Cumbrian council to debate extreme measures to protect councillors

Hiring security guards for town council meetings and police training for councillors on personal security and protection could also be on the cards.

Councillors are set to discuss the extreme proposals at a Whitehaven Town Council meeting on Thursday.

Coun Brian O'Kane, mayor of Whitehaven, said the item is on the agenda at the request of a councillor who has concerns over health and safety.

Pepper or mace spray were put forward in a council report as a possible option for councillors' personal security and protection. However, Coun Brian O'Kane has since confirmed that these substances are illegal.

"While they are illegal they may be substituted for a dye-type spray," he said.

A report to councillors states: "An issue has been raised regarding councillor security and protection both inside and outside council meetings and it has been stated that there should be some form of security and/ or protection for councillors both inside and outside of the meeting."

The clerk has responsibility for health and safety matters in the workplace and individual councillors have "a duty of care to themselves under health and safety regulations", the report says.

It adds: "There can be no liability on the council for the security or protection of councillors once they have left the building. If anything happens to a councillor outside then that councillor should report it to the police."

The council usually holds its meetings at Whitehaven Civic Hall or at the Whitehaven United Reformed Church Hall.

"The civic hall foyer has CCTV cameras and there is also a radio link to the police.

In the United Reformed Church there is neither," the report says.

Possible courses of action in the report include seeking online advice about stalking as well as looking at advice given to other councils.

The report states: "The cost of employing a security guard for council meetings could cost approximately GBP35 per hour and would include escorting councillors off the premises. It would cost considerably more for close personal protection."

"There are police recommended alarms which costs between GBP5 and GBP10; there are also electronic personal alarms costing between GBP10 and GBP20 and pepper/mace sprays costing between GBP10 and GBP23.

"The police could be asked if they would give councillors a training session of personal security/ protection," it adds.

Councillors are being recommended to consider the options and courses of action to be taken. The meeting will be held at Whitehaven Civic Hall at 6.30pm on Thursday.

A Cumbria Police spokesman said: "It is an offence to be in possession of pepper spray.

We have contacted the town council to make them aware of this and offered suitable advice."

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