Agenda item

New Website and Media Strategy

To consider any standards implications.


The Marketing and Communications Officer gave a report on the guidance to staff using Social Media networks.


He said that Social Media was becoming one of the dominant forms of communication and was a good way of keeping in touch with constituents; useful for consultation purposes, gathering information and cross constituency working.  It could be used as an additional tool rather than a replacement for other methods.


Social Media helped to engage with people on a number of levels, particularly groups that were currently left out such as young people or the retired.


There were numerous examples of Councillors already using Social Media but it was important that where people were identified as Councillors they must follow the Code of Conduct as the same standards would apply.


There would be two levels of Council sites: those set up by individuals for personal use and the Council site where certain messages could appear but with restricted access.


Use of Breckland Council computers by Councillors was governed by the terms of use for internet access, which all Members had signed.  Use of the equipment for personal or political reasons was restricted. 


Members felt there was a danger of undermining the Council’s ICT policy by using the Social Media sites and that a change in the policy would be needed to enable Councillors to use the Council’s equipment.  The Marketing and Communications Officer said that he would look into this.<1>


The Marketing and Communications Officer pointed out that as soon as a message was posted on a Social Media site it no longer belonged to the sender but became the property of the company running the site.


It was intended that the Breckland Social site and new website would be launched at the same time and both would be operational by 31 August 2010. The Social site would be manned during working hours; otherwise messages would be left so that customers were informed that their matter would be dealt with during office hours.


The Solicitor referred Members to the Blogging Quick Guide, produced by Standards for England.  The IDeA guide (pages 17/18) provided advice about how the legal difficulties and pitfalls could be avoided and how the Members’ Code of Conduct applied.


The need for training was raised and the Marketing and Communications Officer said that he had provided workshops to businesses which had been well received and that a programme of Workshops for officers was being rolled out in June/July.  It was felt that the training should be made available for Members and that examples of the pitfalls should be included in the training.  Having ‘buddy’ groups to mentor/advise Members would be beneficial. 


The Standards Officer suggested that part of the Workshop should involve Standards training, particularly in relation to how the Code of Conduct applied to Councillors using Social Media sites.


The Marketing and Communications Officer informed Members that the Council’s Social site would be monitored but this would only screen information in the public domain.  It was not possible to screen content before it was posted and therefore rigorous training would be given to staff to emphasise the fact that there was no return once a message was sent.


The Solicitor was concerned about the use of the Council’s equipment and potential problems of liability for the Council.  He suggested that Councillors should be advised to use a disclaimer and the Marketing and Communications Officer said that one could be designed for each individual site if Members wanted.


In conclusion it was suggested that the following areas needed to be addressed:


(1)               Clarification of the Terms and Conditions of use of the Council’s computer equipment by Councillors for Social Media communication.


(2)               Investigation of the inclusion of a disclaimer on each individual’s Social Media sites.


(3)               Standards training, emphasising that the Code of Conduct applied when individuals were representing the Council and/or commenting in their capacity as a Councillor when using Social Media sites.


The Chairman thanked the Marketing and Communications Officer for his presentation.