PARISH council chairman Ginny Sherman has been verbally abused, subjected to threats and intimidation and has even been shunned in the street by fellow villagers.

Now she’s stepping down at the next local elections in May after faithfully serving the village of Keevil for 22 years.

She’s just had enough of the personal abuse she’s had to suffer from some villagers since being re-elected in May 2017.

She’s been accused of being selfish, aggressive, unwilling to listen, incredibly irresponsible and has had her personal integrity called into question.

“I’m not a person who cries but some of the abuse has certainly been hurtful and has made me very upset,” said Mrs Sherman.

“Every meeting that we go to there is a climate of fear and I would approach it with real nervousness.

“Sometimes, I get so nervous that I’m unable to sleep the night before and occasionally I’ve had to take sleeping pills.”

Mrs Sherman, of Martins Close, was speaking as more than 2,000 candidates prepare to submit their nomination papers in April to contest 2,118 seats on 253 town and parish councils across Wiltshire.

She has been chairman of Keevil Parish Council since May 2018 after two previous chairman, Andrea Hunter and Geoff West, both resigned within the first year of being elected, along with two other councillors, Michael Abraham and Graeme Collins.

Mrs Sherman told a meeting on Monday evening: “What was for more than 20 years previously a privilege and a pleasure, although at times demanding, has become a very unpleasant duty, open to consistent criticism and nitpicking and to abuse, both verbal and written.

“I was appointed to this position and was determined to see it through but I am no longer willing to give up the substantial time needed to carry out this position conscientiously.

“To be criticised, verbally attacked and shunned in the street by my fellow villagers simply because I am one of a group of volunteers who merely made a decision that a few others did not agree with.”

She added: “Keevil is a small village with about 300 people on the electoral roll and I know most of them. But some people have turned their back on me or walked by on the other side of the road.”

“What is also worrying in a way is that I’ve been accused of saying things that I didn’t and then it becomes their word against yours, even to the extent of denying minutes!

“It seems to be organised and coordinated and deliberately planned to cast doubt on any action taken by the council - often based upon misinformation.

“This subsequently wastes enormous amounts of time trying to correct misunderstanding of both procedure and actions.”

Mrs Sherman says her husband Jim has urged her to give up many times during the past four years.

“It has caused a lot of dissent in our household. I’ve thought of resigning several times during the past four years but I am not a quitter.”

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, last July issued guidance on civility and warned the rising tide of personal abuse risks putting off candidates from standing for election.

It says councillors are increasingly being abused, verbally, through emails and online, as well as being threatened and intimidated physically, on the phone and on social media.

Wiltshire Council declined to speculate on how many councillors might quit within the first year of being elected in May.

But there are currently 31 vacancies on local councils. In 2020 there were 201, in 2019 there were 204, in 2018 there were 191 and in 2017 there were 125. The council is unable to provide a breakdown of why there are so many vacancies, but they are mostly due to resignations, deaths or non-attendance.

Candidates must submit their papers by 4pm on Thursday, April 8.