Council workers “spat and sworn at” amid COVID-19 crisis

Concerns have been raised about “unacceptable” attacks on council workers carrying out essential duties. Meanwhile, councils are reportedly set on deploying staff to “critical roles” during the coronavirus crisis.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, is calling on the public to respect the “tireless efforts” of council workers – from social care staff to refuse collectors and highways crews to maintenance workers – as they go about their work to keep essential services going for communities while reducing risk during the coronavirus lockdown.

It comes as councils have reported what the LGA has called several “sickening physical and verbal assaults” on council staff, including an incident where a cyclist allegedly “deliberately” rode into a council officer and broke his leg.

Local government workers should always be respected and valued – even more so in these challenging times – when they are needed more than ever

Other council staff – which include recycling workers, park groundskeepers, civil enforcement officers, road engineers and bus drivers taking children of key workers to and from school – have been spat and sworn at, shoved by members of the public, and racially abused, the LGA says.

Cllr James Jamieson, LGA Chairman, said: “Council staff are leading local efforts to support communities through the coronavirus crisis, working day and night to protect communities and keep the services they rely on running.

“Local government workers should always be respected and valued – even more so in these challenging times – when they are needed more than ever.

“It is becoming increasingly concerning to hear that local government workers are being subjected to physical and verbal abuse as they try and play their part in keeping the country running through this crisis.

“This is unacceptable, and it has to stop.”

“Unacceptable incidents”

A cyclist allegedly rode straight at a Southend Council community safety patrol officer and broke his leg. The incident was captured on CCTV and police are investigating.

It is the latest in a line of incidents where council officers including park groundskeepers, civil enforcement officers and community safety patrol officers, have also received verbal abuse, been spat at and pushed, by members of the public, the LGA says.

Workers at household waste and recycling centre run by Swindon Council were spat and sworn at after the site was temporarily restricted to essential recycling only.

School bus drivers and highways staff working for Northamptonshire County Council have been abused while working during the coronavirus lockdown.

A council worker in Bristol was racially abused by a man in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. Police are treating the incident as a hate crime linked to COVID-19.

Redeployment to “critical” roles

The call comes as BBC News today reports that tens of thousands of UK council staff are set to be redeployed in “critical” roles during the coronavirus crisis.

It says councils are now carrying out “skills surveys” to see whether employees can be moved into social care, crematoriums and waste collection.

According to the BBC Shared Data Unit and the Local Democracy Reporting Service, in Bath, employees of the city’s famous Roman baths, museums and galleries are among those set to be redeployed in “critical roles”.

In Tameside, grounds maintenance staff are now working in waste and recycling, BBC News reports state.

Unison, which represents 750,000 council staff across the UK, said it had “particular concern” over people moving into refuse collection and adult social care, BBC News said.

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