Epsom & Ewell Borough Council signs up to ‘Debate Not Hate’ campaign
Councillors at Epsom & Ewell Borough Council have united to support a national campaign designed to tackle the abuse and intimidation that many councillors face.
The campaign, spearheaded by the Local Government Association (LGA), aims to raise public awareness of the role of councillors in their communities, encourage healthy debate and improve the responses and support for local politicians facing abuse and intimidation. The campaign launched on the back of recent LGA findings that seven in 10 councillors nationally have experienced abuse and intimidation in the last 12 months and one in 10 experience abuse frequently.
Leaders of the majority and main opposition groups at the council jointly proposed a motion regarding the issue at the full Council meeting on Tuesday 25 July, and the motion was unanimously approved with support from every political group. The approval means that the council commits to challenge the normalisation of abuse against councillors and officers, and uphold exemplary standards of public and political debate in all it does.
Chair of the majority RA Group Cllr Hannah Dalton, who put forward the motion, commented: “Discussion and debate are at the heart of our society and part of healthy democracy. With debate there will be disagreement but there also needs to be respect where there are differing thoughts, ideas and opinions. Decision making should be transparent and open to scrutiny and challenge; but abuse and intimidation of councillors, in whatever form it might take, crosses an unacceptable line. It undermines democracy, prevents those elected to represent their communities from doing so, and may deter individuals who are passionate about supporting their communities from standing for election.
“The Councillors of Epsom and Ewell Borough Council are united in our support for healthy debate and discussion, and in challenging intimidation and abuse to ensure councillors feel safe and able to continue representing our residents.”
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Cllr Julie Morris seconded the motion. She added: “All elected members at the council are working towards a common cause – to better the lives of our residents. Frank discussions, differences of opinion and being held to account is what democracy thrives on, but harassment or abuse is unacceptable.
“We hope that by joining forces in this way we can highlight the issues councillors are facing, as well as send a clear message that abuse and intimidation have no place in politics.”
For more information on the Debate Not Hate campaign, visit: https://www.local.gov.uk/about/campaigns/debate-not-hate
For the wording of the motion that was approved at the full Council meeting on 25 July 2023, visit: https://democracy.epsom-ewell.gov.uk/documents/s27994/Motions%20Appendix%201.pdf