Local councillors overwhelmingly oppose smacking ban, survey suggests

• 213 of 1,245 Welsh councillors responded (17 per cent)
• 8 in 10 support use of reasonable chastisement
• 7 in 10 against smacking being criminalised
• 9 in 10 say councils unable to cope with ban
• 8 in 10 say social workers unable to cope with ban

A survey of Welsh councillors reveals huge opposition to a smacking ban, with more than 7 in 10 opposed to a ban, and 9 in 10 saying councils do not have the resources to cope with one.

The survey, covering more than 200 councillors across the political spectrum, found that 8 in 10 respondents support the use of reasonable chastisement, and 7 in 10 do not think smacking should be a criminal offence.

Further analysis showed opposition was consistent across party lines, with a majority of councillors who responded from each of the main parties saying parents should be allowed to use reasonable chastisement with their children:
– Labour (59%)
– Plaid (65%)
– Conservative (100%)
– Lib Dem (56%)
– Independent (90%)

Respondents to the survey included 68 Labour, 37 Plaid Cymru, 17 Conservative, 9 Lib Dem, and 61 Independent councillors, with others preferring not to share their party affiliation. The make-up of respondents by party roughly reflects party affiliation across councils in Wales.

The findings indicate a stark divide between the views of local politicians and Members of the Welsh Assembly, who voted to progress the Government’s smacking ban bill in September this year.

Campaign group Be Reasonable said the survey proves the Welsh Assembly Government is out-of-step with those it expects to implement its legislation. Spokesman Jamie Gillies commented:

“We have long known the Welsh Government is out of touch with the public on this issue. Now it seems the Government is out of touch with the people tasked with implementing its proposal – local councillors. Like the Welsh public, the majority of councillors responding said reasonable chastisement should be allowed, and felt parents should not be criminalised for smacking their children.

“Interestingly, this is true across political lines, with the majority of Labour, Conservative, Plaid, Lib Dem and Independent councillors who responded supporting the right of parents to use reasonable chastisement. When significant numbers of Labour councillors oppose a bill brought forward by the Labour Government, this should come as a wakeup call to ministers.”

The survey also highlights deep concern over implementation of a ban at local authority level. A staggering 9 in 10 councillors said they do not believe their council has sufficient resources to cope with additional pressures brought about by a smacking ban, whilst 8 in 10 said social work teams would fail to cope with additional caseloads.

Almost 8 in 10 councillors felt that the Government should finance the implications of a smacking ban “as fully as necessary over time” and provide “public assurances that no other frontline services will be affected as a consequence of the Bill diverting resources”.

These recommendations, made by the Welsh Assembly Children, Young People and Education Committee during scrutiny of the Government’s plans, were rejected by Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan.

Mr Gillies continued: “The vast majority of councillors who completed the survey felt local authorities will not cope with additional pressures brought about by a change in the law. Crucially, social workers – who are already cracking under the pressure of identifying and helping vulnerable children – are also thought to be unable to cope. This should tell ministers that their plans are simply not feasible.

“Many councillors seem aghast at the prospect of a smacking ban which would tie up social workers, deplete local authority resources and affect services for years to come when there is no reliable evidence to show that mild physical discipline is harmful to children. It’s seen as a waste of resources at a time of austerity and hard margins.”

Be Reasonable asked 1,245 councillors in Wales to participate in an anonymous survey on the Government’s smacking plans. 213 responses were collected between 19 November and 03 December (17 percent of local councillors in Wales).