Venue: Committee Room 1, City Hall
Contact: Graham Watts, Principal Democratic Officer (01522 873439)
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 30 September 2019 be confirmed, subject to the inclusion of Councillor Liz Bushell’s name in the list of those members in attendance.
Declarations of Interest
Please note that, in accordance with the Members' Code of Conduct, when declaring interests members must disclose the existence and nature of the interest, and whether it is a disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) or personal and/or pecuniary.
No declarations of interest were received.
Steve Welsby, Communications Manager:
(a) Presented a report which provided the Ethics and Engagement Committee with an opportunity to consider a new Social Media Policy which incorporated aspects such as the Council accounts available for use, employee wellbeing, the best use of social media, personal accounts and use of social media by elected members.
(b) Explained that social media had grown at a rapid pace and had changed the way people and organisations communicated, enabling people to interact with each other by sharing information, opinions, knowledge and interests.
(c) Explained that corporate websites were often no longer the first point of call when people wished to ask questions, so it was necessary to go beyond the use of traditional forms of communicating online to meet the needs of residents and stakeholders.
(d) Explained that messaging could be done instantly and could be far-reaching, which would bring many benefits but also a number of risks.
(e) Explained that the new Social Media Policy laid out how the City of Lincoln Council would use social media, outline responsibility for channels, state the authority’s procedures and help staff and elected members manage risk.
(f) Reported that sections 12 and 13 of the document should be re-numbered as sub-headings (a) and (b) respectively, with the subsequent headings throughout the document being re-numbered accordingly.
(g) Reported that a new member of the Communications Team with significant experience in social media would be commencing their role in February 2020.
(h) Invited members’ questions and comments.
Councillor Thomas Dyer, as an experienced user of Facebook and Twitter, expressed some concerns regarding the draft document. Rather than a policy document he felt as though it was an advisory or guidance document as it was not clear or prescriptive enough about how social media should and should not be used. He added that this was particularly concerning from the perspective of staff as there was a section within the document regarding the possibility of incorrect or excessive use leading to disciplinary action. It was very important, therefore, that the policy outlined clear rules and procedures rather than terminology which could be construed as advice or guidance.
Councillor Dyer highlighted that the document included information on communications governance, information relating to staff and information relating to members. He therefore suggested that the document be split into these three sections to make it clearer, or even create standalone documents for each respective section.
Councillor Dyer asked who had written the document and whether it had been created from a Local Government Association template.
Mr Welsby confirmed that the document had not been produced using a Local Government Association template but had been written by him based upon examples from other local authorities recognised as delivering good practice.
Councillor Dyer was supportive of the re-numbering of paragraphs 12 and 13 to become sub-headings as this made sense in the context of that section of the policy document.
Under the section ‘best use of social media’, Councillor Dyer was concerned about verbal consent ... view the full minutes text for item 42.
Promotion of the role of Members and Committees
Graham Watts, Democratic and Elections Manager:
(a) Referred to minute number 37 of the previous meeting where suggestions had been put forward regarding the publicity of committees, the role of councillors and the different services provided by the City Council and County Council.
(b) Invited members to discuss these suggestions further.
Steve Welsby, Communications Manager, in undertaking some research with other authorities had identified that the City Council was not alone in seeking to proactively promote engagement in this way, which provided the authority with an opportunity to take a lead. He referred to journalism students in the city who often contacted him and he always encouraged them to attend meetings themselves in order that they could see first-hand the business being considered.
Councillor McWilliams made the point that people were not going to attend something if they did not know what it was about. She suggested a more modern and innovative way of promoting the role of members and committees through something such as a 60 second video clip, which could be a short and sharp visual way of engaging with and informing residents.
Councillor Lucinda Preston felt that it would be worthwhile engaging with schools, particularly secondary schools, who often had spare slots at assemblies or other sessions to promote democracy.
Councillor Geoff Ellis, in his previous role of Chair of this Committee, had often made contact with secondary schools for this purpose as part of Local Democracy Week but had not received any responses. He agreed in principle but in practice he reported that this had proven to be more difficult than anticipated.
Councillor Preston felt that the timing of Local Democracy Week in October may be one of the reasons for a lack of engagement by schools as this was a busy period for teachers. She suggested that schools would still be worth pursuing, but perhaps at a different time of the year.
Councillor Ellis agreed with this point and in addition suggested engagement with University and College students in the city.
Councillor Ric Metcalfe, Leader of the Council, highlighted that an important aspect of engagement was what people were going to get out of it. As part of his work at the University of Lincoln Councillor Metcalfe was regularly asked for interviews by students, which were almost always related to an assessed piece of work. The motivation for students in that respect, therefore, was that the information would help them with their degrees.
Councillor Tom Dyer emphasised that there was more to democratic involvement than young people and suggested that meetings of the Council’s Executive, and meetings of the Council itself, should be held at different locations throughout the city in order to encourage people to attend.
Councillor Christopher Reid asked whether there had been much engagement as part of the Council’s participation in #OurDay, which was a national social media event promoting local government. He also suggested posting videos from outgoing members to provide an insight from their perspective of having served as an ... view the full minutes text for item 43.
Code of Conduct: Cases Review
Graham Watts, Democratic and Elections Manager, provided the Ethics and Engagement Committee with a number of recent examples of Code of Conduct cases where breaches had occurred from across the country.
RESOLVED that the update be noted.