Cllr Steve Curran
A death threat made to councillors has been investigated by police as council leader Steve Curran has warned against “hysteria” being whipped up over controversial traffic changes in Hounslow borough.
A post on social media platform Next Door threatened to shoot councillors who agreed to road changes in the area, adding: “I think it’s time to find out who and where these imbeciles live.”
Another user replied to say their details can be found on the Hounslow Council website.
Traffic changes in Chiswick have faced particular backlash with numerous petitions and thousands of supporters, as the council has sought to introduce its South Chiswick Liveable Neighbourhood scheme and Low Traffic Neighbourhood trials as part of the Government’s initiative to encourage active travel after the pandemic.
Councillor Katherine Dunne, the communities cabinet member who has been among the key decision makers in the process, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Myself, cllr Hanif Khan, cllr Guy Lambert as well as the leader Steve Curran have all been coming under criticism because of the traffic changes, which is absolutely fine…it is all part of democracy, but making threats is not fine.
“I doubt that person actually has a gun but it was very shocking certainly to see that and to see that is someone’s reaction rather than just wanting to raise it through proper channels…
“We’re not really scared people are going to do us some damage [but] it shakes you because you realise that they see you as a role, not as a person.”
As a precaution, councillors’ addresses, which appear on Hounslow Council’s website have been removed under advice from police.
Cllr Curran added that the concern was not over the post itself from a “keyboard warrior” but whether it could act as incitement for others who may have viewed it.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “On Wednesday, 4 November police were made aware of a threat made on social media involving a number of people.
“Officers contacted those involved and carried out enquires to establish who was responsible for posting the message.
“A 59-year-old man from Hounslow was spoken to by officers and subsequently apologised to the victims. No further action will be taken.”
Cllr Dunne is urging residents to engage with the process of consultation on the changes, and says that the council will take everyone’s views into account.
The threat came ahead of a vote of no confidence in council leader cllr Curran, brought by the opposition Conservative group over the changes. Tory members accused the leader of creating a “shambles” of Chiswick’s street scene, of destroying towns and dividing the community.
Tory leader cllr Gerald McGregor has described the road barriers as re-creating the “Berlin Wall” in Chiswick.
Cllr Curran survived the vote with overwhelming backing from his Labour party colleagues.
In a message to residents, he said: “I understand the frustration that the introduction of the Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes and Cycleway 9 has caused some residents in Chiswick. The LTNs were introduced at the direct request of this Government to improve walking and cycling to avoid a car-led recovery and to improve air quality particularly for those most at risk, the young and the elderly.
“These measures are temporary and will be independently reviewed before a final decision is made as to whether they become permanent. If they are not doing what they set out to do, then they will cease or be changed. This was always the intention. As it says on the tin, these were introduced under Temporary Management Orders.
He also accused the Conservative group of fanning the “flames of frustration” with “Trump-like tactics”, to which cllr McGregor responded: “Have Labour lost their senses? This is England, not some unlawful hell hole.”
And on the defeated vote, cllr Curran said: “This whole farce has been a distraction caused by the Tory Councillors playing politics at a time when they should have been concentrating on working with us to beat the pandemic. Our residents and businesses expect nothing less. This was shameful grandstanding on their behalf.”
Cllr McGregor has vowed that the Conservative group will continue to fight for the residents of Chiswick, and “give them back the High Road they love”.
He said: “These restrictions have caused gridlock on Chiswick High Road for both cars and buses. Residential streets have become rat runs or no-go areas.
“Labour have contributed to the demise of local shopping areas, particularly the once vibrant Turnham Green Terrace.
“Many could weep at how Labour has mutilated Chiswick High Road with its tiresome obsession with dogma and its complete ignorance of how our High Road operates.
“Its vibrancy is dependent on all forms of transport including those who choose to walk.
“The tin-eared Labour council has ruined this mix by refusing to listen to residents.”
To have your say on Hounslow’s Streetspace click here.
Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter
November 12, 2020