Ryedale District Council

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Media and communications

 

If elected members are approached by the media in relation to a particular service are they should contact the relevant Lead Officer.

Media services provided by the Council  include:

  • Press releases to local and national media
  • Media calls
  • Responding to media enquiries
  • General advice and assistance to the Chairman of the Council and officers in relation to media management
  • Attending key committee meetings to provide statements or advice for media unable to attend the meetings
  • Adding press releases on the Council's website
  • Updating the Council's social media accounts

Photographs

Photographs of Members of Ryedale District Council are often used for publicity purposes,including on the Council's website and local media.

Local papers / radio / TV

The following information may be useful if you wish to contact the local media:-

Gazette and Herald:
Karen Darley: tel 01653 690690
Email:
Deadlines: Articles – lunch time Tuesday, letters 12.00 noon Friday

Malton and Pickering Mercury:
Tel 01653 600051
Email:
Deadlines: Articles – lunch time Tuesday, letters 12.00 noon Friday

Radio York:
Mike Kemp
Tel 07801752848
Email:

Minster FM:
Kevin Larkin
Tel 01904 486598
Email:

Yorkshire Post:
Paul Jeeves
Tel 01904 655357
Email
Deadlines: 4.00 pm daily

The Press
Newsdesk: 01904 653051
Email:
Deadlines: 4.00 pm every day

 

  1. Blogging and social networking are effective methods for Councillors to interact with constituents and support local democracy. Used effectively, they can engage those who would not normally have access to local Councillors and politics.
  2. Standards for England supports the use of such media and encourages Councillors to get online. You should think about what you say and how you say it, in just the same way as you must when making statements in person or in writing.
  3. You will also need to think about whether you are seen to be, or give the impression that you are acting in your official capacity as a councillor.
  4. The Council has facilitated a specific site in which Councillors can write blogs. Individual Councillors are permitted to write their own official blogs as Ryedale District Councillors, however, and under this circumstance, they will only be permitted to act in their official capacity, and not in their private capacity. Councillors must also bear in mind that if they do have private blogs and refer to council business on them, they will be viewed as acting in their official capacity.
  5. To make sure you comply with the Code of Conduct (the Code) and to ensure your use of online media is well received, you are requested to observe the following guidelines:

Do

  • set appropriate privacy settings for your blog or networking site – especially if you have a private, non-political blog
  • keep an eye out for defamatory or obscene posts from others on your blog or page and remove them as soon as possible to avoid the perception that you condone such views
  • be aware that the higher your profile as a councillor, the more likely it is you will be seen as acting in your official capacity when you blog or network
  • ensure you use council facilities appropriately; and be aware that any posts you make will be viewed as made in your official capacity
  • be aware that by publishing information that you could not have accessed without your position as a councillor, you will be seen as acting in your official capacity
  • make political points, but be careful about being too specific or personal if referring to individuals. An attack on individuals may be seen as disrespectful, whereas general comments about another party or genuine political expression is less likely to be viewed as disrespect.

Don’t

  • blog in haste.
  • post comments that you would not be prepared to make in writing or face to face

When the Code may apply

  1. Bear in mind the Code when you blog or use social networking sites. You should pay particular attention to the following paragraphs of the Code:
  • Disrespect
  • Bullying
  • Disclosure of confidential information
  • Disrepute
  • Misuse of authority resources
  1. However, it is difficult to give definitive advice on the application of the Code as each blog and social networking page is different. The content of a blog or other social networking tool and the circumstances surrounding its creation will determine whether or not it might be covered by the Code.
  2. Ethical use of online social media is not limited to what is covered in the Code. Councillors are encouraged to respect the Ten General Principles of Public Life, which can be found in the Constitution as the preamble to the Members’ Code of Conduct. While your conduct may not be a breach of the Code it may still be viewed as less than exemplary and attract adverse publicity for your office and authority.

Derogatory comments

  1. On occasion, Councillors might find themselves the subject of offensive or defamatory remarks on other people’s blogs or networking sites. The following approach is advised in such circumstances, and applies equally to any form of publication:
  • Pursue a policy of indifference to such remarks, and do not be tempted into retaliation because you may risk breaching the Code. You could ask the person making the remarks to remove them from the site.
  • If the person making the comments is a local authority, town or parish councillor, discuss the situation with the Monitoring Officer. It might be the case that the person has breached the Code by making the remarks, and it could be appropriate to make a complaint to the Monitoring Officer
  • Aside from any possible breaches of the Code of Conduct, the matter is usually deemed private between yourself and the individual. The Council cannot provide legal assistance for pursuit of a claim through the civil courts, but you may decide that you wish to take independent legal advice.
  • If a person had a blog or a social networking site, and a second person places comments about you on that site, you could ask the person to remove the second person’s comments from their site.

 

Pre-election period and local authority publicity

The pre-election period for an election is the period between the publication of the notice of election and the date of the election.
During the pre-election period the actions of Members and Officers may be scrutinised to see whether (wittingly or unwittingly) there has been any publicity which can be seen to promote an individual candidate or the views of a political party in breach of the rules on local authority publicity.

Members and officers must, therefore, ensure they: -

  1. Avoid - or do not give the impression of - breaching any such guidance, as to do so could have electoral and reputational implications for any candidate standing for election and the Council; and
  2. If at all possible, improve the Council's standing and reputation in terms of electoral matters.

Local authority publicity

Publicity produced by a local authority is restricted at all times and the Local Government Act 1986 imposes: -

  1. A prohibition on local authorities publishing "any material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party"; and
  2. A Code of Practice (issued by the Secretary of State under the Act) to which local authorities must have regard to in coming to any decision on publicity. An extract is included under Annex 1 below.

In the run-up to an election, further rules apply and the general guidelines and restrictions should be given more scrutiny than usual. The purpose of the guidance is to prevent activities which are controversial in the sense of assisting election candidates or parties with their campaigns.

"Publicity" is defined by the 1986 Act as being "any communication, in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or to a section of the public."

In determining whether any material contravenes the prohibition mentioned in (i) above, the Act provides that regard shall be had to a number of matters including "the time and other circumstances of publication". It is possible therefore that material published by the Council could fall foul of the prohibition and be unlawful - especially on account of its timing (i.e. in the run up to an election).

The key guiding principle, therefore, must be that, if anyone is unsure, they should ask the early advice of the Council Solicitor on extension 267.

Use of Council resources

What is also clear and paramount from the law, is that no elected member or Officer will be permitted to use any Council resources for private or party political purposes. This includes Council resources, headed paper, e-mail addresses and Council premises. To do so would be a breach of the Code of Conduct for Members and a reference to the Corporate Governance Standards Sub-Committee will be made if there is sufficient evidence of a breach of the Code.

In terms of Officers, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken if there is sufficient evidence of a breach of the law or the Constitutional arrangements of the Council - for example, Standing Orders, Financial Regulations, Access to Information Procedure Rules, Scheme of Delegations to Officers and the Member / Officer Relations Protocol.

Council business as usual

One recognises that Council business has, of course, to continue and must continue during an Election period. Publicity around normal Council business/events must also continue, but it must be thoroughly thought through so as to ensure the Council 'machinery' is not used or allowed to be used / manipulated by anyone for private or party political purposes.

It is also worth noting, for the avoidance of doubt, that Councillors who hold positions of special responsibility within the Council (ie Committee Chairmen), and who would normally be expected to make some public comment (on the Council's behalf and with the use of Council resources) on "issues of the day", will be permitted to do so.

However, such occasions should sensibly be kept to a minimum during the pre-election period.

Blogging and social networking

The Council adopted guidance on blogging and the use of social networking sites to interact with the public. Following the guidance is particularly important in the pre-election period, see above.

Conclusion

A local authority must always be careful in producing or publishing statements or information, and this is of particular importance when elections are imminent.

By reminding Members and Officers about the high standards of conduct required at election times, hopefully problems will be kept to a minimum.

Care during periods of heightened sensitivity

During the period between the notice of an election and the election itself, local authorities should not publish any publicity on controversial issues or report views or proposals in such a way that identifies them with any individual members or groups of members. Publicity relating to individuals involved directly in the election should not be published by local authorities during this period unless expressly authorised by or under statute. It is permissible for local authorities to publish factual information which identifies the names, wards and parties of candidates at elections.

 

 

Contact us

Ryedale District Council
Ryedale House, Old Malton Road
Malton, North Yorkshire
YO17 7HH

© Ryedale District Council 2017

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