At a meeting of Cabinet today, Members will be asked to vote to pass a motion, supported by all Group Leaders, committing the Council to challenge the normalisation of abuse against councillors and to uphold exemplary standards of public and political debate.

This will show we are taking a zero-tolerance approach to abuse and intimidation of our councillors and officers.

The vulnerability of elected representatives has been highlighted in recent years with high profile incidents like the murders of Jo Cox MP and Sir David Amess MP.

The most recent Local Government Association Councillor Census revealed 7 in 10 councillors had experienced abuse and intimidation within the last 12 months, and one in 10 experienced abuse frequently.

The motion proposes that Torbay councillors will work together on a cross-party basis to set an example of healthy debate and denounce abusive or threatening behaviour from anyone in the community on social media and in-person.

The Cabinet will also pledge, on behalf of the Council, to support the LGA's Debate Not Hate campaign to remind everyone that while democracy thrives on good, frank discussions these should never turn into personal abuse. In addition, the Cabinet is expected to resolve to:

  • Use the LGA template letter to write to the local Member of Parliament to ask them to support the campaign.
  • Use the LGA template letter to write to the Government to ask them to work with the LGA to develop and implement a plan to address abuse and intimidation of politicians.
  • Take a zero-tolerance approach to abuse of councillors and officers.
  • Remind all councillors of the process to report incidents of harassment and abuse of councillors via the Governance Support Team; and
  • Include details of the support available and relevant training to councillors in relation to abuse and intimidation and councillor safety as part of the 2023 Member Induction Programme.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Steve Darling, said: “Democracy is at the heart of local government and councillors are as much part of the community they represent.

“While debating and disagreeing with each other are an integral part of the process, councillors should not be subjected to abuse and intimidation because of their role.”

“In passing this motion at the Cabinet meeting it will demonstrate that Torbay Council is fully committed to standing up against abuse and working to promote positive, constructive public and political debate within our community.”

Councillor Robert Loxton, Leader of the Independent Group said “We totally support the Cabinet’s proposals to raise the profile of the LGA’s ‘Debate Not Hate’ campaign and take a zero approach to abuse and intimidation against councillors and officers.  We want to work together for the people of Torbay.”

Councillor David Thomas, Leader of the Conservative Group said: “We fully support the Cabinet’s motion to challenge the normalisation of abuse against councillors and officers and to uphold exemplary standards of public life and political debate.”

Anne-Marie Bond, Chief Executive said: “We have local elections on 4 May 2023, and we want to encourage candidates from all of our communities to come forward to stand, knowing that Torbay Council takes a zero approach to abuse and intimidation and will provide appropriate challenge and support to those involved.”

“We are all here to do a job and serve our local community and have a right to do so without the threat of abuse and intimidation.”

Further information on the motion and the campaign can be found on the Cabinet meeting page

To encourage more people to engage in our public meetings, this meeting will be live streamed on our YouTube channel

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