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Lift Twitter bans, weekly tells town councils

A weekly newspaper is to write to town councils across its patch after discovering most are flouting government guidelines allowing journalists to use Twitter at meetings.

The Rutland and Stamford Mercury looked into the issue after reporter John Evely was prevented by Stamford Town Council from tweeting at a meeting last month despite government regulations designed to allow it.

The paper found that while the local county and district councils did allow the use of Twitter at their meetings, three further town councils did not permit it.

It is now writing to the authorities asking them to allow it, in line with new guidance from local government secretary Eric Pickles on attending council meetings, which said there can be social media reporting of meetings.

Editor Eileen Green said it was disappointing that only one town council in the area allowed the use of social media at its meetings.

She said: “I believe Twitter and other social media are an important tool in informing people about what is happening in their communities. I will be writing to the councils concerned to ask them to reconsider their position.

“It seems some town councillors have concerns about tweets misrepresenting them but I will be assuring them that our reporters will continue to provide fair, balanced and accurate accounts of the proceedings, in print, online and via social media.

“Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Minister, has clearly said all councils should allow social media and video filming.

“Technology allows everyone, including journalists, to report directly from meetings and local councils should be doing all they can to be open and transparent about their work. And what better way than to allow social media and video? Surely this is a great way to involve people in local democracy.”

The Mercury reported that Lincolnshire and Rutland county councils and South Kesteven District Council do allow tweets, along with Market Deeping Town Council.

But Uppingham, Oakham and Bourne town councils said tweeting was not permitted at their meetings, as well as Stamford Town Council which voted against it last week.

The councils told the paper they had concerns about tweets being taken out of context and any move to allow tweeting would have to be voted on by councillors.

Bourne town clerk Nelly Jacobs said she did not believe Mr Pickle’s guidelines applied to town council meetings, citing the document’s reference to ‘principal councils.’

And Oakham Town Council said it had never been approached about tweeting from meetings so did not have a definitive position but the use of electronic devices in meetings was not allowed unless prior arrangements were made.