• Social media policy could gag councillors

    23rd July 2013 | News | Claire
  • David Mason, independent standards committee member, who is also a parish councillor on Rockbeare Parish Council, suggested that the sentence: “You must not make any comment or post material that may cause damage to the council’s reputation or bring it into disrepute” may be used against “certain people” who do not have views that accord with the council.

    Cllr Mason went on to give an example of councillors who were not in agreement of EDDC’s Local Plan, for example.

    Officers said that the policy was not designed to gag councillors. 

    Cllr Peter Bowden (con) worried about the wording inhibiting “whistle blowing.” An officer confirmed that provisions for whistle blowing were already in the code of conduct.

    Cllr Susie Bond (ind) asked whether she might fall foul of the rules if she wrote a blog post that gave a view that did not agree with the meeting. 

    An officer said that the “controversy” that had arisen to date involved quoting someone which others then questioned the accuracy of.

    She said problems had been caused when every single comment had been attempted to be captured, which was difficult unless the meeting was recorded, describing the situation as a “minefield.”  The officer said that there was no problem with members giving a view.

    Cllr Peter Bowden (con) said how a councillor disagreed with an issue in a public place such as a blog was an issue, as was “misrepresentation.” 

    “It is about how you write your blog – you must do so with respect,” emphasised Cllr Bowden.

    Chairman, Graham Godbeer (con) added:  “This is the very nature of the debate.”

    Cllr Godbeer (con) asked whether Cllr Mason was now reassured over his concerns on gagging.

    Cllr Mason replied that he was still concerned about the potential for a “gagging clause” and he would “see how it turns out.”

    A number of minor amendments to the policy as a result of the standards committee meeting, were circulated to councillors by the committee’s clerk, this afternoon, in preparation for tomorrow’s full council meeting.

    The social media policy is set to be adopted by EDDC’s full council meeting tomorrow evening (Wednesday). 

    It is unclear why the policy, which was only debated at standards committee for the first time this morning, is the only item from the meeting being fast-tracked to tomorrow’s full council.

    The social media policy can be found at the end of the council papers here – http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/council_agenda_240712_-_combined_pdf.pdf