On March 2nd, Oxford City Council approved a recommendation to hold conflict awareness training for its members.
This is meant to help ensure the safety of councillors ahead of the upcoming May elections.
In response to a Cherwell request for comment, the council said that the training was instituted for concerns of safety.
The council’s statement said: “Oxford City Council takes the safety of its councillors very seriously.”
“Guidance on conflict awareness will be offered to candidates in the forthcoming May elections to help minimise the possibility of anyone being put at risk during pre-election canvassing.”
The proposal that councillors undergo this training outlined the threat to safety councillors face during an election season.
The report states that personal safety is “a significant issue for members at present.” In past elections, councillors have faced threats to safety while canvassing and performing electoral activities.
Last year, a Conservative candidate who was passing out leaflets in Bristol was aggressively pushed against a wall.
In October, petrol bombs were thrown outside the home of a councillor in Dewsbury. In 2018, a councillor in Oxford had to have minor surgery after being bitten by a dog while passing out leaflets.
The conflict awareness training will occur in March in preparation for the May elections, when councillors will be canvassing.
All 48 Oxford City Council seats are going to be contested in the May election. The council’s report states that the offer for training will be open to all the candidates who are standing for election in May – approximately 200 candidates. The training sessions will be delivered to groups of up to 15 members and the cost of each session is £500.
The recommendation for conflict awareness training also states that further training should be completed after the 2020 elections and that it should continue to occur in March of each year prior to other city council elections.
In addition to holding training sessions, the council has also reissued its guidance form on personal safety.
This guidance form discusses how to spot the warning signs for a possible threat to personal safety and what steps should be taken to prepare to canvass.
This guidance also recommends members to consult the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a nonprofit that specialises in safety training, and the government’s Health and Safety Executive for external resources.