Barnsley Council leader advised to ‘change route to work’ by police after person shows up outside home and ‘refuses wife and children entry’

A Yorkshire council has revealed the scale of online abuse its councillors have received – including one member of the public showing up to the council leader’s home.

During a Barnsley Council meeting on February 2, Council leader Sir Steve Houghton revealed he had experienced a member of the public outside his house, refusing his wife and children entry. Coun Houghton also stated that the police had advised him to change his route to work.

The leader told the meeting: “This council does a lot of things, and the people of Barnsley have always got a right to disagree with that. What people don’t have the right to do, without any evidence, is to suggest this council, or indeed individual councillors, are somehow corrupt. I’ve had a ward college who is sat here with me today beaten up.

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“We’ve got a colleague who has spoken here today who currently has security on her home because of threats of violence towards her. Councillor Lamb has had threats to himself personally, which is one of the reasons he’s passionate about this.

Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton.Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton.
Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton.

“I’ve had that – someone who blocked off the street to refuse my wife and children entrance to my property – he went even further and wouldn’t let the neighbours in to theirs either. I’ve had drone footage of my property put on social media, pointing out to those who might be interested, where I live.

“I’ve had advice from the police saying on occasion I must change my route into this town hall, for the safety of myself and potentially my family. I’ll not have a line crossed, whether for my family or indeed any other member of this council’s family. It’s not acceptable.”

The issue was raised by Coun Chris Lamb, who read out social media posts which contained ‘threats, corruption and electoral fraud’.

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Coun Lamb added: “This isn’t about knock about fun, this isn’t about banter. Go and ask the families of Jo Cox and David Amess. If in society we think its ok to abuse, to threaten and to attack because of politics, where next?

History tells us that of the democratic space becomes threatening or uncomfortable, it drives people out. It’s therefore our job to challenge it, and to call it out.”

The leaders of all political parties on Barnsley Council signed a pledge during November’s full council meeting as part of the authority’s “no place for hate” campaign, which aims to create safe online communities and crack down on abuse.

The pledge encourages everyone to behave positively online and to ‘play their part in developing supportive, inclusive online communities’.

Coun Pauline Markham told the meeting: “I think it’s alarming what Councillor Lamb read out today. These kind of remarks whip up the media. This can result in people being killed or attacked.”