To be Gagged or not to be Gagged

Rochford District Council is putting forward, for members approval, a Social Media Policy for Councillors at the next Full Council meeting on 12 December.  At first sight this might seem uncontentious, Councillors should abide by a Policy as should any member of an organisation, however when reading it carefully it appears to put a great many restrictions on what Councillors can say.

The following paragraph at first seems acceptable until you pick it apart, I have underlined the problem areas.

  • Don’t • use social media in any way to attack, insult, abuse, defame or otherwise make negative, offensive or discriminatory comments about council staff, service users, their family or friends, colleagues, other professionals, other organisations, or the council

It includes a statement which means a Councillor cannot make a negative comment about the Council or other organisations.  If I as a Councillor cannot make negative comments about the Council how can I hold it too account if I disagree with a policy or the direction it is taking?  Would I even be able to disagree with any of the proposals in the New Local Plan as I did with the old one?

This goes against something called the 7 Nolan Principles which state how Councillors should act.  The seventh principle states

“Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.”

I, and many other Councillors are wondering how we can uphold these principle if a Policy effectively gags us from making negative comments about the Council.

I have requested that this policy is withdrawn from the Full Council Agenda and is instead taken up by the Standards Committee to refine the Policy so that it does not restrict Councillors in the job they should be doing, I await the Councils decision.

It would seem that if this policy is passed on the 12th I would be unable to even write something like this.

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2 thoughts on “To be Gagged or not to be Gagged

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    If a conscientious local councillor is going to do their job effectively, there will be times when they have to highlight the shortcomings of council officers on social media. Something that should be expected in the name of transparency and accountability. Well, Rochford District Council have other ideas with a proposal for a Social Media Policy that effectively acts as a gagging order on their councillors. All of this goes to back up our argument that the system of local governance we have to endure is simply not fit for purpose…

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