Blanket ban on publication of councillor addresses amid safety fears

Previously details of where they live have been available to the public on the council's website on the 'declaration of interests register'. Credit: MEN Media

Councillors in Trafford have voted for a blanket ban on the publication of their home addresses amid fears for their safety.

Previously details of where they live have been available to the public on the council's website on the 'declaration of interests register'.

Leader Andrew Western revealed he had been subjected to personal threats and intimidation while serving on the authority in a heated debate on the issue at a full council meeting.

He told members: "I have experienced a number of incidents both out and about in the community and at my home and also with people making very detailed videos of exactly what they would like to do to me, making it clear that they know my address.

"As a result, I have then had to have my property marked as well as my mother's and then I found out the list of criminal activity previously undertaken by that individual who can find out where I or any one of us lives at any point. This is not about pinning your shoulders back and saying 'I'm hard enough, I'm not worried about this'.

"This is about us saying collectively that we want to be safe in our roles. We know that an attack on one of us is an attack on us all."

The proposal to redact councillors' home addresses from the register had been brought forward by the authority's standards committee which advocated a 'blanket ban' on the publication of councillors' addresses.

Coun Daniel Bunting said that while some councillors may be concerned about the publication of where live, 'others may not be'. "Would it not be reasonable," he argued, "for a councillor to opt out, should he or she wish? For example, I would not wish to hide my address. It has been on the webiste since I was first elected and I am more than happy for it to remain there."

His Conservative colleague Coun John Holden agreed, he said: "I am much more afraid of God at my advanced age than I am of someone knocking on my door and being insulting.

"I've been threatened or put in positions of threat for most of my life and they have never come to anything.

"I would welcome the ability to be able to publish my address on any document on any decision that I support or any policy I put forward so my residents can see how it might affect me."

However, Labour's Karina Carter said she had personally had some 'distressing experiences'. "And I know I'm not alone," she said.

"I have long held that I wouldn't want my address in the public domain. I went through a long period when my husband worked away and I was by myself with my children, people knew where I lived and it was very frightening."

She said she had a colleague who wouldn't stand for the council because she was a foster carer and didn't want her address to be published." Green Coun Geraldine Coggins said the ban should blanket so that the public wouldn't think a councillor withholding their address would be 'suspicious'.

And Labour's Sophie Taylor said she 'wholeheartedly disagreed' with Councillors Bunting and Holden. "I think we should be afforded privacy," she said.

"I don't see that not having our addresses published is any barriet to being an effective councillor.

"In all my other professional roles as a public servant through and through my address is not at the disposal of other people."