Coronavirus: LGA urges end to 'unacceptable' attacks on council staff

“Local government workers should always be respected and valued – even more so in these challenging times – when they are needed more than ever."

Man with a stop sign at a school crossing

The Local Government Association is growing increasingly concerned about “unacceptable” attacks on council workers carrying out essential duties and implementing the Government’s social distancing policy during the coronavirus crisis.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, understands that emotions and tensions are running high during this unprecedented time.

It is calling on the public to respect the tireless efforts of council workers – from social care staff to refuse collectors and highways crews to maintenance workers – as they go about their work to keep essential services going for communities while reducing risk during the coronavirus lockdown.

It comes as councils have reported several sickening physical and verbal assaults on council staff, including an incident where a cyclist deliberately rode into a council officer and broke his leg. Other council staff - which include recycling workers, park groundskeepers, civil enforcement officers, road engineers and bus drivers taking children of key workers to and from school - have been spat and sworn at, shoved by members of the public, and racially abused.

The LGA is also emphasising how vital it is for people to comply with government guidance on social distancing to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Flouting these restrictions could put lives at risk and prolong the spread of the virus, and force councils to consider closing public spaces, such as parks and playgrounds, for public safety reasons.

Cllr James Jamieson, LGA Chairman, said:

“Council staff are leading local efforts to support communities through the coronavirus crisis, working day and night to protect communities and keep the services they rely on running.

“Local government workers should always be respected and valued – even more so in these challenging times – when they are needed more than ever.

“It is becoming increasingly concerning to hear that local government workers are being subjected to physical and verbal abuse as they try and play their part in keeping the country running through this crisis.

“This is unacceptable, and it has to stop.”

Case studies

A cyclist rode straight at a Southend Council community safety patrol officer and broke his leg. The incident was captured on CCTV and police are investigating. It is the latest in a line of incidents where council officers including park groundskeepers, civil enforcement officers and community safety patrol officers, have also received verbal abuse, been spat at and pushed, by members of the public.

Workers at household waste and recycling centre run by Swindon Council were spat and sworn at after the site was temporarily restricted to essential recycling only.

School bus drivers and highways staff working for Northamptonshire County Council have been abused while working during the coronavirus lockdown.

A council worker in Bristol was racially abused by a man in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. Police are treating the incident as a hate crime linked to COVID-19.

The LGA will be acknowledging work by council staff to help keep essential services running
during the coronavirus crisis on social media using #ThankYouLocalGov.