Local Government Association vice chairman and Lincolnshire councillor backs Jo Cox Foundation abuse report
A Lincolnshire councillor has backed a campaign to tackle the growing issue of abuse and intimidation faced by local councillors.
Marianne Overton, vice chairperson of the Local Government Association and leader of the Lincolnshire Independents and the Independent Network, was at the launch of the Jo Cox Foundation’s Civility Commission in Parliament in January.
The Commission's final report, titled “No Place in Politics,” outlines a series of measures aimed at improving civility in public discourse and ensuring the safety of elected representatives.
It identifies two primary challenges: the lack of a central coordinating force at the government level and a deficit of political education among the British public.
Coun Marianne Overton (Ind), a vocal advocate for improving civility in local government, expressed her concern over the rising levels of abuse faced by councillors across the country.
She emphasised the importance of safeguarding democracy by protecting elected representatives from harassment and intimidation.
Coun Overton highlighted the need for practical measures, including keeping councillors' home addresses confidential and integrating councillors into the Online Safety Bill.
“Councils provide essential services for our communities.
“Our councillors are ordinary people, part of our communities, elected by hundreds or thousands of your neighbours, working hard for very little return other than the joy of seeing our services well-run and focused on the needs of residents.
“Democracy is too important to allow a few individuals to undermine our representatives with abuse. That has got to stop.
“At the LGA, we have created an LGA toolkit for councillors to keep safe. But there is more we need the Government to do.”
"Abuse and intimidation aimed at local councillors is completely unacceptable," said Coun Overton.
"If left unaddressed, it risks forcing good councillors out of local politics altogether."
A recent survey by the LGA further underscores the severity of the issue, revealing that 82% of councillors feel at risk in their role, with 54% reporting an increase in abuse since they were first elected.
Among the 28 recommendations proposed by the Jo Cox Civility Commission are the establishment of a government unit to address abuse and intimidation, mandatory political and media literacy in schools, and additional support from social media companies for candidates during elections.
Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, chairperson of The Jo Cox Foundation and Former Home Secretary, said: “Abuse and intimidation of elected politicians is a genuine threat to democracy in this country and now is the time to act if we want to prevent elected representatives from stepping down and ensure a diverse and talented future pipeline of politicians.
“We are urging all those identified in the report as having a role to play – including central government, policing institutions, and social media firms – to adopt these recommendations so that we can make real change for the benefit of our democracy.”
Jo Cox was murdered on June 16, 2016 in Batley and Spen, doing the work she loved, as an MP on behalf of her constituents.
The Jo Cox Foundation wants to make meaningful change on issues that the late MP was passionate about.
The Foundation launched the Jo Cox Civility Commission in February 2023 to find practical, cross-sector recommendations that, if adopted, would tackle the abuse and intimidation of elected representatives.