Twitter Ban: Plymouth Council Bans Councillors From Twitter: UPDATED

Twitter Ban: Plymouth Council Bans Councillors From TwitterThe Chief Executive of Plymouth Council has banned elected local councillors from using Twitter.

This incredible news has come to light the day after many witnessed MPs Tweeting live from UK Parliament while the selection of the next Speaker of the House.

The root reason for the ban appears to be a Tweet sent out by Labour group leader, Cllr Tudor Evans, when attending a meeting of Plymouth and South West Co-operative Society.

Discussion turned to the merger of the local Society and the general Co-op group.

Commenting on BNP member Adrian Romilly, Cllr Evans Tweeted, “Nazi nobjockey trying to stop the merger. So far hes got slow handclapped and ironic claps when he sat down.”

Conservative council leader, Vivien Pengelly, was reported on 18 June as saying she had spoken to people who were “appalled” at the language used.

Cllr Pengelly asked Plymouth City Council chief executive Barry Keel to launch an inquiry into the matter.

This appears to have lead to Barry Keel issuing an email yesterday announcing that he had “decided to limit access to the ‘Twitter’ site.”

The use of language clearly demonstrated that this is someone who hasn’t got a grasp of the technology.

Luddite Barry Keel has also “asked for an immediate and urgent review of (our) policies and procedures on use of information technology and social networking sites.”

UPDATE: When we spoke to Tudor Evans just now, he said it was “like being overheard saying something on the phone and the council banning the use of the telephone.”

There’s some choice quotes from the Plymouth Labour councillors.

Cllr Tudor Evans: “Banning Twitter is another kneejerk reaction from a council that is barely able to cope with email let alone YouTube and Facebook.”

“Let’s be clear this isn’t about Twitter, this is about the Council stopping Councillors talking about what happens inside and outside the Council’s Ivory Towers.”

Cllr Bill Stevens: “Not even the repressive regime in Tehran, seen as byword for tyranny, can stop Iranians using Twitter in their struggle for democracy, but Plymouth City Council are so paranoid they cannot bare to have any unwelcome views heard.”

Come On!
OK, the Tweet probably wasn’t the best use of language, and it’s possible, that given the time again, Cllr Evans might write something different (we’ve left two messages for him, but haven’t heard back yet) (he told us that, “on reflection I’d have probably picked different words.”), but surely stopping everyone using Twitter in a era when the move is to open up politics is just daft.

Knowing local politics as we do, this looks to us like it could be an attempt by the Tory council leader to score political points over her Labour opponent.

UPDATE: This appears to be backed up by hearing from Tudor Evans that there was only six hours between his Tweet and the complaint.

Strange that the Chief Exec doesn’t appear to have caught up on this, as the council officers role is not supposed to be influenced by politics.

We’ve contacted the Comms office at Plymouth Council, but haven’t heard back from them at the time of publication.

UPDATE: Statement through from Plymouth Council …

We are currently reviewing our policies and procedures on use of information technology and social networking sites following complaints from staff and members of the public about use of language and inappropriate comments.

Anyone representing the Council has a duty to uphold the highest standards and while these problems have been caused by a very small minority of individuals, inappropriate communication can cause great offence and damage the Council’s reputation. Access to Twitter is now being limited while the review is being carried out. In the meantime the Council will continue to communicate news and jobs information through Twitter.

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