01/24/2022

Wales News Online

Newyddion Lleol a Chenedlaethol Cymru – Local and National News for Wales

Councillors voice their concerns over practical jokes and threatening behaviour

Swansea councillor Chris Holley

COUNCILLORS have had coins stuck to their cars, fire fighters called to their house by hoaxers, and mystery pizzas delivered to them, the opposition leader in Swansea has said.

Cllr Chris Holley said many councillors had been threatened, and that the safety of elected politicians at all levels was vital.

He was speaking at a council meeting where colleagues agreed measures to bolster safety, and also responded to a proposal for a 17% councillor pay rise.

“The safety of people who put their heads above the parapet to get elected is paramount – not just MPs not just Welsh Government members, but also locally elected members,” said Cllr Holley.

He referred to different types of incidents and pranks councillors were subjected to, including one when Loctite glue was used to stick coins to a councillor’s car.

“These things happen, and I think this is a significant report and one which every member on this council should support,” he said.

Speaking afterwards, the Swansea Liberal Democrat leader said there had been a rise in the general level of abuse aimed at elected officials in recent years, and that female and gay politicians probably got it worse.

“I think social media has got something to do with,” he said. “I think there is a lack of respect, but some councils have not helped themselves.”

Asked if he would advise a younger version of himself to stand for election, he said: “Yes. You can’t cower to it. If you have got that sense you want to contribute to the democratic process, then you should stand.”

The new measures include requests for funding for security where a councillor was at personal risk or significant threat of harm in carrying out their role.

The authority’s existing policy about councillor safety was emailed to Swansea’s 72 elected members, along with online resources, following the death of MP Sir David Amess in October. The man charged with his murder is due to stand trial next March.

Earlier in the meeting, a majority of councillors approved a response to the body which has proposed a 17% pay rise next year for councillors in Wales.

The Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) has argued that councillors were under-valued compared to their counterparts in other parts of the UK.

The group said paying them a basic salary of £16,800 – or £13 per hour – for an average three-day week would, compared to the £14,368 they currently receive, end a real-terms erosion of pay over the past decade or so.

The IRPW said during this period, decision-making and governance had become more complex. It will publish a final report early next year which will set councillors’ pay from May onwards.

The council’s official response is no comment on the proposed increase, given the rationale put forward by the IRPW.

The authority has requested some slight amendments regarding other elements of remuneration, and has asked if expense and allowance claims can be published as a combined figure for all councillors instead of individually.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Wendy Fitzgerald said she would abstain on the issue, given some constituents’ displeasure with the 17% pay hike proposed.

“I just do not feel comfortable voting for it,” she said.

Councillor and NHS worker Kevin Griffiths agreed, saying his colleagues in the health service were getting a 3% rise.

Councillors can choose not to accept the pay rise, but were advised the new salary proposed would help attract a more diverse range of candidates to stand for office.

 

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