SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Threats and violence against local councillors by members of the public have tripled since 2015, a survey by broadcaster NOS and the Dutch association for councillors has shown.
Just 1,626 of all 8,000 councillors participated in the survey. Some 15% of the respondents said they had been faced with threats and violence during their last term as councillor, three times as many as in 2015.
That means around 1,200 councillors country wide are affected. ‘I was threatened in front of my kids on the school run because of an issue about moving a pig farm,’ one Noord Brabant councillor said, while a councillor from Eindhoven was attacked in his home and has his windows thrown in.
A councillor from a town in Drenthe had been cornered in a supermarket and told he would be killed. More women than men were the object of threats and intimidation, the survey found.
Issues around wind farms, asylum seeker centres, Black Pete or plans for new houses were mentioned as triggers for the threats.
A majority of councillors (82%) said virtual meetings had made their job less enjoyable during the coronavirus crisis because it meant fewer informal contacts with both fellow councillors and the public.
Despite the increase in threats and coronavirus, three quarters of the councillers said they find the job ‘satisfying’ and would not be deterred from standing again. However, more training, support and pay would be appreciated.
‘The Dutch association for councillors said the survey showed that more needs to be done to make the job attractive to people of all ages and backgrounds. ‘That is extra important when democracy is under pressure’, chair Behreddine Belhaj said.
The next local elections will take place on Wednesday March 16.