CCTV and panic alarms to help keep Sandwell councillors safe
CCTV and panic alarms could be used to protect councillors in Sandwell over concerns they are vulnerable to attack.
Sandwell Council organised a review of how to protect the borough's politicians after some councillors reported incidents "that have raised concerns about personal safety when carrying out their day to day role."
When asked, the council’s director of law and governance and monitoring officer, Surjit Tour, refused to give any specifics about these incidents.
But his report to the authority’s ethical standards and member development committee said only "a small minority" had reported incidents in the past sixth months.
The report said specialist police had been consultant and suggested the use of CCTV and panic alarms when elected ward members hold surgeries for voters.
Surgeries are held at the weekend and evenings in local venues like community centres and libraries when councillors meet constituents – often when no one else is present.
The threat to politicians was highlighted by the murder of MP Jo Cox, who was shot and stabbed as she attended a surgery in June 2016.
Mr Tour said in his report: “Initial meetings have taken place with two cabinet members who have experienced issues relating to personal safety that have helped inform officers undertaking this review.
“Discussions have also taken place with elected members who have experienced issues that can be directly attributed to personal safety concerns.”
The authority says it will issue guidance to elected members on personal safety including advice by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office.
Mr Tour added: “The safety and security of elected members is a priority.
"It is recognised good practice to periodically review the safety and security arrangements of all elected members given their varied roles and responsibilities.
“While there have been only a small number of safety and security issues affecting Sandwell councillors, the review will help ensure all reasonable measures are taken to support elected members in their roles."
Members of the ethical standards and member development committee will discuss the interim report on Monday before a full set of recommendations are presented later this year.
By George Makin, Local Democracy Reporter