Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner addresses safety of public servants
The issue was raised at the meeting by Labour county councillor Judi Billing
The safety of ‘public servants’ has been addressed at a meeting by Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd.
Elected officials – including councillors and MPs – traditionally hold ‘surgeries’, where constituents can approach them to discuss issues.
But last month (October) Sir David Amess died after being stabbed in a church hall in Leigh-on-sea, where he was holding a constituency surgery for residents.
And at the latest meeting of Hertfordshire County Council’s public health and community safety cabinet panel Commissioner David Lloyd was asked about the safety of public servants.
Elected Mr Lloyd – who has previously served as a county councillor – said that while he had no evidence to suggest it had become less safe, he said he felt the time had come to look at peoples safety.
And he revealed that he no longer visited constituents in their homes – but arranged to meet them in a police station or elsewhere.
“It’s really difficult because we want to be accessible to the public,” he told councillors.
“We want to listen and very often the people who want to contact us are vulnerable people are very often people who have complexities which are difficult to support.
“And then at the same time some of them may have issues such that they feel really strongly about and perhaps will be violent.
“And that is really difficult, about how we support those people appropriately but at the same time keep ourselves safe.”
Mr Lloyd said that it was in many ways an operational matter – and he referred to suggestions that the force’s community protection teams may speak to councillors about personal safety.
He said there were now opportunities for elected officials to hold surgeries online – and to communicate via email or phone.
He suggested councillors should consider holding ‘surgeries’ in public places, where there are ‘other people there to ensure our safety’ – rather than in people’s homes.
But he accepted that this had not prevented the death of Sir David Amess, who was in a church hall.
And he highlighted steps he was already taking.
“I don’t go to people’s homes any longer,” he said.
“I did as a county councillor – I don’t do that any longer. They have to come in – and I will find a place where we can meet”
Mr Lloyd also said that he always had a member of staff with him and he urged councillors to do the same.
The issue was raised at the meeting by Labour county councillor Judi Billing.
She pointed to “a growing democratic deficit of people unwilling to participate” which she said was ‘a real shame and a real worry’.
And while she said she was aware of the steps being taken in North Herts – where she is also a district councillor – to ensure safety, she asked if was any ‘central’ thought.
The county council’s deputy executive member for public health and community safety Cllr Fiona Thompson stressed that this was “a very important topic”.
“As councillors, we need to be available for our residents, but actually it’s about managing the risk,” she said.
And she referenced guidance from the Local Government Association and planned training sessions planned to remind councillors about additional safety measures.
The meeting of the public health and community safety cabinet panel was held on November 12. It can be viewed at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/watchmeetings.