FRONT-LINE council staff in Leeds were kicked, punched, bitten, assaulted and verbally abused more than 1,400 times in the last two years, an investigation by the YEP has revealed.
In total, 407 of the 1,411 incidents recorded by Leeds City Council were physically violent - just under a third.
They took place in departments including adult social care, libraries and museums, schools and transport, with bites, kicks, slaps and punches recorded. The city had the largest number of assaults in Yorkshire.
The GMB’s senior organiser for public services for Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, Desiree Wilburn, said: “Nobody should go to work to be abused or attacked. Employers have a duty of care and should have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to any form or abuse in the workplace.”
Unison regional organiser Robin Symonds said it had seen an increase in incidents of violence and aggression towards local authority employees over recent years, “which correlates to the reduction in central government funding and consequent cuts to employee numbers”.
He said: “Public sector workers are the public face of all local councils and all too often bear the brunt of frustration and anger of service users whose expectations remain the same even though their council’s budget has been drastically reduced. Often incidents go unreported and the true extent of the problem is almost certainly even worse than it appears.”
Leeds Council’s executive member for resources and strategy, Coun James Lewis, said it was “fully committed” to ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of its staff and it promoted a culture where any incidences of assault, abuse or aggression were reported.
Most incidents, he said, related to staff who work with and support children or adults with challenging behaviour, and specialist training can include dispute resolution and wearing body cameras.
He said: “Anyone who is affected by violence and aggression is offered support through an independent Employee Assistance Scheme who can offer critical incident support and counselling. This is an area we keep under regular review to allow us to continually look for alternative ways to protect our staff in consultation with trade unions.”