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Can a Council prohibit Members from posting on social media as 'Cllr' ? Where a Clerk and/or Council contend that Members are not permitted to unilaterally use their 'Cllr' or 'Councillor' title in their social media profile names, would this be unreasonable? Would such a prohibition if enshrined in the Council's Standing Orders become realistically enforceable to potentially realistically trigger a deemed Code of Conduct breach? Are Cllrs entitled to speak out transparently, and even express reasonable dissent from a Council's decisions - or are they supposed to support Council decisions at all times when speaking publicly as a 'Councillor', and only with delegated permission to do so?
by (720 points)

1 Answer

+1 vote
The council is a separate legal entity in its own right, separate from the individuals who are elected to serve on it so decisions taken by the majority are binding on the minority.  Using the title "councillor" on your social media profile implies to the public that you are speaking on behalf of the council so doing so risks potentially bringing the council into disrepute or at best misleading the public and could be considered a breach of the code of conduct (depending upon what yours actually says) so needs to be considered carefully.  As a result, many councils have resolved (and even if they haven't) to ask councillors not to post as "councillor" anything other than an agreed statement.   There is, however, nothing to stop you posting critical comment as an individual - that is absolutely your right to do so.

Small word of warning about pre-determination however.  As councillors we are required to come to meetings with an open mind on anything that is to be discussed.  If you have made a pretty forthright statement of opinion on any matter in advance of a decision it could be argued that you have a closed mind and shouldn't take part in any vote.  It's a difficult one for anyone to prove but who needs the agro?
by (19.1k points)
Excellent reply. I may use this to suggest putting it in our standing orders.
A common misunderstanding of the difference between predetermined and predisposed.
There is no requirement to have an ‘open mind’ prior to a discussion. The requirement would be not to have a closed mind.
Everybody has opinions and pre existing knowledge or disposition - that is just an undeniable fact of life.
Being predisposed is very different from being predetermined  the clues are in the words which is why they are used (quite appropriately in this instance.)

Everyone has an opinion, being open to changing it is what really counts.
But the real question was can a council prevent someone posting on social media...

No it cannot.
Thank you for sharing perceptions but the question was not whether a Council can resolve "to ask" Cllrs not to do something. Of course a Council can resolve to ask anyone anything. The question was: "Can a Council prohibit Members from posting on social media as 'Cllr' ". Isn't it quite overzealous and unreasonable to suggest that "Using the title 'councillor' on your social media profile implies to the public that you are speaking on behalf of the council"; after all, a Cllr can be a member of multiple Councils and many social media 'profiles' do not even indicate which Council the person represents even if just one. Why should any Cllr not feel free (even encouraged) to act in or as "opposition" and why should a Cllr be constrained to reciting council policy or decisions rather than challenging or criticising as part of a representative role on behalf of the public. Isn't democracy enhanced by "opposition" and don't Cllrs have freedom of expression as long as they abide by the Code of Conduct?
A council cannot prevent an individual from using an appropriate honorific title - in this example, Cllr, since it is not within the authority of the council to award or remove such a caveat.
Using it however does bring upon the author an implied responsibility to abide - not at all to the corporate position of the council - but only (not to diminish the gravity of) the Nolan principles and the code of conduct.
It is patently bizarre and wholly inappropriate to assume and espouse that every Cllr will blindly agree with all majority decisions of a council. Ridiculous position to seek to advance.

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