Bury Councillors ordered to be 'respectful' on Twitter
COUNCILLORS who misbehave on Twitter could face disciplinary action after a rule change.
Bury’s 51 elected representatives are increasingly using the social networking site as well as their own internet blogs to converse with constituents.
But town hall bosses have expressed concern that some could be embarrassing the council by rowing with each other online.
In recent months, councillors have complained to the borough solicitor Jane Hammond about tweets sent by their colleagues which could be deemed to show a lack of respect towards others.
But without guidelines in the councillors’ code of conduct, the queries have never ended up as formal complaints to the standards committee.
At a meeting of the standards committee last week, the code of conduct was amended so councillors are now required to “behave in such a way that a reasonable person would regard as respectful”.
Similar wording was taken out of the code when the Localism Act came into force in 2012.
A council report written by Ms Hammond presented to the committee said: “Since the code was introduced, it has become apparent, particularly with the increasing use of social media generally, that there have been a number of complaints, which would have been dealt with under the previous code of conduct as ‘disrespectful’ behaviour.
“The committee has found it difficult to address these complaints. In turn, this has led to some criticism due to the expectations of councillors and members of the public.
“In view of this, it is considered advisable to reintroduce into the code of conduct, the requirement to behave with respect towards others.
Any councillor who tweets disrespectfully could be disciplined by the committee and be made to write an apology or, at worst, be struck off.
The Mayor of Bury, Cllr Sharon Briggs, who chaired the committee meeting, said: “This is a change for the better and it will make the code of conduct more transparent.
“Sometimes, breaching the code of conduct can lead to severe penalties but, on the other hand, councillors have to meet the high standards that are expected of them.”