A RISE in cases of violence and aggression against councillors and council officers is being looked at by Conwy County Council.
A risk status report has highlighted a list of corporate risks Conwy faces, and, according to the paper, violence and aggression against councillors and staff are cited as “major” risks.
Council officers said they believed the cause of the aggression encountered by council representatives had been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.
The report was discussed at this week’s finance and resource overview scrutiny committee.
During the debate, Cllr Paul Luckock referenced the deaths of MPs following attacks by members of the public.
But Cllr Luckock then seemed to suggest council officers were over-concerned with the risk of violence, indicating the public just needed to be better managed.
Amanda Jones, Conwy’s corporate performance and improvement manager, explained the authority had now begun a project to look at the root cause of the rise.
“A new risk has been identified: the risk of increased violence and aggression towards officers and elected members,” she said.
“Even though the mid-year health and safety report did show a slight decrease in verbal abuse against officers and members compared to the previous mid-year, actually – particularly in social care and education over the last five years – we’ve seen, year on year, an increase in incidents of verbal abuse, compounded by the pandemic.
“But a project has been set up to look at this specifically and try to get to the root cause of why this is happening.”
She added: “But the proposal for this risk is if we bear in mind there is a cost-of-living crisis and just that recognition the officers and members of staff are under extreme pressure as are members of our community, so it is recognising that as a risk and putting mitigation in place to support staff and members with that.”
But Cllr Paul Luckock said the council needed to put the rise in cases into context.
“I worry about some of the routes we are going down because I think it is about demoralising people and lodging fear,” he said.
“Some of the casework I’ve been involved with in this first year as a councillor, when I’ve been involved with officers, their main emphasis to me is ‘you need to be careful with that person or that family’.
“But when you go and meet the family or person, what you realise is they are angry and frustrated; they are not getting the service or what matters most to them.
“But if you deal with them in the correct way…I haven’t felt any risk of violence or aggression, and so we need to put that into context.
“Greater work needs to be done with officers and councillors about how we engage the public and how we work with them, and if we genuinely put ourselves in their shoes and work with them, this level of aggression and violence will, I think, be reduced, even in these trying times.”
The report was backed by councillors with several amendments.