Penarth Town Council has its own Twitter site - and is to have a new set of guidelines governing its use

Penarth Town Council has its own Twitter site – and is to have a new set of guidelines governing its use

Penarth Town Council is developing a new “Social Media Guidance” document which lays down a series of  guidelines –  both for councillors and for council officers – which is to be borne in mind when they are posting comments on social media internet sites like ‘Twitter’ and ‘Facebook’.

In addition to its existing internet website, Penarth Council has its own Twitter and Facebook accounts and a number of councillors also post comments on their own separate personal accounts on both those sites. The new guidelines – currently in draft form – will apply to all such postings.

Amongst other things, the document warns councillors: –

  • “Don’t do anything stupid”
  • “Assume anything you do or say can be seen by everyone”
  • “You shouldn’t state political preferences or say anything that compromises your impartiality”
  • “Do not criticise members,” [ i.e. councillors] “work colleagues or the town council””
  •  “Do not reveal confidential information about Penarth Town Council”
  • “Beware of spreading unconfirmed rumours”
  • “Be polite”

The policy also specifically states that the council’s – and the councillors’ – use of social media must not:-

  • Contain party political material 
  • “Persuade the public to a particular point of view “
  • “Promote the personal image / views of a particular councillor or party“”

Penarth Town Council’s policy and finance committee has been hearing the views of councillors on the new draft document.

Cllr Rhiannon Birch (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Rhiannon Birch (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Rhiannon Birch (Labour Cornerswell) said she didn’t know why Penarth Town Council was writing its own Social Media Policy when there were already such policies available for local government employees . Cllr Birch said the draft Penarth Town Council policy was “not specific enough” .  The document talked about whether or not a social media posting “gave offence” – but it was necessary to be “specific about racism, homophobia, sexism etc.  – and the use of humour” . 

Cllr Birch also said she would like to see the document “boiled down” to a succinct half-page which was short and to the point.

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) pointed out what when communications were made on social media they “used data”. It would be necessary, he said , to make reference –  in the new council guidelines – to the Data Protection Act. There was a need to be very careful when issuing information about people. He thought it would be useful to include “case studies” .

Cllr Wilson added “We are not that far away from elections“. [They are due in May 2017] . It was an opportunity to “remind people who are standing for office about their responsibilities as elected members“. The guidelines would, he said, also be useful for staff as to “what they can and cannot do on social media”. He said the current draft was a “work in progress”.

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) has his own Twitter account

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) has two Twitter accounts

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) noted the stated “responsibility of the website to be impartial”  . He referred to a phrase in the draft guidelines which said “You shouldn’t state your political preferences or say anything that compromises your impartiality“.

Cllr  Thomas said he recognised that this edict applied to the council officers but  said “It isn’t made clear that it doesn’t apply to members” [ i.e. councillors]  “given that we are elected and that we are political animals”. Cllr Thomas said members were elected and needed to make  comments when posting on social media in a personal capacity.

Cllr Thomas said council officers were expected to be impartial –  and be seen to be impartial – whereas members could not be impartial and should not be expected to be.

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) – who also has his own Twitter account with 76 followers – suggested that members should write any comments that they wished to make in the margins of the document and hand it back to the Deputy Town Clerk Keri Hutchings as the “owner” of the document so that they could be incorporated in a modified version.

Cllr Wilson suggested that members could also annotate the document on computer

 Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines)  said he agreed with what had been said. The guidelines were a matter of applying common sense. He said “We can’t – every time something goes wrong – resort to the Malicious Communications Act otherwise it would close down the internet”  and noted that Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” was a play all about “hate crime” and contained “three suicides and at least one murder”.  He said the whole thing should not be taken too seriously – but nevertheless warned councillors that under the law  they had “joint and several responsiblity” for what was published.

First Minister Carwyn Jones today told Labour Party members - including councillors - to "stop trolling"on the internet

First Minister Carwyn Jones today told Labour Party members – including councillors – to “stop trolling”on the internet

The council’s draft  Social Media Guidelines will be debated again at a subsequent meeting.

Meanwhile today Labour’s Leader in Wales, First Minister Carwyn Jones, has told all Labour Party members – including local councillors – to “stop trolling” on the internet  .

Jones said “The booing, the hissing, the name-calling, the trolling, the threats… it has to stop.” 


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  1. Anne Greagsby says:

    Cllrs should be on social media to let their constituents contact them. A few cllrs are active on social media but block anyone who questions their judgment. No prizes for naming the worst offender!

    • Gareth Roberts says:

      Anne, you are right, there are so many twitter accounts where they read like some North Korean propaganda pamphlet. At least on here there is real debate and comments for and against.
      I have given up looking personnel twitter accounts because anything even slightly negative or questioning is blocked.
      Even train companies allow some negativity and questioning!

      • Lindsay says:

        “….block anyone who questions their judgement”, “….anything even slightly negative or questioning is blocked”, “….read like some North Korean propaganda pamphlet”. All sounds very familiar!

      • kim jong un says:

        “….block anyone who questions their judgement”, “….anything even slightly negative or questioning is blocked”, “….read like some North Korean propaganda pamphlet”. All sounds very familiar!
        Yes I have read Stephen Doughty’s twitter feed as well Lindsay and its more one sided than mine.


  2. Peter Church says:

    Certain Vale Councillors seem to spend more time nurturing their twitter and facebook accounts than they do actual work.
    I have had a look at one account in particular and it really makes me feel sick, If you asked a ten year old to write an essay to everyone on how great they are, it would not come close.

    I met these lovely people having lunch in Barry, here’s a photo!
    Spoke to happy residents in Barry who said they would pay double the council tax, here’s a photo!
    Went rock climbing in Barry island, yum yum, here’s a photo!
    Chatted to Barry old folk who said Labour was great, here’s a photo!
    Barry Council named best council in Barry, here’s a photo!
    Children in Barry are so cute, here’s a photo!
    Very comfy chairs in Barry, here’s a photo!
    Went home to panerth, sorry no photo 😦

    • John P. says:

      I think you forgot this one.
      Attended cabinet meeting in Barry, no photos, recordings or video allowed by order.

  3. ex Labour Supporter says:

    Yes, the worst offender Anne, I wonder who you mean?

    Looked at Vale Cabinet Members twitter account.
    It is headed as:
    “Lis Burnett
    Deputy Leader, Cabinet Member for Regen and Ed @VOGCouncil.”

    So you would expect something impartial from the Vale Cabinet Member, wouldn’t you?
    Instead it’s just one long advert for Labour……
    “Had no idea just how much work is done in our communities by @welshlabour members -stunning! Super to meet everyone today #TogetherforWales
    3 retweets 3 likes”

    Maybe she needs to read the guidelines and act on them.

    Roll on May 2017 and vote her out.

    • ex Labour Supporter says:

      Very interesting that there are retweets from Owen Smith, but not one mention of Jeremy Corbyn, the actual Labour Leader?? Does she even support the leader of her own party? Perhaps she should clarify things!

      Lis Burnett Retweeted
      Owen Smith 2016 ‏@owensmith2016 Aug 9
      Deputy Council Leader @CllrMWebber: “I’ve knocked many doors with Owen, I know he has the qualities and commitment to lead Labour” #Owen2016

      The Cabinet Member’s twitter account breaks so many rules of various levels.

  4. Christopher David says:

    Are they allowed to talk about the “cabinet” ? I hear it has a screw loose…. and a few loose screws. What insecure rot these policy guidelines are. They forget we own them these sometimes комиссáр..

  5. Frank Evans says:

    I have not seen Phil Rapier on here for ages, maybe the town council new rules have had an effect. Sad if true I enjoy hearing from all side of an argument no matter how far left they seem.

  6. Andrew Worsley says:

    Well their you have it in black and white the wisdom of the leader of the Council Mrs Burnett chose to support Own Smith in the Labour leadership battle, that sort of judgement says it all. I myself could have told her halfway into the campaign that Smith had as much chance of winning as a rubber duck, he is or was a stooge for the rebels , that is why brave Angela Eagle stood aside she really thought , ‘let him take the flack’. Smith was a poster boy , a deluded undemocratic pretender, anyone who ignores the wishes of 17 million people and wants to run a second referendum is not democratic , anyone who ignores the fact that 60% of Labour Party chose Corbyn as leader is not democratic. And anyone who supported Smith knowing this (and that was everyone who chose Smith ) need a lesson in democracy and what it means.

  7. Ivor Bagman says:

    I must point out the
    Grammatical mistake.
    It should have read
    Don’t do anything – stupid !

    • Prof' Template says:


      I disagree, the hyphen in this case is not needed, as there is no ambiguity in the meaning.
      Unless the sentence was solely directed at a particularly stupid individual.
      Perhaps, the individual concerned had a vacuous twitter account and the Council just wanted them not to do anything, then the hyphen could be used.
      Know you of any such person?

      prof’ template

    • Martin Coffee says:

      Why don’t you start your own blog and then you can correct everyone else’s grammar and spelling?

    • Betty Bagman says:

      I had a sneaking suspicion that’s how you interpreted what I say to you on my way to work.

  8. Andrew Worsley says:

    Always nice to have the Grammar and Punctuation Police on hand Ivor Bagman, to make sure all contributions are up to scratch , I myself did not get a Gold Star in English Grammar and I am at the mercy of typos so always nice to have someone along to ‘nit pick’ err I mean keep an eye on things. And fancy that getting lessons in Grammar especially English whilst living in Wales, the home of the second language or is that dual language?

  9. Martin Coffee says:

    After a glowing article like that Barry is going to hate us even more. It’s a shame that The Times failed to research the train service every quarter hour taking a mere 15 minutes to reach the centre of Cardiff, outwith Sunday of course.

    Unfortunately I believe Penarth has reached the point where too many shops have been converted to eateries. Any more and I think the shopping experience will be in decline due to the already limited selection of outlets.

  10. Christopher David says:

    Hamish- we do indeed need more huwmore see innit.

  11. Colin Davies says:

    Social media is far too transparent for elected members and local authorities. No one will be able to claim a post or a tweet wasn’t received and everything is time stamped. Am sure point one of the policy will be. 1. Do not use social media. (it’s a short policy)

  12. penarthblog says:

    As an ex civil servant, some of these guidelines I know could be applied to government departments as well as local and regional authorities nationwide, not to mention private companies. It’s all down to common sense.

  13. Andrew Worsley says:

    Betty does not matter whoever he meant my words still apply. .thank you

    • Danny Oakentrode says:

      Perhaps you’d better read it again then. If you didn’t understand that he was referring to the headline of the article, then you missed the point, by a country mile.
      As a Penarthian all my life, now retired, who avoids certain establishments because of the petty nature of the people who frequent them, I know that there is a certain small-mindedness here. But it is not confined to the indigenous population. It is not a feature of Penarth, but a fact of life for any town anywhere, with a minority of people being just plain nasty and hostile to others. Some were born here and some were not. But guess what – birds of a feather, flock together, so there are also nice places.
      If you have a certain insular way of viewing the world, then you will alienate certain others, no matter what you do. If you have discovered a particularly ‘nationalistic’ pub (whatever that means), then why bother going there? As a lifelong local I don’t like the atmosphere in certain places, so I don’t go there. It’s simple.
      There are plenty of other places who will welcome a quiet, respectable person who enjoys a drink, but most places would shun a grumpy bloke with a chip on his shoulder, so if you go out looking for an argument, you’ll be sure to find one. That applies to most places.
      A little attitude adjustment may be required. You could even try seeing the humour in some of the comments which is evident to others. Ivor and Betty are great local characters, usually very friendly (- to other people, if not always to each other), if you’d only stop to notice.

  14. Christopher David says:

    Sorry Betty but I can’t understand your “I had a sneaking” statement. I’m no English Lit star granted- but its still hard to follow. Maybe I’m dix lex ic but even the tenses are difficult.

    • Betty Bagman says:

      I was talking to Ivor. He hasn’t been home for three days, so I sometimes use this message board.
      Anyway, Ivor, I just found your schnapps stash, and your breakfast is in your bed, in the spare room.

  15. Christopher David says:

    Ha- luv’s it see Betty.

Comments are closed.