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Revealed: The ‘Personal Safety Guide’ for when Camden’s councillors decide to meet the public

11:00 18 July 2014

The Personal Safety Guide for councillors

The Personal Safety Guide for councillors

Archant

Britain’s most dangerous profession these days has become a toss-up between being a builder, a fisherman and – surprisingly – a farmer.

But after coming across the “Personal Safety Guide” given to the intake of new councillors this year, you’d have thought being the political face of Camden Council was just as dicey.

The four-page document is full of advice for councillors about meeting their constituents face-to-face.

Councillors must “sit nearest to the door”, lay out seating at “45 degree angles [to avoid] appearing confrontational”, “make sure there are no heavy items in the room that could be used as weapons” and “get a space which has a swift means of escape”.

Quick getaways apparently never being far from the mind of a councillor, they’re even told “to have your keys in your hand [and] park facing the way you want to drive off”.

“Abusive phone calls”, “malicious anonymous letters” and “unwanted callers at private homes” – all are apparently real risks the Camden electorate now pose to their political representatives.

But is this as over-the-top and insulting as it all sounds?

A quick search on the internet suggests that a councillor is just as likely to assault a constituent as to be the victim of assault.

But the Ham&High was also rightly reminded why the guide came about in the first place.

In 2000, a constituent armed with a samurai sword walked into his local MP’s constituency office in Cheltenham and launched a brutal attack.

It left one local councillor dead and the MP – now Lord Nigel Jones – seriously injured.

Cllr Theo Blackwell, who has braved his own surgeries for 12 years, told the Ham&High: “I became a councillor not long after the sword attack and it was quite a live issue at the time.

“I’ve not had a problem in any of the surgeries I’ve attended but we do need to make sure the new councillors know the proper safety precautions.”

He added: “Something that does make some councillors a bit uncomfortable is having to make public their home addresses.

“I still don’t know why we can’t just put the address of our surgeries.”

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