Thursday, August 1, 2013
There are concerns that new rules being drawn up could restrict what elected councillors can say online.
But district councillors deferred a decision on the policy for blogs and sites such as Facebook and Twitter until September.
The proposals were reviewed at a specially convened standards meeting on Tuesday, but various drafts of the document caused confusion among members at the subsquent full council meeting the next day. Councillor Roger Giles was concerned about a restriction on members discussing ‘sensitive matters’ as that could cover a broad range of topics.
“It’s completely ridiculous – we are a council, we talk about sensitive matters,” he said.
“No councillors would be able to talk about the relocation of Knowle – it’s complete nonsense and needs to come out.”
Cllr Claire Wright said she was worried that attempts to prevent councillors bringing the council into disrepute through their comments online could be used as a ‘gagging clause’.
She was told by Cllr Mark Williamson that the clause referred to official channels rather than their private accounts, but different versions of the agenda made this detail unclear. The standards committee drew up the policy to make communication more effective among residents, including harder to reach groups.
Cllr Ray Bloxham said the council could no longer go without a social media policy, as the online environment was ‘constantly changing’.
The document warns that there are ‘new ways to misfire with your message’ and risk being misunderstood.
It is also intended to make clear when an employee, councillor or contractor is speaking on their own behalf or that of the council.
Chairman Graham Godbeer said: “We tried to get the amendments through in time, knowing a debate was going to take place.
“If there are a number of further details we are not satisfied with, there is no alternative but to take it back to standards in September.”