Threats against city council members tripled since 2015
Threats and violence directed at city councilors have tripled in the past years. Despite this, three-quarters of sitting councilors plan to run again in the upcoming municipal elections in March, NOS reports based on a survey of 1,626 of the total over 8,000 city council members in the Netherlands.
Fifteen percent of respondents said they experienced threats or violence in the past term of office, triple compared to a similar survey in 2015. A quarter said that this influenced their functioning, compared to 15 percent in 2015. Female councilors are more likely to be threatened than their male counterparts.
The reasons for the threats or violence are very diverse, ranging from coronavirus restrictions to plans for windmills or solar parks, asylum centers, and Zwarte Piet. Several city councilors said they were threatened or intimidated by the mayor or an alderman. This happened in Hollands Kroon, Den Helder, Zaanstad, Diemen, and Friese Meren, according to the broadcaster.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of councilors plan to run for city council again. This is because they find their work very satisfactory: 64 percent said they are very satisfied, and 21 percent said fairly satisfied with what they achieved.
City councilors who decided not to run again blamed a heavy workload, bad atmosphere in the city council, or family responsibility. When asked about their wishes for the future, the city councilors said they'd like higher compensation, more training, and more support.
According to the Dutch Association for Councilors, the results of the survey show more needs to be done to stimulate the importance of council work and to strengthen councilors' position. "Especially in times when our democracy is under pressure, it is important that council work remains attractive to many residents. Young and old, men and women, and from a wide variety of backgrounds. Democracy is for every citizen."
For most, city council member is a position filled in addition to another job. On average, city councilors spend 16 to 20 hours a week on city council work.