Council leader reassures residents following Salisbury poisoning

Canterbury City Council leader Simon Cook has spoken out to reassure people following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK.

Cllr Cook, who also leads the Conservative group, said the council fully supported the Government’s actions in the wake of the attack earlier this month, which has left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia critically ill in hospital.

Authorities believe they were deliberately poisoned by a nerve agent thought to have been produced in Russia and more than 250 counter-terrorism police officers are now involved in the investigation. Det Sgt Nick Bailey, who was one of the first on the scene, also remains in hospital although his condition is no longer critical.

Cllr Cook, who represents Nailbourne ward, said: "Many people have said they are concerned about the security threat posed by Russia, as well as the ongoing threat of terrorism following last year’s atrocities in London and Manchester.

"I can understand their concerns and I would like to reassure residents that their council takes issues such as this very seriously.

"We have plans in place and work closely with the police and other authorities to identify threats and the best ways to minimise them. There is no evidence of any specific threat to Canterbury but I would urge people to remain vigilant and to report anything suspicious to Kent Police."

The poisoning prompted Prime Minister Theresa May to announce that Russia had ‘threatened the public safety’ of Britons and led to a wave of international sanctions against Russia.

Cllr Cook said he and his Conservative colleagues fully supported Mrs May’s approach and called on the city’s Labour MP to do the same.

He said: "People’s safety is what is important here. Canterbury’s Labour MP has already been forced to apologise after she was called out for accepting money to appear on Russia Today, a channel with close links to the Kremlin.

"Her leader has been luke-warm at best in backing the Government’s efforts to tackle the situation and has been criticised by his own MPs for his stance on the issue.

"We would all welcome our MP’s thoughts on this matter and I look forward to hearing her confirm her support for Mrs May and the Conservative Government in its efforts to keep us all safe."

The EU has also offered the UK "unqualified solidarity" and has called on Russia to release details of its chemical weapons programme. Diplomatic sanctions have already been imposed and Mrs Mary said the Government is now considering its next steps.