A GOVERNMENT proposal to remove council candidates’ addresses from ballot papers amid growing fears that intimidation could harm the democratic process has received a mixed reception.

Former Spennymoor councillor John Marr, whose home was daubed with a death threat in the run-up to elections last year, said the plan to only inform voters whether the candidate lived locally was flawed.

He said despite being horrified by finding the letters RIP written in weedkiller on his lawn and the words “step down or die” on his kitchen window as he was standing for re-election for the seventh time, it was vital that residents were aware of where councillors lived, as some may not contactable by email.

The proposal follows the Committee on Standards in Public Life finding while intimidation in public life is nothing new, the scale and intensity of intimidation is now shaping public life in ways which are a serious issue.

As a result, the Prime Minister has set out plans to bring forward legislation to remove the requirement for candidates standing as councillors in local elections to have their addresses published on ballot papers, in time for local elections in May next year.

Candidates will still be able to list a home address if they wish under the proposed legislation, which is in line with the approach in place for UK parliamentary elections, in which candidates have not had to include their home addresses on ballot papers since May 2010.

The measure builds on work following the 2016 Pickles review on tightening up the definition of intimidation during elections.

Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith said: “We can’t let intimidation of our candidates, campaigners, the public and those that serve us continue unchecked.

“Our democracy is a tolerant and inclusive one. By avoiding giving out personal information that can be abused and legislating against intimidation of candidates and their campaigners we can make public life more accessible to all who want to participate.”

Veteran Darlington Borough councillor Doris Jones said it was clear intimidatory behaviour towards councillors had risen markedly since she was first elected to the authority in 1983.

Cllr Jones said: “You have to be pretty tough if you put yourself up for this sort of thing and expect to be contacted by people who don’t agree with your principles, but you are entitled to some protection from cranks. I think it’s wrong that a person’s home and family should be jeopardised in this way and it has got to be a candidate’s choice how much personal information they give out.”

Councillor Caroline Patmore, chair of North Yorkshire County Council’s standards committee, which is due t examine the proposal, said publishing candidates’ addresses had become outdated as the vast majority of people used email. She said she had also concerns about councillors’ phone numbers being published on websites, saying they could be made available by councils on request.

Cllr Patmore said it was important for many councillors that their personal details get greater protection. She added: “In the early part of this century they even wanted our signatures on the website, which was absolutely crazy – nobody had given it any thought.”