North Lincolnshire Council has established a robust and effective relationship with the police. The police have nominated a senior officer to help the Monitoring Officer deal with incidents of abuse, harassment, and intimidation.
North Lincolnshire Council has established a good relationship with the police, and a senior named officer is available to help the Monitoring Officer deal with incidents of abuse, harassment, and intimidation. Having a clear point of contact within the police force can help the Monitoring Officer and councillors report incidents and receive appropriate guidance and support. The police have set clear limits on their role and have been responsive and positive in their interactions with the council. This suggests that a positive and collaborative relationship between the council and the police can be crucial in supporting councillors who experience harassment or abuse.
Recent research by the Local Government Association (LGA), as part of their ‘Debate, not Hate’ campaign, has found that abuse and intimidation of councillors is widespread and increasing, often targeted towards those with protected characteristics. Despite the common stereotype that councillors ‘develop a thick skin’, many respondents to this work described how their experiences of abuse had negatively impacted their mental health and their ability to function in their councillor or other professional and personal roles.
The LGA therefore recommended that councils and their partners do more to support and protect the safety and wellbeing of councillors, and that the police improve the consistency of responses to abuse and threats made against councillors and take a risk-based approach that accounts for the specific risks that councillors face, as they do with other high-risk individuals, such as MPs.
North Lincolnshire Council has established a robust and effective relationship with the police. Humberside Police have nominated a named, senior officer to help the Monitoring Officer and their staff, and councillors, deal with incidents of abuse, harassment, and intimidation.
By having a clear point of contact within the police force, councillors can feel more confident in reporting any incidents and can receive appropriate guidance and support. It's also helpful that the police have set clear limits on their role with councillors, as this can help to prevent misunderstandings and ensure that both parties are clear on what to expect.
The police have been responsive and positive in their interactions with the council and it hasn't been a major drain on the named officer's time. This suggests that the council and the police have developed a positive and collaborative relationship, which can be an important factor in supporting councillors who are victims of abuse, harassment, and intimidation.
The impact of these measures will be monitored, but initial and informal discussions indicate that councillors welcome the steps taken, and value the route to refer issues to the police.
How is this new approach being sustained?
A dedicated system has been established within political group offices to record abusive, intimidatory or threatening communications. There is an option to pass these communications to Humberside Police’s Single Point of Contact (SPOC) where required. The Monitoring Officer has also established channels to discuss issues informally, and to escalate complaints and concerns if required.
Staff have been given necessary training, and the named police contact has attended a meeting of the Standards Committee to discuss the legislation, local arrangements, and what councillors can do to protect themselves.
Councils should begin a dialogue with their local police force at a senior level and consider establishing a formal mechanism to deal with concerns and complaints. This should be at a councillor level (via the Standards Committee) and at an officer level (via the Monitoring Officer). A police single point of contact is invaluable to provide consistency, build local intelligence, and form contacts.
It is worth highlighting to the police that councillors are, by definition, at increased risk of harassment and intimidation, and can be a focus for individuals with grievances against the council or wider government. It is also important to address the myth that councillors are unaffected by this behaviour, and to highlight that abuse can tip into hate speech against those with protected characteristics.
Councils will wish to include their relationship with police as part of a wider programme to support and protect councillors, which includes training and mentorship, access to support programmes, and other measures.
Contact person for the project:
Dean Gillon, Senior Democratic Services Officer, North Lincolnshire Council – [email protected] 01724 296356