TOWN and county councillors in Devizes and across Wiltshire have been issued with new personal safety instructions following the murder of Sir David Amess – including advice to carry personal alarms, use a password to call for help or simply scream.

It was thought only MPs had been instructed how to tighten security following the attack on their colleague, but Devizes councillor Iain Wallis has confirmed town and Wiltshire Councillors have been given advice on how to protect themselves.

“Both Wiltshire Council and the Conservative party sent practical advice to councillors within hours on how to remain safe when holding surgeries,” said Cllr Wallis.

The advice from the Conservative Councillors’ Association and the Local Government Association is that from now on councillors should not hold ward surgeries with the public if they are alone in an otherwise empty building and they should sit nearest to the door so that they can flee if they feel threatened or are attacked.

Councillors have been advised on everything from seating angles to making sure there are no heavy items in the room that could be used as weapons.

The associations advise councillors to consider having an alarm system installed in rooms used for surgeries, to make sure that visitors cannot lock the door from the inside and, if they feel intimidated, to have a pre-established codeword to let a colleague know they need emergency police assistance.

Councillors are instructed to invest in a handheld personal security alarm and to carry it with them on any visits to an electors’ home, where they are instructed to stand well back after knocking on the door and to check for any dogs or potential weapons before entering.

“Assess the situation and mood of the resident and note any other people in the property and their mood. If in any doubt or you feel threatened, do not enter, make an excuse and leave; back out rather than turning your back on the resident,” the advice says.

“If you are unable to leave immediately when a serious situation occurs, you can place defensive barriers between yourself and the resident, set off your personal alarm, if you have one, or scream or shout to attract the attention of others. The use of reasonable force to protect yourself can be a last resort.”

Cllr Wallis said: “I do not support the introduction of physical barriers such as metal detectors or security guards at meetings or surgeries but I do feel that all sensible precautions should be taken to reduce risk and protect each other.

“We have been advised to take steps such as ensure we are not alone in buildings, have an assistant where practical, think about room layout, and record and report any incidents of unacceptable behaviour.

“I think as well as doing these very sensible things we also need to ask the public for help and encourage them to come and meet with us and engage as the more contact we have the more likely we are to be able to communicate with each other and avoid the misunderstandings which can lead to the build-up of unpleasant behaviour and hate.”