Anti-development campaigners are considered responsible for most abusive behaviour in local areas, LGC’s Civility of Politics survey has revealed.
Those opposed to planning proposals were cited as the source of abuse by 59% of survey resopndents, ahead of the far right, highlighted by 40%.
Groups behind the abuse
One respondent said: “People who are passionately against development may allow their passions to run away with them, rather than [be] intentionally abusive. The far right is often subtler and more systematic.”
Backbench councillors were cited by a third of respondents and the far left by 29%.
When asked to provide more details one respondent said problems were mostly caused by “single issue radicals”.
Another said councillors had engaged in “seeding” false accusations about political opponents on social media. This, he said, “is now so frequent as to have become normal”.
Alice Perry, a backbench councillor at Islington LBC and a member of Labour’s national executive committee, told LGC that the issue of abuse had been discussed at a recent meeting of the Local Government Association’s Labour group.
In an account on website LabourList she wrote that all attendees gave an account of abuse in their areas, including stalking, sexual harassment, death threats and bricks through windows.
She told LGC one member of the public threatened to rape the chair of a meeting on a controversial licensing meeting because he disagreed with the decision.
Cllr Perry said members of the public were the main source of abuse towards elected members, with people expressing themselves in more extreme ways since the referendum on European Union membership, leading to an increase in racism, sexism and homophobia.
She called for councils to be given the resources to provide better security for senior councillors, in line with the protection provided to police and crime commissioners and metro mayors.
Cllr Perry added a solution to the discord was to empower local communities.
“There has been a shift [in the tone of discourse] but that doesn’t mean it can’t be shifted back,” she said. “Part of this is by proper meaningful devolution – giving people back control and accountability through local government.”
Who is responsible? What you said… ’Residents have a view that local government is full of workshy layabouts wasting public money’
“Single issue radicals.”
“People who are passionately against development may allow their passions to run away with them, rather than be intentionally abusive. The far right is often subtler and more systematic.”
“There is a small group of vocal people who seem to oppose just about every effort to improve the borough.”
“Whilst anti-development campaigners are a significant group, we have a group of disaffected individuals who moan regularly and question motives/issues, often in a derogatory way.”
“Our MP’s husband is abusive on social media.”
“People who are on a mission, who think it is their calling to cause as much disruption as possible to council business… regardless of whether their complaints, allegations or statements have any truth or part truth to them or not.”
“Organisations in voluntary sector that did not win contracts. Customers of those organisations. Those opposed to developments for older people. Those opposed to presence on illegal camps of gipsy/traveller community.”
“Local bloggers. Parents of children with SEND.”
“We have a lot of disadvantaged areas where residents have a view that local government is full of workshy layabouts wasting public money on pointless ‘equalities’ exercises.
“People who group together as they feel ignored or alienated and have no other route to voice their opinions.”
“Campaigners can get behind a bandwagon with little control or empathy for the wider context. Reasonable discussion tends to be subsumed by a vociferous element who can represent a minority of dissent.”
Anti-development campaigners and far right driving abuse