Civility in public life

There are growing concerns about the impact an increasing level of public intimidation and toxicity of debate is having on our country’s democratic processes, particularly at a local level.

Civility in public life call for evidence: Abuse and intimidation of councillors

The LGA has committed to promoting civility in public life and supporting the well-being of elected members. This is a long-standing area of work for the LGA, but the recent tragic death of Sir David Amess MP has brought this issue into marked focus. Everyone in public life should be able to go about their daily business without fear of attack. Now, more than ever, this is a challenge that we as a sector are determined to meet. 

To support our Civility in Public Life programme, the LGA has been developing call for evidence of abuse and intimidation of councillors. The call for evidence is an ongoing part of the LGA Civility in Public Life programme, capturing elected members’ experiences and emerging trends around abuse and intimidation from the public.

Across the UK, there are growing concerns about the impact an increasing level of public intimidation and toxicity of debate is having on our country’s democratic processes. In response, the LGA is working closely with WLGA, COSLA and NILGA to coordinate a programme of work entitled ‘Civility in public life’, primarily aimed at

  • articulating good standards for anyone engaging in public and political discourse
  • understand the scale and impact of intimidation and abusive behaviour on our membership organisations, and develop recommendations for achieving positive debate and public decision-making on a local level
  • to support our members and all democratically elected local representatives in addressing intimidation and abuse, so they deliver the best on behalf of their communities

In August 2020, the elected leaders of each association agreed the joint statement below in support of the programme.

UK Local Government Associations: Joint Statement on Civility in Public Life.

The intimidation and abuse of Councillors, in person or otherwise, undermines democracy; it can prevent elected members from representing the communities they serve, prevent individuals from standing for election and undermine public trust in democratic processes.

These harmful behaviours, whether occurring towards, between or by elected members are entirely unacceptable.

Across our four nations COSLA, LGA, NILGA and WLGA commit to promoting Civility in Public Life, positive debate and resultantly supporting the wellbeing of our elected members.

You can read more about this programme of work in our Civility in public life report.

LGA's Model Councillor Code of Conduct

All councils are required to have a local Councillor Code of Conduct. In association with key partners and extensive consultation with the sector, the LGA has developed a Model Councillor Code of Conduct, providing a template for councils to adopt in whole and/or with local amendments. The Code was developed in consultation with a range of officer and member stakeholders; the LGA response to the consultation is available on our website.

Councillors' guide to handling intimidation

Together with WLGA, we have published some practical steps that councillors and councils can take to protect themselves as a person in a public position.

Digital citizenship 

Alongside the WLGA, COSLA and NILGA, we have produced a set of resources for local councillors on digital citizenship, including a model rules of engagement and top tips on how to tackle online abuse.

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Glitch is an award-winning UK charity that is working to end online abuse – particularly against women and marginalised people. Founded in 2017 by then local politician, Seyi Akiwowo, after she received a flood of abuse when a video of her speech at the European Parliament went viral. Through training, research, workshops, and programs, Glitch aims to build an online world that is safer for all.

Through research, campaigns and policy recommendations, Glitch hope to persuade governments and tech companies to make online spaces safer for all – especially for women, who are disproportionately affected by online abuse and violence. 

Glitch founder Seyi Akiwowo joined us at 2019 LGA Annual Conference to talk about her work.

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