Councillors in Wyre are being warned against making libellous comments and posting on social media after they have had a drink.
The council has drafted a social media policy – weeks after axed leader Peter Gibson [pictured] made a series of allegations in an email shared on Facebook – though it said the events are not linked.
“Social media is an incredibly powerful method of engagement, which many councillors now use as a platform to enhance their profile and communicate with the public,” the policy says.
“However, there can also be pitfalls, and to help minimise any risk this policy sets out what you need to keep in mind whenever you use social media in your official role as a Wyre councillor.”
Coun Gibson’s email, purportedly sent to all councillors, led to calls for an inquiry, and civic centre chiefs to suspend his council-issued phone and iPad.
And earlier this year, Coun Mike Barrowclough, who represents Rossall on Wyre Council was criticised after referring to Blackpool as a ‘cesspool’. He said his comment was taken out of context.
Councillors will be given a list of dos and don’ts, with dos including keeping posts positive, and ‘engaging in healthy and respectful debate’.
Don’ts include posting in haste, “particularly if your judgement might be impaired (for example, if you have consumed alcohol)”, or using social media to “attack, insult, abuse, defame or make negative or discriminatory comments about anyone.”
There are “no new or additional legal burdens when using social media,” the policy says, but councillors should bear in mind statements they make could fall foul of existing laws.
Councillors have been warned not to make libellous comments, not to breach copyright law by using images or text without permission, not to breach data protection laws by publishing people’s personal data, and to avoid saying anything that could show ‘bias’ or ‘pre-determination’.
The policy has been published online but has yet to be approved.