Councillor banned from tweeting

A CLEVEDON town councillor has been banned from tweeting during meetings after fellow members voted in a new rule.

Cllr Jane Geldart has said she is disappointed at the decision, which was made at a meeting last night (Wed) and will prevent her from writing messages on the social network, Twitter, during town council discussions.

The 44-year-old began tweeting from meetings last month in the hope of giving residents more of an insight into the issues discussed by the authority and encouraging them to engage with the council.

However, this was met with numerous concerns by other members and led to Cllr David Shopland proposing a change to council rules to prevent councillors from ‘communicating details of a meeting in any way with persons not present while the meeting is in progress’. He also suggested a new rule to ensure councillors turn off their mobile phones during meetings.

Following the decision, which saw 13 of the 16 members vote in favour of both proposals, Cllr Geldart said: “I am obviously disappointed my fellow councillors didn’t see the benefits of this new technology and, more importantly, get behind me to embrace the opportunity to communicate and engage with the residents of Clevedon.

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Cllr Geldart was following in the footsteps of MPs, who voted last year to allow them to tweet during debates in the House of Commons. During her first tweets from a council meeting, she gave a short commentary on the issues being discussed but with no personal opinion included.

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Cllr Geldart said at last week’s meeting: “These are very quick updates without lots of detail.

“If this goes through it will give a negative signal to Clevedon about why we want to keep information away from them.”

Nevertheless, many members raised concerns that tweeting would distract Cllr Geldart from discussions, that her messages could be misinterpreted by the public and that the council minutes should be the only true record of what happens in meetings.

Members also said they did not believe tweeting would encourage more people to engage with them due to the fact the public are already allowed to attend and speak at any meeting.

Cllr Carl Francis-Pester said: “How easy do we need to make it for people to engage with the council?”

Cllr Trevor Morgan said: “If people are concerned about a burning issue, as they have shown us in the past, they will come to our meetings.”

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