Councillors in Cardiff have opened up on the shocking abuse they face in their roles as elected representatives. In a discussion on whether councillors should publicise their home address, members of Cardiff Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee revealed some of the abuse aimed at them.
Having her car “kicked in”, faeces “rubbed into the house” and a delivery of dead flowers are just some of the ordeals one Cardiff Council member, Cllr Jayne Cowan said she has had to face. “The issues have been really significant,” said Cllr Cowan.
“I think it was really great to see that on the ballot paper this time people could just choose to put ‘the city of Cardiff’ so they don’t identify w people live. If members are really concerned about safety issues, they may not want to go into the specific details, but I really think we should err on the side of caution if we can.”
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The written register of councillors’ interests requires members to declare any interests they have in property, including their own home. Whether they own a home, rent a home or occupy premises under a licence, this usually would usually mean adding the address to the open register of interests on the council’s website.
However, t has been increasing concern among members in relation to personal security and disclosing their home address. After discussions between the Welsh Government, council monitoring officers and the ombudsman’s office, the guidance on written interests is that members are still asked for an address.
However, this can now be a more general address, with no requirement to include a house name or number. Cllr Cowan added: “I would like to see a more general approach if we can, just bearing in mind the abuse that I have had. People come to my door and shout at me sometimes.
“It’s not a nice situation.” Cllr Stephen Cunnah, who recalled that a former colleague once had their car “fire bombed”, said the information relating to members’ addresses on the open register of interest should be as “minimal as possible”.
“Some residents understand that in the modern world t are legitimate security risk questions, especially in a big city,” he said. “I think we are just dancing on the head of a pin if we are trying to decide is a postcode enough? Is a street enough? Is a ward enough?
“If t is a legitimate question of interest, the council should be declaring that at the time when that interest is brought into play anyway.” An independent member of the committee, Arthur Haller, said: “I don’t see that t is a need for a specific address to be identified.
“I think as long as the individual says that they do have a property in a particular area and the public is aware of that. For me, that is quite sufficient. I don’t think it is necessary for the full address of a member to be disclosed unless and until an issue arises with maybe a planning application that could affect their address.”
Cllr Imran Latif said he had slightly “different thinking” on the matter. He said: “The guidelines said t should be an address and I was in favour of that, but listening to a number of incidents and the councillors, I understand why t should be a minimum.
“But still, I think if t are a number of things happening we should be asking the police to get involved more.” Monitoring officer at Cardiff Council, Davina Fiore, reassured the committee that the council does take the security of members very seriously.
She said: “The council has a security manager, who is ex-police and he has very good links and relationships with the police and we urge all members if t are any incidents to report them to the police and to us. We keep a log of those and our security manager does go out with councillors and visit their houses if necessary and give them security advice.”
Source: Wales Online