Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Council Leader wrong over twitter ban says legal officer

Cornwall Council's Monitoring Officer has written to all councillors to say the following:

"Blogging and Tweeting from Council meetings

You will be aware that the Leader indicated at the last meeting of the Cabinet on 25 January that blogging and tweeting from meetings of the Council was covered by the Broadcasting Code of Practice (“the Code”) approved at the last meeting of Council on 17 January and that prior approval for undertaking such activity was required in accordance with the Code.

At the request of the Leader, I have reviewed the position and although the issue is arguable, I am satisfied that, on balance, the Code does not apply to such activities and Members do not require prior approval.

However, this issue has generated considerable comment and debate about the use of blogging and tweeting and the impact that such activities and use of ICT generally during meetings has upon the reputation of the Council and the effective conduct of meetings.

I anticipate, therefore, that a report will be brought to the Council meeting on 27 March considering whether any form of protocol or guidelines should be introduced to address some of the concerns expressed by Members whilst ensuring that the benefits of such activity are maintained.

In the meantime, Members are reminded that the Code of Conduct covers blogging and tweeting as much as all other conduct whilst acting in their capacity as a Member."

In short - Council Leader Alec Robertson was wrong to arbitrarily 'ban' tweeting and blogging in council meeting as he claimed to two weeks ago. And whilst the Monitoring Officer says that the issue is arguable, it seem pretty clear that if the Leader wanted to take action then he should have at least consulted with the council's top legal officer before bringing the council into such disrepute by seeking to become Cornwall's censor-in-chief.*

I welcome the chance to discuss the use of computers and other devices as well as blogs and social media as part of the council meeting next month. It will give members a chance to showcase how council meetings and decisions are improved by being in touch with our electorate during debates. It will also enable us to highlight the appalling double standards of the Leader himself who showed such disrespect to members of the public and to important issues by prioritising lobbying for awards above key issues such as safeguarding. He then had the nerve to attack those of us who commented on this in a forum where we were not permitted to answer back.

* Not just my opinion. According to Western Morning News Deputy News Editor Scott Harrison:
Sad thing about meeting's many good points is they are now lost to story about new Twitter ban. Blame Alec.

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