Councillor Michael Hoy Challenges the Proposed Social Media Conduct Policy.

7 December 2017

Green Councillor Michael Hoy, deputy leader for the Green and Rochford District Residents Group, recently brought to light a proposed policy for planned rules of conduct for Rochford District Councillors on Social Media.

The Policy, which could result in Councillors being unable to condemn or criticise Rochford District Council is being likened to a gagging order by some Councillors.

 

Councillor Hoy took to his blog to voice his thoughts:



"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 principles 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I have requested that this policy is withdrawn from the Full Council Agenda and is instead taken up by the Standards Committee to refine the Policy so that it does not restrict Councillors in the job they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."


 

"The South Essex Green Party is opposed to any measure that threatens the democratic rights of any elected official, and we do not support this proposition from Rochford District Council.
We wholely affirm our commitment to reducing any abuse directed at council staff, and we support measures that secure this, but, we strongly believe that Councillors elected to hold the Council to account should be free and able to voice opposition and openly criticise the organisation they represent."


 

Sections of this article were originally published on Councillor Michael Hoy's blog 'A Green Read.'
The original article is published here:
https://mikehullbridge.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/to-be-gagged-or-not-to-be-gagged/

 

Further Reading:
http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/15702510.Fears_councillors_will_be____gagged____on_social_media/