have warned abuse levels are unacceptably high.
The BBC investigation found examples of abuse suffered by those in local government, including clerks to town, parish and community councils and highlighted cases of harassment, stalking, threats and assault. As well as these behaviours affecting the wellbeing of individuals and their families, they undermine the effectiveness and governance of councils and impact local communities and frontline services. This results in resignations of hardworking councillors and employees, difficulties in staff retention and recruitment, additional costs, and an unwillingness of good local people to stand for election as councillors.
SLCC with the National Association of National Councils (NALC) and One Voice Wales (OVW) recognise this worrying trend and, in response, the Civility and Respect Project has been founded. The Project is championing civility and respect in the sector through a range of resources to foster a culture change. One of the ways a council can demonstrate its commitment to standing up to poor behaviour and positive change to support civil and respectful conduct is by signing up to the Civility and Respect Pledge. By signing the Pledge, a local council is agreeing that it will treat councillors, clerks, employees, members of the public, representatives of partner organisations and volunteers with civility and respect in their roles. This highlights to the public how seriously a council takes behavioural responsibilities and, over the last year, more than 1,400 councils have signed up to this.
Adam Keppel-Green FSLCC, SLCC Chair, said: “SLCC welcomes this important BBC research into the growing lack of respect for holders of public office across local government – both those paid and unpaid for their service to our communities. Abuse and intimidation of public servants is unacceptable, and we need to see the issue properly addressed by Westminster as the effect of poor behaviour puts people off standing as councillors and coming forward to serve as an officer of local councils – this is directly impacting democracy at the heart of our communities. We urge councils to sign the Civility and Respect Pledge to put civility and respect at the top of the agenda and start a culture change for the local council sector.”