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Calls for respect in local elections amid rising levels of abuse

THE Local Government Association (LGA) has joined forces with the Electoral Commission and the Jo Cox Foundation to call for no abuse towards candidates at this set of local elections.

The organisations have urged voters to treat candidates in the upcoming local elections with dignity and respect and to not engage in behaviour that may constitute harassment or intimidation.

The call comes amid concern about the growing levels of abuse and intimidation aimed towards local Councillors which can become heightened during election campaigns.

Recent LGA research found that 75% of Councillors in England and Wales have experienced some form of intimidation or abuse during the 2023 local election campaign.

A survey by the Electoral Commission also revealed that 24% of candidates at the last set of local elections experienced someone intentionally making them feel unsafe. 12% of those who experienced harassment reported this to the Police.

The LGA, which represents Councils in England and Wales, is warning that rising levels of abuse towards local politicians is a threat to democracy and is potentially putting off good talented people from becoming Councillors.

Levels of abuse and intimidation aimed at Councillors have been increasing, with 82% of Councillors feeling personally at risk in 2023, up 9% from the year before.

This has prompted the LGA to launch its Debate Not Hate campaign to help to tackle the issue. The campaign aims to raise public awareness of the role of Councillors in their communities, encourage healthy debate and improve the responses and support for local politicians facing abuse and intimidation.

Although the majority of abuse is at a low level, a growing number of Councillors have experienced more severe abuse, including stalking and threats of violence, some of which has resulted in criminal prosecutions.

Cllr Marianne Overton, Chair of the LGA's Civility in Public Life Steering Group, said:- "Being a Councillor is 1 of the most unique and rewarding roles you can have. It's really important that everyone participating in these local elections are treated with respect, focussing on the debate itself and free of abuse and intimidation. It is profoundly disturbing to hear reports of Councillors being harassed and intimidated whilst doing their job. It cannot become the norm that Councillors need to install CCTV and panic alarms in their houses to feel safe whilst fulfilling their democratic duty. Anyone, regardless of their background or political affiliation, should feel safe to become a Councillor. We must do all we can to stamp out abuse from public life and encourage healthy debate if we are to safeguard the future of our local democracy."

Louise Edwards, Director of Regulation and Digital Transformation at the Electoral Commission, said:- "The safety and security of candidates and elected representatives is of paramount importance, and it should go without saying that there is no place in a democracy for abuse or intimidation of those who participate in elections. Yet our research shows that candidates standing for election experience abuse, threatening behaviour and intimidation during their campaigns - both on social media and in person. No 1 should be dissuaded from running for fear of abuse during a campaign. It benefits all voters for there to be a wide and diverse pool of candidates to choose from, so it's important that candidates feel safe. We will be working with parties and campaigners ahead of the elections this year to understand their experiences, ensure they understand how to report abuse and to discuss the standards of behaviour that all candidates should be able to expect."

Su Moore, CEO of the Jo Cox Foundation said:- "Abuse and intimidation of elected politicians is a threat to democracy in this country. The Jo Cox Civility Commission call to action, published earlier this year, has a clear set of recommendations that, if implemented, can make a genuine impact on this serious issue at a national and local level. We fully support the Local Government Association's Debate Not Hate campaign, and their call for respect during the forthcoming election."

Elections will take place on:- Thursday, 2 May 2024, in 107 Councils, as well as combined authority elections in:- Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley and the West Midlands. There will also be elections for the London Mayoralty, the Greater London Authority Assembly and Police and Crime Commissioners.

Voters will be expected to bring a form of identification to be able to vote. The full list of accepted ID can be found here.

The LGA produced a toolkit,:- '7 principles for safer canvassing A guide for Councillors and candidates' which is available on the LGA's website.

World leading placemakers to redefine Liverpool's waterfront story

A team of international placemaking experts has been appointed to help set out the future vision for developing Liverpool's world famous waterfront.

Highly acclaimed urban design and landscape architecture firm, West 8, together with BDP, have been chosen by Liverpool City Council to work on creating an ambitious and visionary plan for Liverpool's iconic waterfront over the next 25 years.

Between them, these multidisciplinary companies bring experience of helping to design and develop major waterfront regeneration projects in:- New York, Toronto, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Hamburg and Rotterdam.

West 8 is an award-winning international office for urban design and landscape architecture. Headquartered in the port City of Rotterdam, West 8 has studios in the Netherlands, North America and Belgium.

Working internationally for over 35 years, West 8 has established itself as a leading practice with a diverse and multidisciplinary team of over 70:- landscape architects, urban designers, engineers, industrial designers and ecologists. Responsible for countless world class, memorable, and timeless destinations, West 8 has extensive experience in the design and delivery of waterfronts around the world including New York, Toronto, Madrid and Hong Kong.

BDP is an internationally regarded practice of:- Architects, Engineers, Urban Designers, Planners, Acousticians, Lighting Designers and Landscape Architects. Founded in 1961, they have a significant track record in Liverpool designing and delivering the Liverpool 1 masterplan, the redevelopment of Aintree Racecourse, the new Alder Hey Hospital and Everton FC's new stadium. BDP, which has offices in Europe, Asia and North America, has also worked on waterfront projects in Shanghai, Melbourne, Hamburg and Christchurch in New Zealand.

Liverpool's waterfront has been transformed over the past 20 years enabling it to host major international events from European Capital of Culture in 2008 to Eurovision last May, and now draws in millions of new visitors to the City every year. Popular family-friendly events such as the upcoming River of Light arts festival are also seen as a key element in providing an all-year round cultural offer.

More major regeneration projects are due to come to fruition, most notably a potential significant housing scheme at Festival Gardens to the south of the City and Everton's new football stadium at Bramley Moore Dock, to the north.

Liverpool City Council is also close to finalising the design and delivery strategy for Kings Dock's further development, National Museums Liverpool and Tate Liverpool are currently leading on regeneration projects at their Royal Albert Dock buildings, including the historic Canning Dock, and major redevelopment will be coming forward as part of the Liverpool Waters scheme.

Collaborating together, a key task for West 8 and BDP will be to ensure the plan for Liverpool waterfront knits all of these schemes together within a coherent, legible and visionary approach for the future. The team will be supported by consultants at WSP (connectivity and movement) and Ekosgen (social impact).

Nuala Gallagher, Corporate Director of City Development at Liverpool City Council, said:- "Liverpool's waterfront is 1 of the UK's most iconic destinations and 1 of the principal reasons we're 1 of the UK's most visited cities and 1 of the most filmed in Europe. Such is our ambition for the waterfront's future, we need truly world-class experts who lead their fields; and that is exactly what we have in appointing West 8 and BDP and the wider team. I'm thrilled that we've been able to appoint such esteemed urban placemakers to help shape the next chapter in Liverpool's waterfront vision and plan."

Designing with local knowledge, the team will undergo meaningful engagement with Liverpool's communities, residents, and businesses and key stakeholders, such as Liverpool BID Company, Grosvenor, Tate Liverpool, and major land-owners such as Peel Land and Property, National Museum Liverpool, the Canal and River Trust, General Projects, and Liverpool Yacht Club.

Whilst Liverpool's waterfront is a thriving destination there are challenges around inequality and deprivation in adjoining neighbourhoods, and there are disparities between the demographics of the wards along and adjoining the waterfront.

The Council intends that this plan will form part of an approach to ensure developments coming forward are more inclusive, and the strategy will identify key challenges and opportunities for change to maximise benefit for communities along and adjacent the waterfront.

In addition, there are key challenges and opportunities around maximising investment opportunities and economic activity in the docks, connectivity and linkages:- North / South and West / East, public realm and quality of place, conservation and enhancement of the natural and historic environment, as well as climate change and the City's ambition to deliver net zero by 2030.

Samantha Campbell, Director of Planning at Liverpool City Council, said:- "Both West 8 and BDP have a phenomenal track record on designing complex regeneration schemes and have an innate understanding of the role waterfronts have in big cities. Their reputations are truly outstanding and their experience internationally and in Liverpool will be a huge asset to this vital piece of planning development."

Liverpool's draft waterfront plan will have 7 defining aims:-

1. Maximise the waterfront's contribution to the City and City Region's economy.

2. Maximise the benefits of investment along the waterfront and ensure any revitalisation will benefit hinterland communities.

3. Enhance connectivity along the waterfront and in-land, promoting active travel and improving links between key areas of activity along the waterfront and adjacent communities.

4. Ensure the conservation and enhancement of the significance of the City's heritage assets and support the interpretation of Liverpool's distinct historic maritime environment.

5. Inspire excellence in quality of place and urban design, reconnect people with the water and reinforce the waterfront as a great location for business, homes, play, culture and tourism.

6. Identify key infrastructure needed to support the regeneration of the waterfront.

7. Consider environmental improvements and green infrastructure to improve the public realm and deliver sustainable, creative and innovative solutions to address the impact of climate change

David Rudlin, Urban Design Director at BDP, said:- "Liverpool's waterfront strategy is a great opportunity to work on 1 the world's most iconic and recognisable riverside locations. A blend of heritage and innovation will create a place that celebrates the city's rich history, while embracing its potential. BDP has a long affinity with Liverpool as the masterplanner for Liverpool 1 and with the work we have done on Aintree Racecourse and the new Everton Stadium on Bramley Moore Dock. We are very excited to be working with West 8 to maximise the potential of important part of the City fabric."

Martin Biewenga, Partner (and Urban Designer) at West 8, said:- "We are very excited for this marvellous opportunity to start working on Liverpool's phenomenal waterfront. We are inspired by its rich history and heritage, and we see many opportunities to better link Liverpool's diverse communities to the Waterfront and to have their voice heard. Working together, our goal is to create a welcoming and green vision for the waterfront that thrives - no matter the weather! The waterfront is a place for all."

The next intended steps will see the final waterfront plan will be taken forward for adoption as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).

This SPD would be informed by Liverpool's Local Plan, which was adopted in 2022, and will complement surrounding masterplans that are being used to guide the development of neighbouring areas such as the City's Commercial District and Baltic Quarter.

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